Chris Vo’s Flower House in Cleveland has been destroyed against his will!


One year ago, Chris Vo, creator of Cleveland’s spectacular Flower House, was promised a reality television show about his elaborately decorated art environment by a national producer. The promise involved a “free facelift” for the house, and, as Vo thought he was being treated in good faith, he and his partner signed an Access and Work Scope Agreement, which is what they were told was a standard contract for filming, allowing the crews to enter the home. His partner even thought it might be a chance, down the road, to get his own show about dancing.


The actual “reality,” however, was that while Vo and his partner were housed by the network in a local hotel, the house was stripped of all of its decorations, and the lawn’s manicured tree and shrubs were uprooted and hauled away, along with statuary, ornaments, the outdoor grill, and garden structures. The Reality TV producer was apparently encouraged by an individual who had been in the process of selling his father’s rental home across the street, and was further supported by “helpful” neighbors who were supposedly placing the ornaments into storage boxes; while it had been promised that his property would be only temporarily removed and later would all be returned, most of it ended up in a dumpster, stolen, or destroyed. Following the stripping of the Flower House, the aforementioned individual sold his father’s property, previously valued at $90,000, for $130,000. 


To make matters worse, instead of a program celebrating the Flower House, it turned out to be a show about flipping houses. When they saw what was happening to the property, the couple wanted to cancel and move back into the house, despite its drastic change. In fact, only three days into filming, Vo pleaded with the producer, “Please, can I have my house back!” but he was told “It’s just a TV show, just do what I say and you’ll get your house back.” Vo and his partner were also told they had to do what they were told or they would be held responsible for all of the production costs of the show. 


After the destruction of his years of work, Vo was inconsolable and the couple split up. Now, one year later, despite the ongoing emotional pain over what was done to him, his home, and his relationship, Vo has decided to try to resurrect the Flower House.


The Reality TV producer and the cable network aired the show on March 27, 2018 under the title “Make My Neighbor Move,” using footage of Vo and his partner, although they had refused to sign an Appearance Release permitting them to do so. Angry and heartbroken, Vo asked for monetary reimbursement for repairs to the house and for the theft and destruction of his property. Offers were made by the network, but their highest offer did not even come close to covering the repair costs, let alone reimburse Vo for the loss of his personal property. The producer and others at the cable network have broken off communications with Vo.


A grass-roots GoFundMe account has been created to help replace the lights and other decorations and retain legal assistance in an effort to hold accountable those who participated in the destruction of the Flower House. For more information and to make a donation, go to


Jo Farb Hernández



exteriorExterior, January 2017, Chris Vo.flower-houseThe Flower House at night, May 2016, Fred Scruton.




Job Opening at Craft & Folk Art Museum Los Angeles, CA: Manager of Communications and Exhibitions

Posted in job opportunities

Job Opening!

Manager of Communications and Exhibitions at the Craft & Folk Art Museum Los Angeles, CA


Job Summary

Located on Los Angeles’ historic Miracle Mile since 1965, the Craft & Folk
Art Museum (CAFAM) presents dynamic exhibitions featuring established and
emerging artists whose works create thoughtful and provocative visual
exchanges between craft, design, and contemporary art. CAFAM’s regular
programs and events provide opportunities for the public to participate in
artmaking and engage with local and exhibiting artists.

The Manager of Communications and Exhibitions is a full-time, exempt
position that reports to the Exhibitions Curator and works across multiple
departments, including communications, exhibitions, and facilities. Under
moderate supervision, the position encompasses full responsibility for
creating the museum’s communications strategies and managing logistics
related to exhibition installations.



Manage museum communications relating to exhibitions, programs, and overall
museum messaging:

  • Draft and distribute press releases for exhibitions and select programs
  • Maintain active press list and relationships with members of the media
  • Lead weekly marketing team meetings
  • Supervise and collaborate with Senior Designer & Digital Strategist

Manage exhibition production and installation:

  •  Assist Exhibitions Curator with maintaining exhibition calendar, budgets, and files
  • Draft contracts and MOUs in consultation with Exhibitions Curator
  • Manage exhibition installation process and contract staff
  • Assist with exhibition research and edit gallery texts as needed, including wall labels and didactic panels
  • Maintain consistent inspection of galleries and artworks while they are on display

Manage exhibition registration-related issues:

  • Provide insurance company with necessary documents relating to fine art insurance
  • Manage logistics relating to artwork transport and incoming/outgoing condition reports
  • Create loan documents and maintain contact with lenders of artworks


  • Be available for occasional evening and weekend events including select public programs, annual gala, and exhibition opening receptions



  • Minimum one year of communications experience in a museum, gallery, or other non-profit arts organization
  • BA or BFA in an art history, communications, or museum studies field
  • Experience supervising volunteers and contract workers or in delegating tasks
  • Comfortable cultivating relationships with members of the press
  • Experience writing press releases and shaping messaging to communicate museum brand and mission
  • Fluency in social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) and email marketing platforms such as Constant Contact or MailChimp
  • Ability to manage multiple projects at a time
  • Ability to manage and maintain email correspondence in timely manner
  • Superior written and verbal communication skills, including copyediting proficiency and communicating ideas to a group
  • Highly proficient in using Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)
  • Team-oriented and comfortable working in a small organization and shared office space, superior interpersonal skills
  • Positive attitude and solution-oriented approach
  • Receptive and able to incorporate feedback into work
  • Extremely detail-oriented and organized
  • Awareness of arts and culture in Los Angeles
  • Ability to learn, understand, and apply new technologies and tools
  • Ability to work some weekends and evenings, as needed

Salary package includes medical, dental, and vision benefits after one-month period. The benefits package includes two weeks of paid vacation annually and paid major holidays. Please submit resume, cover letter, and three arts-related writing samples (include a press release sample, if possible) to Please indicate “Manager of Communications and Exhibitions” in subject line of email.

No phone calls.


Nitt Witt Ridge Enters the Real Estate Market!

Posted in Take Action, Threatened Environments



The art environment known as Nitt Witt Ridge has entered the real estate market, listed for $425,000 on Trulia. Built by Art Beal (variously known as “Art,” “Dr. Tinkerpaw” and ”Captain Nittwitt”) using only hand tools, Beal worked on this project for over fifty years. He built stone and concrete foundations and topped them with wood-framed structures he adorned with abalone shells, scrap metal, glass, and industrial discards. Beal’s one rule was to pay for nothing except cement. He terraced the hilly property using a pick and shovel, built rock and mortar retaining walls, and designed handrails that also functioned as irrigation pipes and sprinklers. Eventually his site boasted nine levels, with layers of assemblages connected by serpentine walkways.


img6932Nitt Witt Ridge, 2018. Sam Gappmayer.


As he aged, Beal had trouble maintaining the site. To allow him to live on the property for as long as he wished, and to access public funding to protect the site from destruction or developers, volunteers founded the nonprofit Art Beal Foundation in 1975. Six years later the site was awarded California Historical Landmark status. Beal continued to live on the property until 1989, when he moved to a nursing home. He died three years later. In 1999, Michael and Stacy O’Malley bought the site when it had been listed for $42,000 and has been offering tours by appointment as they restore the property. 



img7008Nitt Witt Ridge, 2018. Sam Gappmayer.


View the listing for Nitt Witt Ridge here.

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Celebrates 1 Year!

Posted in Preservation News, Take Action


Stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, Vollis Simpson used parts from a junked B-29 bomber to make a windmill-powered clothes washer. After the war, he made a windmill to heat his home. When he retired in 1985 from careers as a mechanic and mover of large buildings, Simpson wanted “to find something …better than watching television.” 


vswhirligigMark Karpal, 2007.


Simpson’s whimsical assemblages are created from inexpensive and recycled metal, including scaffolding, bicycle wheels, propellers, street signs and plumbing supplies. Characterized by simplicity and wit, they feature animals, bicyclists, musicians, carousels, lumberjacks, airplanes, rocket ships and angels, as well as abstract designs. Small works can sit comfortably on a table while the nearly thirty towering, large-scale constructions in the pasture across from his workshop rose to heights of nearly fifty feet. Larger works combine multiple motifs, with propellers, pinwheels, flanges and cups that clatter and spin in the wind. Together with the surrounding trees, they also have reflectors made from road signs, creating bursts of illumination in the headlights of passing cars after dark, and earned the nickname “Acid Park” by those who saw it.


The City of Wilson began work on the whirligig park in 2010, with Simpson’s whirligigs falling into disrepair as he grew older and no longer able to maintain them, the plans to restore and preserve the whirligigs was timely. The park’s nonprofit foundation bought the whirligigs, and teams began moving them into a workshop a few at a time to rebuild and restore them with Simpson able to advise. Upon his death in 2013 at age 94, the New York Times published an obituary for Simpson, describing him as “a visionary artist of the junkyard…who made metal scraps into magnificent things that twirled and jangled and clattered when he set them out on his land.” The story of Wilson’s plan to use the beloved whirligigs to reinvigorate the city center threw a spotlight onto the community. In 2013, whirligigs were named North Carolina’s official folk art and the City of Wilson recieved grants from ArtPlace America, the Kresge Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts to help acheieve the goal of opening the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum. In 2016, the Kohler Foundation partnered in the project, providing the means to complete the conservation efforts and took ownership of 31 large-scale whirligigs and about 50 smaller works, completing the restoration project. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig park held the grand opening on November 2, 2017 to much celebration by the events hundreds of attendees.


whirligig-parkThe Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, 2017.


Celebrating their first year of operation, a massive effort continues to document, repair, and conserve the whirligigs, originally constructed of recycled and salvaged parts, and damaged from nearly 30 years of exposure to the elements. New protocols for conservation of outdoor folk art and vernacular artist environments have been established through this project’s pioneering process. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum relies on donations in order to insure that these incredible sculptures stay beautiful and working well.  Please help by following one of the links below to make a one-time donation or to become a member.   If you would rather receive a paper donation form, you can email your name and address to



Make a donation to the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum

Become a member of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum


A Letter from Emily Smith, director at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Posted in Preservation News, SPACES News, Threatened Environments

Hi everyone, 


I’m assuming most of you know by now that we lost our bid to historically designate the Painted Bride. There was over three hours of very passionate testimony from both sides and the vote was dramatic: a 5-5 vote then 5-4 for the re-vote. It was a long and shocking afternoon, extra thanks to those of you that attended the meeting. It was intense. I needed a few days of space before reaching back out to all of you. Here’s a link to the WHYY coverage:  


What is frustrating about the outcome is that almost everyone in the room (even the Bride) seemed to agree with the historic criteria and that the building is an icon. Though hardship should have been dismissed for a second meeting, the final call was based on the Bride’s argument that designation would stifle their ability to move forward unencumbered. 


It was a disappointing day and if the building is demolished, I do believe in just a few years the city will be deeply regretting this decision. 


When I woke up on Saturday, I felt so proud of us. I know there was nothing we could have done differently: we were thoughtful, articulate, organized, and full of integrity. Fighting for art and for strange spaces will always be an uphill battle.  Every single person on this email took time from their busy schedules to voice their opinion. Our communities will never understand what these places mean to us unless we continue to push back. Even facing loss, it is so important to try. 


So thank you. Reading your letters of support, getting fired up during phone conversations, the handshakes of respect after we lost- those were invaluable moments. I hope that you will continue to talk about the building and tell this story. Maybe next time it can be different for someone else. 


In terms of next steps, there are not many options. We will not be appealing or suing, it doesn’t make sense in this situation. I think it is time to focus our efforts on encouraging the Bride to find a sympathetic buyer. I’d love any suggestions you may have in terms of rallying the community to petition the Bride in this way. 


Warm hugs from the Gardens, 


Hoffman's The Last Resort in California to Form Non-Profit

Posted in Preservation News, Take Action, Threatened Environments


In an effort to save and maintain The Last Resort, created by David Lee Hoffman in Lagunitas, Marin County, California, a nonprofit organization is being formed.


last-resort-faces-jfh-nov-2016Jo Farb Hernandez, 2016.

The site is at a critical point: the county is threatening to put the property up for auction next year, and the court-appointed receiver is ready to begin demolishing two of the structures.
The creation of the nonprofit will bring together people who will help to meet the challenges facing the survival – as well as, hopefully, to outline positive future plans – for this innovative art environment. Goals of the nonprofit will include fundraising to support financial obligations related to future code upgrade requirements, facilitating local and global interest in the use of ecologically-friendly black water and grey water systems, and creaing a vision for the educational and culture future of the site.


 See more about The Last Resort Lagunitas on SPACES and visit The Last Resort Lagunitas website here.


Read our previous update on The Last Resort:

Update on The Last Resort Lagunitas


Watts Towers Update: Rosie Lee Hooks found NOT GUILTY!


At the September 13 meeting of the Los Angeles Civil Service Commission, Rosie Lee Hooks was found not guilty on all charges stemming from having a mural of Charles Mingus painted on the Youth Arts Center named after him. The Commission found the evidence presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs to be seriously flawed. Hooks’ suspension has been revoked and the compensation from her suspension in April that was withheld will be paid. 


Mural of Charles MingusMural of Charles Mingus, a Watts native, on the Charles Mingus Youth Art Center building by L.A. artist Jacori Perry

Read our previous posts about Rosie Lee Hooks’ suspension:

Final Hearing for Watts Towers Art Center Director on September 13

Watts Towers needs our help again!


Final Hearing for Watts Towers Art Center Director on September 13

Posted in SPACES News, Take Action







The L.A. Civil Service Commission will consider its final decision Thursday, September 13, on Watts Towers Arts Center Campus Director Rosie Lee Hooks’ appeal against the three-week suspension imposed upon her by the Department of Cultural Affairs. The final hearing will be at 10:00 a.m. in Room 350 of the L.A. Personnel Department Building, 700 East Temple Street.


After a July 31 hearing, Ms. Hooks was found not guilty of insubordination, but guilty of not adhering to the public art approval process to paint a mural of Watts native son and jazz giant Charles Mingus, last September, on the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center on campus.    


This finding has been called into question by substantial documentation proving that Ms. Hooks was unaware of this process, contradicting Community Arts Director Leslie Thomas’ testimony. Mr. Thomas admitted that he had approved Ms. Hooks’ vacation for the month of May, 2016, but insisted that she was definitely in attendance at the May 5, 2016, meeting where she was informed of the Public Arts Ordinance approval process.


Lawyer Adam Stern, representing Ms. Hooks for her union, the Engineers & Architects Association (EAA), has submitted to the Commission an airline check-in confirmation and Ms. Hooks’ passport with a dated visa stamp for additional consideration. This material proves that, at the very time of the May 5 meeting, Ms. Hooks was in transit to Johannesburg, South Africa. 


An internationally-honored community arts administrator and educator, Ms. Hooks has served twice as interim Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center, and was appointed Director in 2002. She was previously Director of Festivals for the City’s Cultural Affairs Department and produced the first Central Avenue Jazz Festival and many others. She also established, with Buddy Collette, the prestigious Watts Towers Arts Center Jazz Mentorship Program. 


When the Cultural Affairs Department put Ms. Hooks on suspension without pay in April, the community support groups for the campus expressed concern that the action against her was an act of retribution for her continuing efforts to advocate for the Watts community.


Community support group members and campus staff have, over the years, developed a long-range vision for the campus, its arts and educational programs and the presentation to the public of Sabato Rodia’s Watts Towers, a world-renowned masterpiece of architectural sculpture. As Watts Neighborhood Council Chair Jacquelyn Badejo attests, “For years, the community groups have asked the city for appropriate resources to support our vision, getting very little in response from the Cultural Affairs Department, the Mayor’s Office or the 15th Council District, and they have never shared with us their own long-range plans for the campus or the Watts community.” 


Affirming the union’s advocacy for Ms. Hooks, Labor Representative Geoffrey Garfield of the EAA states, “We offer any assistance the Watts community needs to end the blatant harassment of an adored arts educator.” 


watts-towers-Watts Towers. Billy Reed, 2015.

Click here to learn more about the Watts Towers, built from 1921 to 1954 by Italian immigrant Sabato Rodia. 

Dispatch from the Field: Singular Spaces, Volume 2 in progress!


Midway through my extended trip to Spain documenting additional art environments in preparation for the second volume of my Singular Spaces book, I remain astonished by the amazing artists in this country and the range of their unique works. So far this season I have traveled down the east coast of Spain and also journeyed to the north and west, and by this writing I have visited 26 “new” sites (that is, new to me) and has also revisited several that I had documented in earlier years. The sites, ranging in scale, medium, aesthetic, and technique, include architectural fantasies, monumental stone and wood sculpture, paintings that cover every surface within the home, concrete menageries, prolific inscriptions, and more.


Two of the architectural marvels that I visited this month include the Centinela tower by Santiago Nava and the complex of innovative works by Carlos Salazár Gutiérrez (known as Salaguti), both of which are currently in process in central Spain. Both artists are smart, thoughtful, and innovative in their works. Nava, however, who is building in a small city, has faced repeated problems with the municipal authorities, and has even had to tear out a portion of the upper levels of his construction in order to comply with mandated demands. In contrast, Salaguti, working in the country in the middle of vacant or agricultural lands, has been able to work in relative peace. 


Nava’s five-story monolith fits snugly into the triangular intersection formed by two diagonal streets, towering over the smaller buildings on both sides. It is being constructed of fine stone, marble, concrete, copper, ceramic bricks and untold different species of wood, creating the impression of an imposing yet almost fairytale fortress. At the very top of the structure, steel walkways connect the points of the corners, with elaborate finials of eagles, angels, and figures, each attached in such a way that they can be swiveled to catch the sun.


Centinela tower by Santiago Nava. Centinela tower by Santiago Nava. Jo Farb Hernández, August 2018.


The top level of the interior reveals an intricate and sophisticated masterpiece of wood joinery, with “floating” stairs leading to the rooftop terrace.


Santiago Nava stairs 2018“Floating” stairs leading to the rooftop terrace by Santiago Nava. Jo Farb Hernández, August 2018.


Nava’s windows are particularly of interest: each has a completely different shape, and each requires a distinct treatment on the interior to allow them to actually open. This one is in the shape of an eagle, often used to represent the Spanish state:


window - santiago nava, 2018.Eagle-shaped window by Santiago Nava. Jo Farb Hernández, August 2018.


In contrast to Nava’s rectilinear geometries, Salaguti’s work – both his discrete paintings and sculptures and the buildings he is constructing – focus more on organic and curvilinear forms. His studio, the exterior façade of which includes a self-portrait of himself, looks out over the low hills of Castilla León. Within the cupula is an exhibition of his discrete works.


Exterior façade of studio with self-portrait by Carlos Salazár Gutiérrez (known as Salaguti)Exterior façade with self-portrait by Salaguti. Jo Farb Hernández, August 2018.


While the visible architectural elements have been in place for over twenty years, he continues working inside, most recently in a subterranean basement area:


Subterranean basement by SalagutiSubterranean basement by Salaguti. Jo Farb Hernández, August 2018.

Salaguti is constantly sketching, designing, and building, dreaming of additional structures and ways to explore innovative aesthetic treatments on both interior and exterior, reflecting his visions of how humankind interacts with all natural elements in the cosmos. 


This fieldwork has been both extremely fruitful and extremely gratifying so far – I have met smart, creative people who, on their own, without help or academic training, are changing their own spaces in ways that none of us have yet experienced. Stay tuned for my next report on some of Spain’s other “new” sites!


Jo Farb Hernández

August 2018



Isabro Ventura “Charro” Ortega passes away



The man who hand-carved and painted La Casa de Las Nubes or The House of the Clouds passed away August 14 of an apparent heart attack at age 66.


Born and raised in the tiny mountain town of Trucas on the High Road to Taos in  New Mexico,  Isabro “Charro” Ventura Ortega left his hometown only to work and go to school. He was more intersted in staying at home, carving and painting the interior of his house - a two-story building perched on a rim road in Truchas, 8,000 feet above sea level that he named La Casa de Las Nubes. 



Though Ortega began building his house in 1984, his masterpiece was still a work in progress when he died. The exterior, covered in the gray scratch-coat that comes before stucco, doesn’t reveal the artistry it holds within. His first carving of a small santo led to more, as well as to small frames, noise-makers, and arrows. But he also returned to the Casa de las Nubes, innovatively carving window frames, niches, doors, ceiling, and even some floor treatments, each different, and each stunningly distinct. With some he added rusted cans, picked up on the road in front of his house, the cans that his own parents had used and tossed out; with others he added small twigs of willow, branches of mesquite cactus, or rounds of copper. He was able to make a living fabricating frames, small pieces of furniture, and doors for clients; he also taught carving classes in the summer for local children. Between commissions and teaching, he returned to work on his Casa. He was influenced by Spanish Colonial art and the iconography of the Catholic Church. Native American imagery shows up in the form of Kokopelli and kachina figures carved in doors or framing the mirror in his master bathroom.



Ortega, never married or had children. He left La Casa de las Nubes to his niece,  Laurie Leyba Martinez. “I plan to keep it and honor his legacy,” she said. “Maybe turn it into a gallery so everyone can remember him. I plan to bury his ashes at his home so he’ll never have to leave his home, and make a shrine of him and his art. I don’t ever plan to sell it. It’s the last part of him that I have.”


Browse Blog Archives by Month

Under Construction: New SPACES website on its way!
Resources, SPACES News

Visit to the Casa de las Ranas [The House of Frogs] and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray Gallery
Field Work, Found Objects

EOA Annual General Assembly 2019

In memory of Silvio Barile, creator of Italian-American Museum
Self-Taught Arts in the News

Coco's Palais Idéal Paintings

SPACES Honors Lyn Kienholz, Trustee Emerita

Chris Vo’s Flower House in Cleveland has been destroyed against his will!

Job Opening at Craft & Folk Art Museum Los Angeles, CA: Manager of Communications and Exhibitions
job opportunities

Nitt Witt Ridge Enters the Real Estate Market!
Take Action, Threatened Environments

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Celebrates 1 Year!
Preservation News, Take Action

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