High above Watts, Los Angeles, a quadcopter flies around Watts Towers, filmed by YouTuber PC3DM. Music: Now by Ernie Watts (no relation).

For over 30 years, Italian-American construction worker and outsider artist Sabato “Simon” Rodia spent his free hours building what would become one of the more important and iconic folk art sites in California history: Nuestro Pueblo (Our Town), also known as Watts Towers. He said of the project, “I had in mind to do something big and I did it.”

The Watts Towers are a complex set of 17 separate sculptural pieces built on a residential lot in the community of Watts. Two of the towers rise to a height of nearly 100 feet. The sculptures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar, and embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile and glass. Using simple hand tools and cast off materials (broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and ceramic tile) Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia spent 30 years (1921 to 1955) building a tribute to his adopted country and a monument to the spirit of individuals who make their dreams tangible.

Learn more about the historic sculpture park via this 2013 video about Watts Towers’ conservation, a joint effort between UCLA and LACMA:

If you have 12 mins, watch the comprehensive 1957 documentary, The Towers, which has footage of Rodia and how he climbed to build them:

More videos about long-term projects: One Plastic Beach: Making art from found beach plastic, The Dragon Hedge: A 100 foot long dragon topiary, and 35 years + 100,000 toothpicks = Scott Weaver’s Rolling through the Bay.

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