Atlantic Cities
Videos

New York Graffiti Crew Redecorates an Abandoned Theme Park

California's old Lake Dolores Water Park, which has been called the first water park in America, sits in the Mojave Desert like a settlement pillaged by brigands and left to rot.

It has been the site of three different amusement parks – including one called "Rock-a-Hoola" that blasted visitors with '50s-era rock 'n' roll – all of which eventually shuttered. The happy-fun-time zone's slide into decrepitude is evoked in this mesmerizing photo essay from Lost America, which narrates:

In 1999 an employee of the park used one of the slides when the park was closed, and the catch pool didn’t have enough water in it. He became a paraplegic in the accident and was awarded a $4.4 million payoff. It was a contributing factor in the demise of the waterpark.

The theme park struggled for six years under three different owners, finally closing for good in 2004. While the slides themselves are gone, the property still sports acres of retro-futuristic buildings, empty pools and canals. This part of the Mojave Desert is harsh, with temps over 100˚ all summer, bitterly cold winters and a grit-filled wind that howls all year long. Just six years after its closure, it’s developed a wonderful patina.

But speaking in terms of popularity, being abandoned was one of the best things to ever happen to the theme park.

In just the past few years it's proven a magnet for cultural expression. Graffiti artists have covered its silent buildings and dead attractions with colorful insignia, not all of it crude ("TITS"). Pro skater Rob Dyrdek visited to grind all over its imposing waterslides for an MTV video. Now, the park's received its biggest reinvention yet in the form of a sprawling artistic makeover from the Brooklyn-based street-art crew, TrustoCorp.

You might remember the name from an undercover campaign a couple years ago to replace America's street signs with fake notices like “Fame Limit: 15 Minutes” in Los Angeles, “You Are Not Cool” in Brooklyn and, in front of a McDonald's, "FAT ZONE." They keep their identities anonymous, but have spoken a bit about their history. "We started making work as a reaction to the political discourse around the 2008 Presidential election and have kept going ever since," one member told the Village Voice. "Things seem to be getting more and more ridiculous in the national discourse, so we keep getting more and more inspired to make fun of it."

What TrustoCorp did to Lake Dolores seems less of a political statement, though, than an act of branding. While a camera crew from Mass Appeal stood recording, the artists covered buildings with skulls and a devil bearing the TrustoCorp logo. They also executed a billboard showing a woman diving among dropping bombs and, more familiarly, a scene of a couple driving through smoking ruins under the banner, “The Future is Blight.” And the old sign for Rock-a-Hoola now advertises a weird place called "TrustoLand."

The group's website was down on Tuesday, but more images of the desert intervention are available on Flickr. See if you prefer the newly twisted water park over the old version, as shown in this 1998 promo:

(H/t to Vandalog)

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Join the Discussion