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Arts and Entertainment

Tom Of Finland's House In Echo Park Might Become A City Historic Landmark

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The Cultural Heritage Commission will vote today on whether or not the Echo Park home where gay artist Tom of Finland once stayed should be a city historic landmark, according to Eastsider LA. The Planning Commission has already recommended the Cultural Heritage Commission take the application into consideration. Tom of Finland (real name: Touko Laasksonen) was a gay, Finnish artist who is best known for his erotic works featuring muscular bikers, lumberjacks, construction workers and other strapping blue collar men. These provocative pieces also drew from his own time in the Finnish Army (he took a liking to military uniforms).

The Tom of Finland Foundation operates out of TOM's House, a 1911 craftsman home located at 1421 Lavata Terrace in Echo Park. The home is owned by Durk Dehner, who began exchanging letters with Laasksonen in the late 70s. In 1978, Laasksonen stayed with Dehner for 21 days while exhibiting his work in L.A. and San Fransisco. Dehner bought the home on Lavata Terrace in 1979, and Laasksonen continued to stay there for months at a time up until his death due to emphysema in 1991.

According to Dehner's application:

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Noteworthy in itself as a Craftsman-style residence, the property at 1421 Laveta Terrace was where Tom lived and worked for the last decade of his life. During this productive period, a third floor space in the house served as Tom’s combined bedroom and studio. Though Tom would spend his summers in Finland - visa restrictions required that Tom return to his native country every six months - the house served as the strongest focal point for his work and legacy. Tom’s presence at the house helped to christen it TOM House’ in the gay and artistic community. The decade that Tom spent at TOM House was a standout period in his career; works produced at the home during this time were pivotal in turning him into an artist of international acclaim.

Dehner and Laasksonen co-founded the Tom of Finland Foundation in 1984 to preserve the artist's work, but also to serve as a place for other gay artists to work and stay. Nowadays, guests to the home may peruse the vast collection of erotic artworks by both Laasksonen and other artists, as well as check out the third floor bedroom where Laasksonen would stay. There are also a number of events hosted in the home's backyard patio area, including screenings and fundraisers.

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