Friday, September 4, 2009

Pico Neighborhood protest against MTA maintenance yard

The results of a stencil workshop I conducted with the PYFC. Shout outs to Johnny Ramirez and the Youth Leadership Council.

I began the residency at 18th St. with some hesitation. The last year had been tough. I taught 8 classes in Photography, Public Art and Chicano Studies in three different departments at two colleges and a community art center, exhibited and gave public lectures at numerous art shows, and dealt with my mother’s mortality when she was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks before the opening of Phantom Sightings (luckily she is doing great now)…Needless to say, when I began this project I was seriously fried.

This project was a coming home of sorts. An old college buddy from the Berkeley days, and fellow dissident dreamer, Elias Serna (from the comedy Troupe Chicano Secret Service) introduced me to his neighborhood, “Pico”, a working class black and chicano area, that’s managed to maintain a foothold in wealthy SM, despite the extremely different political interests of SM’s wealthy residents, and serious development efforts rolling in during the last decade. Through Serna, I was able to hook up with the Pico Youth Family Center, a community center across the street that’s doing great work with the local youth, and currently beginning a campaign to stop the building of an MTA maintenance yard planned to be built in, of course the poorest neighborhood in SM.

On another level, the project helped me re-connect with the work I had been doing with Arts in Action. During 2000, this art collective formed to make art for the protests at the Democratic National Convention in LA that year. Our arts collective worked on the first floor of a four story building rented to organize the DNC protests. During the two months we were there, that floor was bumping with people from a multitude of backgrounds and organizing around a diverse array of issues… through the casual setting of art-making for actions, a refreshing, fun, informal dialogues took place. Coming out of that summer, we wanted to continue the work we had begun by focusing on local organizing efforts. For the next four years, we founded Arts in Action LA on the fourth floor of that building. Providing workshops to help local groups incorporate art into their campaigns and actions. Some of the groups we worked with include: Youth Organizing Comnmunities (YOC), UCLA Raza Women’s Conference, the May 1st Immigrant Rights March, the Garment Workers Center, Students Against Sweatshops and the Coalition of Immocalee Workers.