KCET Artbound: L.A. Residents Push for More Inclusion in Gehry-Designed Arts Center

After months of conversations with multiple stakeholders, my article on the SELA Cultural Center is now up on KCET’s website. I am grateful to everyone who I spoke with. I hope the ideas, concerns, and hopes of the Southeast LA community come across clearly and help shape the way forward with this ambitious project. 


What is the SELA Cultural Arts Center?

If it comes to fruition, the Southeast Los Angeles Cultural Arts Center will be located off Imperial Highway at the Lynwood/South Gate border, near the confluence of the Rio Hondo and the Los Angeles Rivers in South Gate. Its website claims that it will be “a multi-arts facility that weaves together world-class design and high-caliber programming from across Los Angeles County with the vibrant culture of the surrounding community.” This project, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and his firm, will have to raise at least $150 million to reach its completion goal for 2024.

The Center is actually a complex, not a single building. In an email, architect and partner Sam Gehry said the project is “envisioned as a series of buildings of various size[s].”The environmental agency leading the project is the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (the Conservancy), specifically Mark Stanley, its Executive Officer and his staff. The project is currently in its programming and tenant selection phase. Stanley wants to hear input from residents who are just learning about the Center to get as many additional artists, community members and especially young people involved in shaping it. Decisions regarding who will own the building are also on the agenda, though Stanley noted that the ideal scenario would be a county-owned park structure, like the Ford Amphitheater.

It all sounds like a great idea: couple the talent and drive of Southeast L.A.’s artist communities with the clear need for more green space and the opportunity to capture more rainwater to build a community asset, but residents are sounding the gentrification alarm. They’re concerned that the Center will open the floodgates for additional development, including the Rio Hondo Confluence Area’s multiple, park projects, some of which are also suggested in the LA River Master Plan and in its website, which residents fear will displace everyone these projects are for. The stakes are high for Southeast L.A. cities, already plagued with high COVID cases, climbing rents, overcrowding and some of the most polluted land in the country.

Read the full article here.

Watch my short interview with Cara Santa Maria of SoCal Update to get a synopsis of the article at the link below:

SoCal Update interview link.

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