Update on Self-Help Graphics Crisis

Protestors in front of Self-Help Graphics
On Wednesday, June 22nd, close to three dozen artists and supporters of Self-Help Graphics held an emergency noon-time protest and picket line in front of Self-Help to call for the immediate re-opening of the much beloved East L.A. community arts center. The institution’s Board of Directors closed the center on June 7th, igniting the controversy (see details in the following article). Artists are angry over the mysterious closing because it denies everyone access to the country’s premiere Chicano arts institution. Up and coming artists and printmakers, as well as established professional artists came out to participate in the lively demonstration. Because of the closure, SHG’s vital community workshops in the arts are on hold, as are all exhibits and festivals. Its printmaking studio is shut down, its website is not being updated, and the staff and public remains locked out. Self-Help’s gift shop is of course locked up tight and therefore making no sales, frustrating many artists who have no access to their merchandise left on consignment.

On Friday morning, June 22nd, I spoke about the crisis at Self-Help Graphics on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, L.A.’s listener sponsored radio station. Sonali Kolhatkar, host of the Uprising morning show, invited fellow artist Wayne Healy and I to discuss SHG’s predicament and the community response to its shutdown. Healy is a highly respected LA painter who was the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the City of Los Angeles for the year 2005. A founding member of the legendary L.A. mural collective, East Los Streetscapers, Healy’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Armand Hammer Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institute, of Washington, D.C. Surely the Board of Directors who closed Self-Help have to take notice that an artist of Healy’s stature is calling for the immediate re-opening of the locked-up community arts center. It is my hope that other professional artists will soon step forward to defend Self-Help in as eloquent a way as did Mr. Healy. Kolhatkar had invited me onto her show based on her having read my original web log post “Self-Help Graphics Finished?” (which follows this report), an article she credited as having broke the story of Self-Help’s closing.

Apparently journalists and art critics at the Los Angeles Times also read my web log article, prompting them to publish a June 18th story on the closing (“East L.A. Arts Center Closes”). Just hours prior to the Times running that story I spoke with staff writer, Suzanne Muchnic, who informed me that while the major daily had been following the Self-Help story over the months - they first heard of its closing from my web log article.

An online message board has been set up where people can discuss ways to resolve the crisis. It’s simple to join and everyone is encouraged to participate. Sign up at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/selfhelpartistcommunity/

Artists and supporters of Self-Help will be holding an impromptu meeting to strategize, clarify positions, and to prepare for the mass public meeting coming up on June 28th. The Artist’s meeting and planning session will take place on Saturday, June 25th, at 3:00 pm., at the East LA Civic Center at Mednik and 3rd. Come and meet fellow concerned artists at the Civic Center’s amphitheater on the lake. The big push of course is for the Tuesday, June 28th., mass community meeting at Ave. 50 Studios in Highland Park. Scheduled to take place at 7 pm, it is there that artists and their supporters, community members and activists will really get a chance to make their voices heard. Everyone is invited to this important meeting, where members of the SHG Board of Directors will be present. Circle the date on your calendar, and be sure to attend. If you’re unable to do so, you’ll be able to read my report on the proceedings on this web log.

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