100+ black artists will take over a boulevard in south Los Angeles | MCU Times

100+ black artists will take over a boulevard in south Los Angeles


Top view of Destination Crenshaw’s Sankofa Park, with designs for works by Maren Hassinger, Kehinde Wiley and Charles Dickson (all reproductions by Perkins & Will, all images courtesy of Destination Crenshaw)

LOS ANGELES – Destination Crenshaw moved one step closer to becoming a reality earlier this month when the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission approved the installation of seven permanent sculptures along the project’s 1.3-kilometer route. In addition to these seven works of art, Destination Crenshaw will include works by over 100 black artists, making it “the largest commissioning initiative ever taken for black artists” in the United States, according to a press release.

The $ 100 million initiative, launched in 2017, aims to redesign a stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard from Vernon to Slauson, a major hub for Los Angeles’ African American community in southern Los Angeles. Led by Marqueece Harris-Dawson, LA City Councilor for District 8, it includes a wide range of arts and community leaders among its advisors and stakeholders, such as Naima Keith, vice president of education and public programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; gardener and activist Ron Finley; jill moniz, curator and founder of Transformative Arts; and before his death in 2019, rapper Nipsey Hussle. It has received funding from the city and county as well as the state of California, and it was recently announced that NBA star DeMar DeRozan would lead a private fundraising fundraiser. The groundbreaking took place on 29 February 2020, and the project is expected to be completed in the autumn of 2022.

In addition to this cultural component, the project will include over 30,000 feet of sustainable landscape design, and it promises to invest directly in local businesses through its DC Thrive program, which “focuses on competency building, technical assistance, operational support and providing access to public and private capital.” The construction project itself aims to boost society financially with a promise to employ 70% of the workers locally. The redesign is led by architectural firm Perkins & Will, who previously worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

View of Destination Crenshaw’s Sankofa Park, designed by Charles Dicksons sculpture “Car culture”. Plans for the final work include colored paint for the surface.

The artists selected for these first seven sculptures are Charles Dickson, Melvin Edwards, Maren Hassinger, Artis Lane, Alison Saar, Kehinde Wiley and Brenna Youngblood, who have each lived or worked in South LA at some point during their life.

The origins of Destination Crenshaw are rooted in the community’s concerns about the predicted impact of the Metro Crenshaw / LAX light rail line, which will run through Leimert Park and Inglewood, which are currently under construction. Despite requests that the line be placed underground, a major stretch down Crenshaw was intended to be “in degree”, meaning it would run right down the middle of the street along with cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Destination Crenshaw was seen as a “repairing development project” to address the dreaded harmful effects on society, both the physical disruption of the street and the potential for gentrification. “Its mission is nothing less than to place a cultural stamp of Blackness on Crenshaw Boulevard,” it states on its website.

View of Destination Crenshaws Sankofa Park with design for Maren Hassinger’s sculpture “An Object of Curiosity, Radiating Love”

Four of the artworks, by Dickson, Hassinger, Lane and Wiley, will be installed at the north end of Destination Crenshaw, in Sankofa Park, named after the symbolic Ghanaian bird flying towards the future while looking towards the past. LA native Dickson, who lives and works in Compton, will contribute “Car Culture,” a trio of figures based on West African Senufo ceremonial objects topped by auto parts. “An Object of Curiosity, Radiating Love” by Maren Hassinger is a large pink sphere that glows pink as you approach it. Hassinger grew up in Leimert Park and began his career alongside other multidisciplinary African-American artists in LA such as David Hammons and Senga Nengudi.

Both Artis Lane and Kehinde Wiley will recreate traditional European statues to reflect the neighborhood’s black history and community. Lane’s “Emerging First Man” is a larger than life black male figure cast in bronze, representing spiritual rebirth through adversity. Wiley, who grew up in South Central, will contribute a equestrian statue of a West African woman riding forward as she looks behind her, in the style of the Sankofa bird. This can be considered something of a homecoming for Wiley, who was selected for the Metro Young Artists program as a teenager.

View of Sankofa Park with design for Artis Lane’s sculpture “Emerging First Man” (reproduction by Perkins & Will, courtesy of Destination Crenshaw)
View of Destination Crenshaw’s Sankofa Park with Kehinde Wiley’s “Rumors of War” figure instead of his planned Destination Crenshaw sculpture, which will be a bookend for “Rumors of War” and has a female character.

At the southern end of the corridor, works by Saar and Youngblood will be located in Welcome Park and I AM Park. Saar’s “Bearing Witness” features two 13-foot-tall figures, a man and a woman facing each other, their towering hairstyles composed of everyday items collected from local thrift stores and cast in bronze. Youngblood playfully remixes his sculpture “MIA” and turns the letters to spell “I AM”, a simple declaration of human dignity that has its roots in the civil rights movement’s protest signs.

Approximately at the center of the route at 54th street, Melvin Edwards’ monumental chain link “Pillar” refers to both the cruel legacy of slavery and uplifting survival strategies based on community and cooperation.

In parallel with the artists’ approval of the Cultural Affairs Commission, Destination Crenshaw announced a $ 3 million commitment from the Getty Foundation, bringing the total to $ 61.5 million. In an ongoing partnership, Getty will support youth internships and apprenticeships, develop joint programming through the African American Art History Initiative from the Getty Research Institute, and provide conservation advice on public art through the Getty Conservation Institute.

Despite its stated mission as a bulwark against displacement, Destination Crenshaw has attracted some critics which says it will hasten the gentrification it pretends to prevent, that it will provide visibility to a society that can no longer afford to live there. That’s an argument that Jason W. Foster, the president and chief operating officer of Destination Crenshaw, countered in his statement thanking Getty for supporting “this community-led project, which we launched with the belief that residents of one of the world’s largest and most creative black neighborhoods deserve to live in a beautiful, green, artistically impressive and economically strong environment. “

View of Welcome Park on 50th Street with design for Alison Saar’s work “Bearing Witness” (right)
View of 54th Street Park with designs for Melvin Edwards’ sculpture “Column”
View of I AM Park with design for Brenna Youngblood’s work “I AM” (left)

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