Speaking about her new 35,000 square foot gallery space, located in the western industrial edge of Boyle Heights, art dealer Michele Maccarone told the New York Times, “It still has a dangerous quality — I kind of like that. I like that we spent a fortune on security.”
Well, it was one of many such lines found in the article, New Art Galleries Enjoy a Los Angeles Advantage: Space, actually.
In chronicling the expansion of the arts district to the east side of the river, the Times‘ Melena Ryzik had managed to paint a picture of Boyle Heights that few from the neighborhood recognized.
Some of the blame lay with the artists and gallery-owners who were quoted as celebrating the rapid turnover in the arts district that saw homeless people replaced by “guys with mustaches, sipping lattes” and the growth of a “young scene” that inspired Boyle Heights transplants with the “energy” and “momentum” needed to take risks with their work.
But most of the problems lay with the assumptions made by the journalist herself. Calling the spaces along Mission Road “outposts” in an area of Boyle Heights “that still has an anything-goes feel,” Ryzik pointed to the newer galleries as “beacons in the neighborhood” and praised them for giving “the area the urban cultural density that Los Angeles mostly lacks.”
“I cried a little when I read that,” said Stephanie Ponce, one of the YouthBuild students that had helped put together Ambularte, a mobile art exhibit held outside Maccarone’s new space as a way to protest how the community had been characterized. “They are saying we need culture…[our] people are our culture!”
Sergio Quintero, the student that took the lead on organizing last Saturday’s event, agreed.
Newcomers to the area wanted to be there because of the vibrant murals found on so many of Boyle Heights’ walls, he said. What they cared about was being able to feel “edgy,” not being challenged to get to know the local people, artists, or the histories those murals represented.
The Ambularte event represented an opportunity, the students felt, to remind the larger arts world that there was an entire community with a rich and storied history of intertwining the arts with culture, heritage, and resistance just up the hill from where the new galleries stood. And that it was a community that they were proud of and that they loved.
“The event is [being held] outside,” Quintero continued, “because that’s where our art usually is.”
He was alluding to the community’s history of exclusion from the kinds of fine arts circles within which Maccarone and others featured in the Times’ story are able to move with much greater ease. Read more…