Take a ride along Olympic Blvd. in Boyle Heights, and you will be struck by how unwelcoming it can feel to humans.
The street is quite wide and busy at certain times of the day, often supporting heavy truck traffic. The industrial sites that populate the area are generally windowless and sometimes rather noisy. At night, the road is quite dark and the area can feel empty, save for a few food trucks and vendors that draw small crowds. The sidewalks are often strewn with garbage (especially adjacent to vacated sites). And, along certain sections of the boulevard, you get a nice view overlooking Vernon and all the smokestacks sending pollution your way.
It doesn’t mean there aren’t people there — indeed, there are a lot. And there’s art, too. It comes in the form of a cluster of more than 50 historically significant murals depicting Chicano themes, history, and traditions in the housing development of Estrada Courts (for more see here and here).
But, it’s not enough to make the street feel human-scale.
Which is why it was so exciting to see a photo exhibit go up on the chain-link fence at Costello Park on Jan. 17th.
The temporary installation, a photo mural comprised of images of community members, is the second such installation in the Reflejos y Regalos de East Los (Reflections and Gifts of East Los) site-specific art project.
In celebration of their 40th anniversary, Boyle Heights’ socially conscious and community-oriented arts center Self Help Graphics & Art teamed up with photographer Rafael Cardenas (with support from the Pasadena Art Alliance and the NEA) to create a participatory project that would both engage the community and reflect the community back to itself.
Inspired by a cache of old black and white photos found buried in a box, says Evonne Gallardo, Executive Director at SHG, they set up pop-up photo booths in Mariachi Plaza, Costello Park, and Hollenbeck Park and invited people gathered there to sit for portraits. Read more…