BOYLE HEIGHTS — The L.A. Weekly takes a look at the anti-gentrification activists who want to force the new galleries that have recently opened in the neighborhood to shut down and move out of Boyle Heights. But one of the targets of the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement, or BHAAAD, is not a new or private gallery; it’s Self Help Graphics & Art, a nonprofit that has championed and nurtured Chicano and Eastside artists for decades.
In 2011, Self Help moved from its long-time home in East Los Angeles to a new space on East First Street in Boyle Heights. Members of BHAAAD have taken Self Help to task for being cozy with developers seeking to rebuild the mammoth Wyvernwood Apartments complex, home to many working class Latino residents, into a new residential development. The activists were also angry over Self Help’s involvement with a mobile opera that held a performance in Boyle Heights.
Maga Miranda with BHAAD told the Weekly:
“[Self Help Graphics has] been playing this role of gatekeeper for artists,” Miranda says. “We’re saying that they need to make a bigger effort to amplify the voices of the people that are gonna be most affected by this, and that doesn’t happen to be artists in this situation. It happens to be people who can’t afford to live here anymore.”
But Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, commenting on Facebook, came to Self Help’s defense:
“I‘m all against gentrification. (See my work if you don’t believe it.) I’m with you too. Mostly. I have to say, attacking Self Help Graphics, or ANY artists that have contributed to making Boyle Heights or East Los a GLOBAL arts mecca is just plain WRONG.”
Self Help has been trying to address the issue itself. Earlier this month, the organization hosted a meeting, Artist Dialogue About Arts& Gentrification, “to put together a set of guidelines and agreements to mitigate any and all potential threats of displacement.” But at one point, according to L.A. Times journalist Steve Saldiar on Twitter, anti-gentrification activists took over the stage of the event as they asked for the galleries to leave.
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