Occidental College prepares to raise its neighborhood profile with York Boulevard arts center

Future home of Occidental arts center on York


EAGLE ROCK – Occidental College’s plan to step out onto York Boulevard is coming together, with the college expecting to open a new arts facility this coming fall.

The building at the northwest corner of York and Armadale Avenue that Occidental bought for $1.59 million is currently being renovated. In addition to the arts center, two of the seven units within the  5,400-square-foot building have been set aside for commercial use – possibly restaurants.

The cost of the project was  not available. But officials noted that the project is  receiving  funding from a grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

From the beginning, the project has been intended to bring Occidental closer to the community.  While the liberal arts college received much attention thanks to its most famous alum, Barack Obama,  Occidental still has a pretty low profile in the area.  Not helping matters is that the  century-old campus is located several blocks away from major streets and surrounded primarily by homes and apartments.

“Our hope is that this off-campus location is more accessible to the public,”  said Deena Selenow, director of Oxy Arts.

Occidental has been reaching out to the community to share ideas for the space. Two workshops were held last November. Others are scheduled for February 7 and 27.

“Our goal is for the vision of Oxy Arts on York Boulevard to be as inclusive of as many voices as possible,” Selenow said.

Allegra Padilla, coordinator of community programs for Oxy Arts, said she has been connecting with various community groups, including local nonprofits, cultural workers and schools. Oxy Arts is also forming stronger ties to local artists, such as Patrick Martinez, Molly Allis and Amitis Motevalli.

“Involvement of local artists is at the core of the work Oxy Arts is doing currently and in the future,” Padilla said.

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