2-05-17 A view of Dia de los Muertos show at Self Help Graphics. Group announced it received $825,000 funding to acuire Boyle Heights building. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Nearly six months after securing the $3.6 million necessary to buy its Boyle Heights headquarters, Self Help Graphics & Art has completed acquisition of the Ocean Queen Building at the corner of First and Anderson Streets.

“The acquisition of Self Help Graphics & Art’s current home, is a monumental accomplishment for our community arts organization,” co-director Betty Ávila said in a statement released Thursday. “The positive impact to the populations that we serve […] is extensive; and sets a precedent in fortifying SHG’s legacy as a top cultural arts institution in the country.”

Purchase of the former sea urchin processing plant was made possible in part by $825,000 in former Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds secured last year by Councilman José Huízar and additional funds from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and from private foundations.

Started in East Los Angeles in the early 1970’s, Self Help has long established itself as a nurturing hub for Chicano artists.

“Since its inception, Self Help Graphics & Art has been the premier space for printmaking, cultural expression, innovation, social justice and artivism for emerging Chicana/o and Latinx artists, co director Joel García said in the statement, explaining that the organization was not immune to the effects of gentrification in Boyle Heights.

“Self-determination through stewardship of this building is significant for the cultural arts community and means that the organization will no longer be at risk for displacement; allowing us to expand on our mission to be a leading source of cultural programming, arts education and workforce development for artists-of-color in the creative capital of the world,” he added.

After being displaced from the popular East Los Angeles location where it operated for decades, Self Help moved to the building at 1300 E. 1st St in 2011. In 2014,  the organization was forced to close the building because of needed roof repairs and the presence of mold around its old refrigerators, and it remained closed for almost a year.

In spite of its revered status and long history, Self Help has been criticized by some local groups as an enabler of gentrification and accused of collaborating with galleries and other nearby Arts District organizations that will force the displacement of low-income area residents.

About The Author

Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, a community newspaper where he mentors teenage journalists. He also manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. He is a veteran bilingual journalist who worked over 25 years at La Opinión, the Los Angeles Spanish-language daily, covering arts and entertainment. As an independent journalist he has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Variety, El nuevo día, El país and countless other pubications. He is a longtime member and former board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; he is the past president of the organization’s Los Angeles chapter. A native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Antonio lives in the eastside neighborhood of Boyle Heights. He tweets @lataino.

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