Photo from Miguel Santiago Twitter account.

By Samantha Olmos

The state allocation of a $4 million fund for Self Help Graphics will help the Boyle Heights arts institution transform its current headquarters into a place that feels like home for the community.

At a press conference Friday, executive director Betty Ávila said the funds will allow SHG to renovate the 110 year old building and redesign its existing programs. She said the organization plans to work “as a space of healing, creative expression.” 

She added SHG hopes to “build a bridge for the community into the creative workforce and creativity economy of Los Angeles” by training individuals in media skills that are in demand in the job force.

She said future plans include implementing more green elements “to this highly industrial corridor on the Eastside ” and begin to develop a space for family gathering such as quinceañeras and weddings, similar to the community venue that was held at its former location on Gage St and Cesar Chavez in East Los Angeles. 

“It is our honor to be a cultural home for this community and finally provide the experience that our youth, artists, and families deserve,” Ávila said. 

Several artists and SHG board members attended the celebratory press conference. Also in attendance were Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), and State Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), legislators who secured the $4 million allocation in the budget signed earlier this month by the governor.

Ávila said SHG began advocating for state funding to transform the building roughly eight years ago and received support from Santiago and Durazo –whose districts include Boyle Heights – towards the end of 2019. 

Santiago mentioned the importance of teaching children Eastside history through art and Self Help Graphics’ ability to provide the future generations with feelings of empowerment through cultural art. “You cannot go through Eastside communities that have been empowered and struggle for the things that we fight for, without seeing art,” Santiago said.

“We want our stories about community empowerment to be told and we cannot let that happen in the next generation of activists, community leaders, and children so they do not get left behind,” he added. “Art will tell our story and that’s why Self Help Graphics is important for that journey.” 

Ávila said that up to now, Self Help Graphics has engaged with roughly 400 community members through various community meetings for their input about the future of the building, a former seafood processing plant that the organization leased from the city in 2014.

Once the renovation is completed, she said Self Help Graphics hopes to spread awareness of the re-designed space and services, by engaging community members through events like their annual Día de Los Muertos celebration, so that it becomes a space that is “reflective of community needs.”

In spite of the $4 million in state funding, SHG continues to reach out for donations in hopes of paying off the mortgage on the building on 1300 E 1st St, which it acquired in 2018.

Ávila said Self Help Graphics and Art hopes to open the renovated building to the public by 2023, as the organization turns 50 years old.

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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