A story of how Community Arts Depot was born
One of the ways to measure neighborhood strength is through all its creative and cultural expressions.Those who know LA’s Skid Row neighborhood, have passed by the Cuban Corner with it’s distinct Afro-Latinx Caribbean sounds, food, and residents, may have heard of Blaze’s Photography Club that used to meet at UCEPP, stopped by the cultural hubs of Stephanie’s White House and Pastor Blue’s Blue Hollywood. You may have noticed Kaniah’s paintings at the Festival for All Skid Row Artists year after year, with her growing up together with the growing body of her work, you may have seen OG’s art at events at General Jeff (formerly Gladys) Park. Poets, painters, bands, singers and performers putting together events, collaborating, hauling musical equipment to and fro. To say nothing of countless creatives who make work and bring together fellow artists in ways that is known to much smaller circles: Koi, and Addy, and Pearl, and so many more. And you know I’m just getting started.
Many of Skid Row affiliated artists have no or minimal capacity to store their work. In this context, community entrenched artwork storage is one of the structures and tools that encourage, preserve, remember, and pass on artistic expressions. This happens informally all the time, with artists cramming their and their friends’ artwork and instruments in tiny SRO’s, asking sympathetic staff of small orgs for a little corner, etc. Some community orgs like Skid Row History Museum and Archive, Studio 526, and LACAN to name a few have also picked up the slack of this need over the years.
But formal, predictable, long-term, funded ways are needed.This is the context in which Community Arts Depot’s (www.communityartsdepot.com) was born. The Depot’s mission is to contribute to filling this critical need for artwork storage and access in Skid Row neighborhood. We started as a 5×8 storage space in Public Storage, then in June 2022 partnered with the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) and Sustainable Little Tokyo (SLT), and moved into a room at JACCC. As of May 2023 we renewed with a 3 year contract!
The Depot’s current capacity is limited to just scratching the surface of the overall need, but the larger goal is to combine modeling what can be with centering the importance of articulating adequate and equitable accessibility of an artwork storage as an inseparable part of our fundamental human right and collective responsibility of access to arts and culture, essential to both individual and collective arts and cultural work everywhere. Community Arts Depot currently holds some individual and collaborative work from 2009 to present, as well as a large portion of Rory White’s Art Works Continuum artwork archive going back to 1998, contributing to preservation of the visual end of Skid Row neighborhood’s arts and cultural footprint. Recent pop-ups of work from the Depot include last year’s Festival for All Skid Row Artists, as well as during monthly Last Friday open mics at the Skid Row Museum.
The Depot aligns itself with grassroots groups and initiatives that center community control, social justice, a critical pushback on racial capitalism, and focus on advocating for dignified universal access to all basic human needs: housing, food, education, community spaces, as well as arts and culture.
To continue doing this work, Community Arts Depot needs your support. You can donate by going to www.givebutter.com/CommunityArtsDepot
To contact Community Arts Depot with questions or storage inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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