Artwork Storage as a Human Right and Collective Responsibility?

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 ( 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

To contact Community Arts Depot with questions or storage inquiries, email


dwb newsletter #1, May 2020: Skid Row Arts Update: WalkTheTalk Parade Tomorrow + more

Welcome to Doodles Without Borders newsletter! You are receiving this email, because you used to receive monthly Studio 526 Skid Row Community Arts Calendar emails. This newsletter will take on the role of sharing some arts events in Skid Row neighborhood, and doodle up some of it’s own ideas, too. 

To read the rest of dwb newsletter #1 go to:

Suggested Use of Language – LA’s Skid Row Neighborhood

This post, first created in March of 2016, has since been edited a number of times. For years it was pinned at the top of “Community Artivism, a creative perspective from LA’s Skid Row neighborhood,” the precursor to doodles without borders.

The below guide was first created at the height of Skid Row Design Collective’s active work, and was framed as a beginning of a conversation around the “intersection of arts, social justice, and community improvement without displacement,” focusing on the role of arts, cultural, and social spaces in this conversation. I have since been introduced to a variety of analysis and resources, from Community Cultural Benefits Principles Toolkit out of Detroit, to the work of Migrants in Culture; and this conversation is as relevant today as it was then!

Suggested Use of Language Guide
Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood
(started March 2016 and evolving)

Skid Row neighborhood?
Skid Row is a working class, low-income, predominantly black and also incredibly diverse community.  Skid Row is a deeply under-resourced residential neighborhood in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.

Skid Row residents live, resist, connect, organize, celebrate and support each other, despite experiencing first-hand and witnessing daily the most overt manifestations of racial, social, health and economic inequalities and oppressions in our society. Skid Row is at the forefront of local, country-wide and global dehumanizing neoliberal policies that deliberately deepen inequality as it relates to housing, healthcare, and a dignified human life.

But Skid Row is not unique, it is exposed to the same racial capitalism that manufactures civic disenfranchisement, criminalization of poverty, and economic oppression affecting more than 150 million people in United States (from rent-burdened tenants living in fear of displacement, to people living on the street in daily fear for their lives in every major city of the country).

Skid Row neighborhood–as countless neighborhoods worldwide, undeterred by systemic oppression–is a bastion for defending humanity and mutual aid as a method of survival. Every day residents stand together, stand up for each other, show solidarity, empathy, and love.

Regionally and globally, working class, anti-racist, social justice struggles already align and stand shoulder to shoulder with Skid Row. Our common struggle must be to be able to support each other as we collectively gain and defend universal protections of human rights, of all basic human needs.

  1. Referring to Skid Row neighborhood.
    – Always capitalize Skid Row
    – Preferably refer to Skid Row as “Skid Row neighborhood” or “Skid Row community,” to offset the erasure of Skid Row as a neighborhood in the mainstream.  “Skid Row” and “In Skid Row” is also OK. “On Skid Row” is not acceptable, as it reflects how you related to a place and a neighborhood (you dont say “on Los Angeles”, you say “in Los Angeles”).

    Skid Row is a predominantly black neighborhood and a community of color, while also being very diverse. Skid Row is also–along with Los Angeles, and the rest of the American continent–Native land that has been settled and colonized; specifically Native Tongva and Chumash land ( Skid Row is a residential, working class, low and extremely low income neighborhood. Whenever participating in anything in Skid Row, understand how your participation relates to equity, distribution of resources, decolonizing culture, heritage, race, land, and economic equity.
    Questions to ask:
    – who is in the leadership?
    – whose culture and cultural history is being recognized?
    – who locally is benefitting socially, economically, culturally?
    – whose social norms are being followed?
  2. Homelessness.
    Skid Row neighborhood is almost always defined as it relates to homelessness. While a 40-50% of residents are unhoused, and that is a staggering proportion of people daily experiencing the extreme end of the violence of housing precarity, centering housing status (and a deeply socially stigmatized status at that) to define a person is a form of dehumanization. See “Referring to Skid Row Neighborhood” section for a fuller definition of Skid Row residents and Skid Row neighborhood. All people who live in the Skid Row neighborhood, both housed and unhoused, are community residents.
  3. On collaboration with the Skid Row neighborhood

    a) ONLY describe your work as “community” project, if you are actually partnering with neighborhood residents and centering neighborhood voices in a significant way (see “Whose Neighborhood?” section), AND if you can answer how your work is aligned with community improvement without displacement.
    b) If you decide your work is community work, use “strengthening community” or “partner with community” (never “building” or “creating” community), to center existing community initiatives, legacy, and history.
    COLLABORATION: Whenever considering a project that involves Skid Row, seek approval from community entities that center Skid Row residents, active community participants, and grassroots initiatives, before getting started (as a starting point: (a) Skid Row Community Improvement Coalition, (b) LACAN). Many social services organizations and governmental agencies are involved in Skid Row, but they rarely represent the residential perspective.
    WORDS OF COLLABORATION: sometimes “help” or “serve” are the right words, but see if “collaborate”, “contribute”, “partner” are a better fit. Words that underscore the importance of equal standing and equal voice.

    WITH: Prepositions can make a difference. Can you make a commitment to stop doing things for Skid Row, and start doing things WITH Skid Row neighborhood?

Note to photographers: Look beyond the surface.
Apply the above perspective on language to your pictures. Do not sensationalize. Ask questions. Is you photograph exploiting vulnerability or a stereotype? Is it poverty porn? Is it racist? Is it objectifying and dehumanizing?
Can you capture the creativity, solidarity, and community in the Skid Row neighborhood?
How will you use the photo? Did you get individual and community approval?

Content by Hayk Makhmuryan in collaboration with Skid Row neighborhood residents and supporters,
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license