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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Latinas Crafting Sustainability in East Los Angeles


East Los Angeles has historically been recognized as a center for political and cultural activity with roots in the Chicana/o civil rights movement. Since 1970, Self Help Graphics and Art (SHG) opened its doors to many artists who later entered the art market and formed the canon of Chicana/o visual artists that today continue to exhibit at major museums. While infamous for its printmaking studio and gallery, this cultural space has long been home to events where generations of artists working in music, performance, muralism, metal work, and graffiti showcase their work, hone their craft and cultivate audiences. Annual events, Day of the Dead, their holiday sale, Botanica de Amor, Mexica New Year and others involve the participation of local crafters who provide a mercado (market) backdrop where audiences can access cultural goods unique to this community. I became interested in the cultural production by these artists as a participant in these events since 2001. Since then, I have seen my peers cultivate their businesses into established design lines while growing artistically and creatively within a socially and politically conscious community of patrons. Usually regarded as “vendors” rather than artists, they are another significant and influential artistic flourishing that can be traced to LA Eastside culture and identity. Little to no research or art historical attention exists on these artists, yet they are widely known and patronized by a similar audience that attends museum exhibitions of artists that Self Help Graphics catapulted into legitimacy.

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