Latino Arts Community Considers Self Help Building Sale an Immaculate Deception

The East Los Angeles cultural community and Self Help Graphics & Art held press conference Friday to seek outside help, and demand answers from Los Angeles Archdiocese.

The sale of the building that for now is the home of Self Help Graphics & Art, the East Los Angeles cultural center that opened in 1978, spread quickly through the Latino Arts community this week. By Friday, a morning press conference was held in the parking lot with supporters and artists standing behind Self Help board president Armando Duron and L.A. First District County Supervisor Gloria Molina, and the mosaic Virgin of Guadalupe in the background. The sale is regarded as a slap in the face from the hands of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

As been reported, the Sisters of St. Francis’ lawyers informed Duron of the sale July 3, the day after escrow closed, with no warning that the building was on the market. As he did all week with countless calls, Durango stated during the press conference that the Self Help board was assured in November of 2007 that the building was not to be listed in order to fulfill the priest sexual abuse scandal settlement.

According to spokespeople for the Archdiocese the owners of the building, the Sisters of St. Francis, requested the deed to be transferred to the Archdiocese and asked that it be sold due to a dwindling art center budget.

When asked if that claim was believed, board and supporters said in union; “No!” “This is not the market to sell anything unless you need to,” said Stephen Saiz, Self Help board vice-president, and considered the scandal is causing “the fire sale.”

“The Archdiocese’s blatant disrespect for the community is unacceptable,” Molina said during the conference. “I commit to working with Self Help Graphics & Art to mobilize my elected official colleagues and other community leaders to demand that the archdiocese tell us why they mishandled this situation – and how they plan to correct it.”

The negotiation phase of the sale was so secretive that, according to Duron, the party purchasing the building (who visited the location Friday morning at 6:30 am) was told by the Archdiocese not to visit the site before the sale was final and that the art center was “only on the top floor.”

The Bottom Line

In November 2007, the mosaic-covered building––with a stage and adminstrative offices on the upper floor and a gallery and workshops on the lower floor––was appraised at 1.5 million dollars. As the market softened, it was listed for 1 million.

Self Help has ben using the building rent free, and will continue doing so under new ownership until the end of the year, allowing a short time for a new location to be secured.

The deception will only be fueled when the final sale number appears like an apparition. Sources say the grounds were sold for $700,000–– a price tag many will feel was an attainable purchase price.

Speaking with Molina after the conference, she remarked how the County could have ear marked $250,000 from a cultural supporting discretionary fund, was already offered to be matched by several sources. Solid fundraising could have gone beyond the $700,000 final purchase price.

“If we were told and became part of the dialogue, a solution could have been found.,” added Molina.

While the Los Angeles Archdiocese are no longer accountable for the building, to the East Los Angeles cultural community, they are still accountable for the arts program that has been a springboard for Southern California Latino artists––some whose works are currently exhibited in national art museums.

That same community is now demanding a confession from the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Previous: LAEastside


Photos by Ed Fuentes/ VFaL

4 thoughts on “Latino Arts Community Considers Self Help Building Sale an Immaculate Deception

  1. Pingback: Latino Arts Community Considers Self Help Building Sale an …

  2. I think too that this whole movida chueca will make SHG look unstable to our benefactors. We have worked so hard these last few years to reorganize SHG directly as envisioned by the community during meetings in 2005, when SHG was shut down. The new success and renaissance of SHG is due to these meetings and also due to truly revisiting our mission statement. Coaxing those artists that have contributed to the high art of this institution has been key for us. But let me tell you that mending bridges is hard work. The payoff is the accessibility and mentorship young artists can receive from these great artists. We were working on many exciting projects and art partnerships when we got the horrible news about the building. Completing those projects, after all of this, is worrisome to me. I was there when the shg board met with the developers and their ideas for the space made me have insomnia that night and rise with so much anger the next day.

  3. I read about this in the Times, and I this really mademe sad.

    Why would the church act in this way?

    Maybe art and religion only mix well when the church has a stranglehold on who gets to be an artist, and what they are allowed to say.

    That is just a wild guess as to why this spiteful sale took place, especially when Self Help Graphics’ supporters might have been able to raise money to purchase the building at the price it was sold.

  4. I think artists need to buy up all of Lancaster right now while it’s cheap. Make a community there and own the buildings that they create their programs in, but aside from that there has got to be a way that we can keep what we have in LA right now.

    There are all kinds of laws, how about a law that buildings that are community art based should have to go through a long hearing process (a real one) before they can end a lease or sell a building.

    When I think of what has become of NY, I see LA’s scary future (but with very bad public transportation.) There aren’t any working class people there and like two people of color, except the very old who got there in the 60s and 70s when it was scary and the only reason they get to stay is because they either own the buildings that they are in or got some insane lease for 1000 years.

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