Friday, July 11, 2008

Self Help Graphics forced into crisis by the LA Archdiocese


Community is Outraged that Catholic Archdiocese Secretly Sells Self Help Graphics & Arts Historic Building

Over the last 24 hours elected officials, community leaders, artists and residents throughout Los Angeles expressed their outrage that the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese secretly sold the mosaic building that is home to Self Help Graphics & Art. After its founding by Catholic nun Sister Karen Boccalero more than 35 years ago, non-profit organization Self Help Graphics & Arts was notified that the Catholic Archdiocese sold the building to a private real estate and investment company. The organization had no knowledge of the sale or pending sale. Community leaders including Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina made it abundantly clear that the Archdiocese must explain its actions.

“We need answers,” Supervisor Molina said. “The Archdiocese’s blatant disrespect for the community is unacceptable. 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.”

As long as the organization continued to fulfill the mission of advancing Chicano and Latino art and developing local and emerging artists, the Sisters of St. Francis, Mount Alverno agreed to allow Self Help Graphics & Art to use the building. With record-breaking print fairs, community festivals such as its iconic Día de los Muertos celebration which draws thousands of attendees and artists – both emerging and veteran – flocking to the organization as a place to cultivate their art, Self Help has been undergoing a renaissance. Last Fall Self Help board members were told that the building was not on the list of sites to be sold as part of the Archdiocese’s attempt to raise funds to pay the settlement to individuals who successfully sued the church for sexual abuse.

A spokesperson for the Sisters of St. Francis alleges that Self Help Graphics & Art failed to secure a grant to purchase the building, leading the sisters to transfer title to the archdiocese. They also allege that the organization was struggling financially.

“It is preposterous to believe that one attempt at a grant a year ago should signal the Sisters and Archdiocese to move forward with a sale with no notice whatsoever,” said Self Help board of directors president Armando Durón. “Common human decency would have been to give us a deadline for purchase.”

After closing its doors for three months in 2005, Self Help has experienced resurgence with the help of an untold number of volunteers and the support of the community at large. With no federal or state subsidies or major private grants, the organization has thrived in its array of programs and services to the community. Sales for prints from some of the nation’s leading Latino artists and up-and-coming artists have been booming. The organization is considered by scholars and artists as one of the birthplaces of Chicano art.

“For nearly 40 years, Self-Help Graphics has been one of the major community-based arts centers serving Los Angeles. It has earned international recognition for its contributions to the graphic arts and for being a model of community-based art making and art-based community making. In the last three years, Self Help has reinvented itself as a self-sustaining organization, and it has shown the continued vitality and relevance of its mission by reaching new generations of artists and community members through innovative programs and cutting edge artistic production," said Chon Noriega, professor and director of the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA.
The terms of the sale from the new owner allow Self Help to remain in the building rent free until December 31, 2008.

Stephen Saiz, Self Help board vice president said the organization will be working with the community, elected officials, foundations, fellow arts institutions and other community leaders to determine the future for the organization.

“We have had a relationship with the Church for almost 40 years and expected them to value that relationship and more importantly, the service we provide to the community” Saiz said. “We are not going to allow their needs for funds to pay off their debts stop us from that service.”

Self Help Graphics & Art is a nationally recognized center for Chicano and Latino arts that develops and nurtures artists and printmaking. Self Help Graphics & Art seeks to advance Chicano and Latino art broadly through programming, exhibitions and outreach to diverse audiences in East Los Angeles and beyond. Self Help Graphics & Art seeks to identify young and emerging artists from the community in all aspects of its activities.

1 comment:

scpatrw said...

I read in the paper that Self Help has had THIRTY years of free rent. With direction and organization, this group could have built a donors base for this important community based art. Get over it! we have lots of people out there who would be happy to buy by unknown artists. I AM!
Think, people! fundraisers involving art are viable ways to raise money AND get a larger community interested.