There was great enthusiasm at the unveiling of the Southeast Los Angeles Cultural Center (SELA Cultural Center) project, an idea conceived by State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who has received the endorsement of Governor Gavin Newsom.
There is still no start date for the construction of the project, which would cost about $150 million and was devised by the famous architect Frank Gehry, who was also the creator of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“What do you want me to say? I gave my life to this project,” Gehry told La Opinión. “It is important to bring these communities closer to the world of arts and music. In fact, the community is already bubbling with the art and they will have the opportunity to express it”.
The famous American architect and designer, of Canadian origin, hopes that the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel, conductor and violinist, and current musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Paris Opera, will one day appear on the premises of the SELA Cultural Center.
The SELA Cultural Center is a proposed art site in South Gate. It will be built where the Hondo River meets the Los Angeles River
The vision of all involved in the project is to create a world-class cultural center and arts facility in the heart of Southeast Los Angeles, designed to showcase the region’s cultural creativity and provide world-renowned and exceptional arts programming.
This property will provide opportunities to expand access to the arts, create workforce development, and provide educational opportunities for people in that region of Los Angeles County.
Fighting for affordable housing
In fact, Assemblyman Rendón told La Opinión that $100 million in state funds have already been invested in the project, and it is expected that in the near future the process of obtaining construction permits will begin next to the bike lane on the board. from the Los Angeles River, and south of Imperial Avenue, in South Gate.
“We’re ready to go, but we’d love to have an inauguration as soon as possible,” said the lawmaker, who represents California’s 62nd Assembly District.
Asked why underrepresented communities in government have generally been marginalized and forgotten by the state or federal governments, in terms of investment that changes the lives of their residents, he replied: “That’s a good question.”
“I think a lot of it is the fact that there are a lot of small cities that are outside of Los Angeles; it seems like the city of Los Angeles always gets a lot of the resources,” she added.
“So it’s important that those who represent communities in Southeast Los Angeles and the smaller cities in the county make sure that we’re fighting for resources.”
And how are they going to achieve 100% that our families are not going to be displaced? asked La Opinión.
“We’ve had those conversations for about three years, we’ve talked to local artists and local community activists, who have been talking about it,” he said. “What we really need is to make sure that we have affordable housing near this site.”
In doing so, he acknowledged that the City of South Gate has done a great job of making sure that there is not only additional housing, but also below-market and market-rate housing.
In the city of South Gate, according to 2020 census figures, three out of five residents are renters and do not have rent control protections, so if homeowners could sell the buildings they live in they could get rid of them. .
“That is why this form of inclusive housing is so important; to have homes not only at market rate, but below market rate,” Rendon acknowledged. “It’s really important to have those conversations with the city to make housing affordable and below market. In this way, these types of projects will be able to keep people in these communities.”
“I don’t want to promise too much”: Gavin Newsom
The South Gate SELA Cultural Center would be located in a 500,000-square-foot space, surrounded by a central boulevard designed as a gathering place for people from southeast Los Angeles cities such as Bell, Bell Gardens, Maywood, Cudahy, Huntington Park , Vernon, Compton. Paramount, Bellflower and more.
South Gardens will be the main entrance to the Cultural Center and will feature a central garden and picnic area designed for open games, relaxation, and small-scale events; It will have three visual art galleries, a music show room; a three-story music school with classrooms and rehearsal spaces, including practice rooms for individuals and groups, large and small, all soundproofed. Adaptable space for a full orchestra is also provided to rehearse as a small musical concert.
“In recent years, we have worked with the Speaker of the Assembly to ensure that funding continues. [para el proyecto]”, Governor Newsom told La Opinión. “Last year, we were able to provide $50 million of capital for this project. And for that commitment to be real in Sacramento, we just have to get the job done.”
“We have more work to do. And we have more budget constraints this year than we have in the past, so I don’t want to promise too much, but the bigger question is once the project is capitalized, how do we get an operator and that’s what the Speaker of the Assembly [Anthony Rendón]and then calculate the ongoing subsidy on an annual basis.”
Newsom received a portrait of his face drawn in charcoal from the artist and muralist Héctor Arias “Tetris”, which he liked.
“Someone had never given me a gift like this,” the governor thanked, while the artist expressed that, in 100 years, many people like him had not had the opportunity to express their art due to lack of resources in Latino communities.
“We have always been at a disadvantage,” commented “Tetris”. Director of the SELA Art Center in the city of Bell “Opportunities have not been there, for us”
In favor of project and doubts…
Lourdes Pérez, director of the Latinos Art Foundation in the city of Paramount, said that since 2017 they have defended Latino art and culture, giving classes to at least 150 people, from children to the elderly and people with special needs.
“When my daughters wanted to get involved in art, at first we didn’t have the means to go to Los Angeles and now that this opportunity is coming up, it’s something magical that can happen to us.”
However, his daughter Denaly pointed out that “the government has to find a way to protect families [del desalojo] and think about not taking them out [del vecindario]. This cultural center is for them, for our people and everyone has the right to enjoy it, and for that we must all work together”.
Dr. Wilma Franco, from the SELA Collaborative, explained that she supports the project of the SELA Cultural Center of Southeast Los Angeles “based on the fear of how it will impact the life of the community, the probable increase in rent and the value of the houses, knowing that between 50% and 60% of people rent where they live, and how would you make sure that it is not going to cause problems”.