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Self Help Graphics & Art secures a permanent home in Boyle Heights

Self Help Graphics & Art secures a permanent home in Boyle Heights
A mural painted on the wall of Self Help Graphics at 1300 E. 1st St. in Boyle Heights in Los Angeles is seen on April 14, 2018. The industrial area of Boyle Heights known as "The Flats" has been the site of recent anti-gentrification battles that have targeted art galleries. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

With rising rents threatening to push Self Help Graphics & Art from its Boyle Heights headquarters, the nonprofit center that has long nurtured noted Latino artists has secured a solution: It bought the building. The cost: $3.6 million.

The community arts center, which emerged from the 1970s Chicano movement and was instrumental in the rise of artists including Frank Romero and Barbara Carrasco, had been pulled into the gentrification debate that has roiled Boyle Heights. Some community activists even accused Self Help Graphics & Art of contributing to the problem despite the center's history and its nonprofit status.

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Self Help Graphics & Art started in the East Los Angeles garage of Franciscan nun Karen Boccalero. In 1979 it moved to a mosaics-covered building on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in East L.A. that, over the ensuing decades, allowed Self Help to cement its reputation as a place to develop Chicano expression in the arts.

Self Help was displaced from that building in 2011 and moved to its current location.

"Self-determination through stewardship of this building is significant for the cultural arts community and means that the organization will no longer be at risk for displacement," Joel Garcia, co-director of programs and operations, said in the announcement Thursday. He said the purchase is "allowing us to expand on our mission to be a leading source of cultural programming, arts education and workforce development for artists of color in the creative capital of the world."

The acquisition of the building was made possible partly by an $825,000 funding commitment proposed by Councilman Jose Huizar and money from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Additional support came from the nonprofit Weingart Foundation, a grant-making entity focused on inclusion and equal opportunity, and from the California Community Foundation, which has a mandate to improve the lives of L.A. County residents.

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