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Situado en la calle Figueroa North, el Centro de Arte Público se construyó en 1923 como tienda minorista. Pero su función fue mucho más inspiradora. Photo: Telemundo52
Located on North Figueroa Street, the Public Art Center was built in 1923 as a retail shop. But its function was far more inspiring. Photo: Telemundo52

These two former Chicano art venues are living L.A. history

The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission wants the Public Art Center and the Mechicano Art Center in Highland Park to be two key points of Chicano heritage…

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Every city has its most emblematic sites and getting to know them radically changes our experience of walking through the streets. We feel inside history.

Specifically, in the long-claimed history of the Chicano movement in Los Angeles, which continues to increase its number of cultural-historical monuments. 

On Thursday, Jan. 21, the L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission voted to list both the Public Art Center and the Mechicano Art Center, two old buildings in the city, as enclaves of the Chicano art movement.

Both sites were nominated by the Highland Park Heritage Trust, which noted that both "served as pivotal centres for Latino creativity and community in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s and now face the threat of erasure by rapidly expanding community development."

The Public Art Center, located on Figueroa Street North between 56th and 57th avenues, was built in 1923, initially to be a retail shop, but ended up playing a key role in empowering local Chicano artists in Highland Park, as Alexandra Madsen of the Highland Park Heritage Trust noted.

Madsen added that the center "sought to realise the revolutionary political and social values for which the Chicano Movement in general advocated."

While the Centro de Arte Mechicano, which is located on the north corner of North Figueroa Street and North Avenue 54, was built in 1922 as a retail shop. 

It gave rise to one of the first Chicano art groups in Los Angeles.

"In addition to supporting professional artists, the center also sought to provide creative outlets for amateur artists and community members; it raised funds for community causes and organised free community classes in drawing, painting, graphic arts and photography for children and adults," Madsen said.

While the Chicano Movement is an extension of the Mexican American civil rights movement and began to expand after World War II, it was at its peak in the 1960s and hand-in-hand with the student movement, claiming pride in race and unique cultural heritage.

"The 1960s and 1970s were a pivotal time for Latinos in Los Angeles," the organization noted.

Now the proposal to make these iconic buildings even more so will have to be considered by the L.A. City Council.

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