Saturday, July 12, 2008

Calling All Superhero Hoop Girls to Self Help

Calling all superhero Hoop Girls! We need your sassy, take-no-prisoners strength. We're in a crutch. Right about now, your fuerza and in-it-to-win-it incandescence would come in quite handy. Can you please take a small leave of absence from the stage and the pages of the brilliant new play by Gabriela López, the production I was fortunate enough to catch at a closing Casa 0101 performance? You see, the nefarious powers that be over at the LA Archdiocese have sold Self Help Graphics & Art out from under the community to some nameless, faceless real estate developer and investor who says he wants to get $30,000 (!!!!!) a month in rent and that the artists, community members and world renowned art programs that have called the building at César Chávez (Brooklyn) and Gage home for 30 years are going to have to vacate the premises at the end of the year. With no prior discussion or warning, the Sisters of St. Francis, Mount Alverno allowed the LA Archodiocese to hawk the building on the block for a whole lot less than the original $1.5 million asking price they quoted to members of the Self Help board of directors back in 2007. There are even some who say the money is being used to help the church settle lawsuits stemming from the abuse scandals.

The community is aghast. How could the cruel and allegedly Christian leaders let a priceless cultural legacy go so easily? How on earth could they have tossed a glittering institution that has nurtured two generations of artists into the wind without so much as a discussion? Why would they have shuttered or attempted to shutter a center responsible for the creation of so much beauty within a neighborhood that has suffered marginalization and neglect for a century? With no attempt at engaging the real stakeholders, they kept the deal secret and even asked the new owner to stay away from the property until the sale was final. How's that for desgraciadamente descarado?

Hoop Girls, we're flashing the silver-gold hoop signal, the golden beam of circular power into the Gotham-Metropolis-Boyle Heights night sky because you are, like so many of us in Eagle Rock, Highland Park, El Sereno, and Lincoln Heights, the children Self Help. We came of age with knowledge of ateliers and silkscreens and the selfless dedication of one Sister Karen Boccalero, who nurtured and trained and cajoled a multitude of artists who have been our role models, mentors and teachers. We beseech you because the profiteers are trying to turn back the clock. Property is at a premium and they know the subway is coming. It's a blatant landgrab and the officeholders (many of our own, in fact) think we're going to roll over on the East Side just because they took the farm in South Central away with nary a scuffle. Hoop Girls, we call on you as masters of the universe who can fight crime and overcome the idiocy of politicians and businessmen while balancing on four-inch heels and mastering the art of how to wear the four-inch hoop earring with unparalleled style and grace. Please hear our plea. Would it be possible to bring that ensemble magic, that trancendent love, care and concern that enveloped audiences and inspired us with its truth to Self Help for a final stand?

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, demonstrating a bit of Hoop Girl panache herself, has promised to help make the church answer for its ungodly and seemingly intentional disregard for Self Help, this when the organization has been in comeback mode for over a year with several successful print shows and cultural celebrations behind it, enough to make the glimmer of hope and a phoenix-like rise from the bumpy transitions it weathered for a minute there a distinct probability and not just a possiblity...

Next episode: Will Supervisor Molina deliver on her Hoop Girl promise? Will the Mayor and Council Member José Huizar do the right thing and join the forces with the Hoop Girl justice league? Will Self Help find a new home on the East Side? Tune in next week for answers to these and many other life or death questions... (special thanks to artist and blogger Ed Fuentes for the SHG press conference photo above)

3 comments:

Virginia Grise said...

fchicana in conneticut - puttion on her hoop earrings - hoping that someone will hear...

Chrissy said...

Sophi--er, I mean Christina Torres here, one of the Hoop Girls. Gabriela sent this our way-- what can we do to help?! :)

christinaetorres@gmail.com

sasparellasays said...

Hoop Girls got your back fo'sho!! Keep us posted. We're distributing the open letter you just sent to all our peeps today.