Destination Crenshaw set to open this fall

By Ray Richardson

Contributing Writer

CRENSHAW — Planners for Destination Crenshaw, the planned 1.3-mile showcase of Black art and urban culture along a stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard, provided more details on the artwork and architecture that will be displayed when the unique attraction opens later this year in the fall.

Regarded as an “outdoor museum,” Destination Crenshaw will feature nine pocket parks and large murals displaying the images of Los Angeles legends such as former Mayor Tom Bradley, tennis great Serena Williams, composer Charles Mingus, actress Dorothy Dandridge and many others.

“We set out to do a project that would tell our story and create community permanence,” Eighth District Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said. “We want people to feel like Destination Crenshaw is theirs, the same way people feel about Boyle Heights and Chinatown.”

Harris-Dawson was part of a panel discussion at Crenshaw High School May 9 that updated community members on the progress of Destination Crenshaw and its attractions.

Rainy weather affected construction of Destination Crenshaw and delayed the scheduled opening in 2023. 

Funding for the highly anticipated project has not been an issue. Destination Crenshaw was originally budgeted for $77 million. By the end of 2023, fundraising through private and public resources topped $86 million.

Available revenue has helped planners secure the services of many of Los Angeles’ top Black artists and sculptors. 

Renowned sculptor Patrick Henry Johnson is putting the finishing touches on a 75-foot mural in honor of Paul Revere Williams, one of Los Angeles’ pioneering Black architects. Among Williams’ many achievements is the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Williams helped design the building in 1958.

“We want people to see and think about what the artists are trying to say with their sculptures and murals,” said V. Joy Simmons, senior art and exhibition advisor for Destination Crenshaw.

Simmons is part of a prominent team of Black women who are playing major roles in the development and concepts of Destination Crenshaw.

Perkins & Will, an international architectural firm with offices in Los Angeles, was contracted to design Destination Crenshaw.

This is not Perkins & Will’s first association with a cultural project. The firm designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the National Center of Civil Rights and Human Rights in Atlanta and the Historic Emancipation Park in Houston.

Perkins & Will employ two Black women who helped launch the idea of Destination Crenshaw and have been involved in the step-by-step process since the project was first proposed in 2014 — Gabrielle Bullock, director of global diversity for Perkins & Will, and Zena Howard, the firm’s cultural practice and civic leader.

“I’m especially proud of the amount of work done on this project by Black women,” Harris-Dawson said. “I want people to feel that when they come to Destination Crenshaw.”

Bullock and Howard were part of the outreach conducted by Perkins & Will to gather input from community members on what they wanted to see with Destination Crenshaw. Bullock indicated that community input was vital before any groundbreaking was done.

“I rarely have clients that look like me,” Bullock said. “This was not a traditional design process. We worked truly with the community to give them design power and a design voice. This project gives me great pride. I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Destination Crenshaw will include art displays, venues and businesses along Crenshaw Boulevard, starting just south of Leimert Park and stretching further south to Slauson Avenue.

The K-Line rail stop at Slauson and Crenshaw is being promoted as a “gateway” to Destination Crenshaw. When construction is completed to extend the K-Line to Los Angeles International Airport, planners are expecting major exposure for Destination Crenshaw.

“For people riding the K-Line from LAX, Slauson is the first stop for Destination Crenshaw,” said Jason Foster, president and CEO of Destination Crenshaw. “We want people on the train to see what the Black community has to offer.”

Foster said Los Angeles’ “creative economy” has a gross revenue of $323 million. He and planners believe Destination Crenshaw has the opportunity to share in that revenue, particularly with the Summer Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2028.

“All we’re trying to do is to make sure there’s a place in our community permanently to access that wealth and grow it,” Foster said.

Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at rayrich55@gmail.com.

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