By Sue Favor
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Local artists are being encouraged to submit proposals over the next month for a new mural project along Western Avenue that will highlight work being done towards finding housing for all.
The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the office of Council District 10 are calling for proposals for a mural along a commercial area of the corridor that showcases the initiatives underway to address the homelessness crisis. The theme of the project is “Right to Housing.”
“We hope the selected mural will provide a sense of pride to frontline workers, and acknowledge their dedication and commitment to ending homelessness in the city,” said Felicia Filer, acting assistant general manager for the Department of Cultural Affairs. “The project will also allow an artist to make a substantial visual impact along Western Avenue, a major artery in the city lacking public artwork representative of the community.”
The city hopes to partner with a mural artist who can bring to life one or more of the themes of: the city’s efforts to end homelessness; the opportunities in establishing a “right to housing;” success in housing the homeless; humanizing portraits of homeless people; visual cues as to how those in the community can help end homelessness; and a narrative to highlight the housing insecurity that has become widespread throughout the city.
Homelessness in Los Angeles has swelled over the last six years, in particular, and was exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many to lose jobs, housing or both. More than 40,000 people are estimated to be homeless within city limits. South Los Angeles was hit particularly hard, and city officials have scrambled to find ways to help curb the problem.
Mark Ridley-Thomas ran for the 10th Council District seat a year ago with ending homelessness at the forefront of his platform. Though he has been suspended by the City Council for now, district caretaker Karly Katona and his staff remain steadfast in continuing to work on the issue.
The office has linked up with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to transform a building at 18th Street and Western Avenue into the South L.A. Street Engagement and Coordination Hub. The site will be shared with the 10th District Constituent Services Team, and the mural will be painted there.
The hub will serve as a central organizing point in the area for various street engagement teams whose goal is to help the homeless transition into housing. Staff will conduct meetings and trainings, plan and coordinate activities, and use the office as a base as they perform daily work on the streets, including wellness checks.
Officials say the art project is exactly what the building needs to launch the effort.
“Art has the power to transform public spaces and invigorate community identity,” said Ibert Schultz, 10th District senior deputy for strategic initiatives. “Once completed, this mural will serve as an important landmark for the Western Avenue commercial corridor that captures the optimism for a brighter tomorrow, as we work to end homelessness and establish a right to housing in our city.”
Laura Meyers, president of the United Neighborhoods Neighborhood Council, said she is excited for the Western Avenue Mural Project.
“Art has the power to transform public spaces and invigorate community identity,” she said. “This mural will serve as an important landmark for the Western Avenue commercial corridor that captures the optimism for a brighter tomorrow, as we work to end homelessness and establish a Right to Housing in our city.”
Proposals will be assessed based on experience, qualifications and proposed concepts. Applications can be made at CultureLA.org through Jan. 17.
Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.