CRENSHAW — An outdoor museum honoring Los Angeles’ African-American community will be the first of its kind in the city.
Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson hosted a community town hall meeting March 6 to discuss Destination Crenshaw, a “community-inspired public art and streetscape” design project.
Around 150 people came out to the event at the Museum of African American Art in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
The plan is to create and install a 1.1-mile long open-air street museum along Crenshaw Boulevard between 48th and 60th streets. It will showcase the contributions of African Americans on the local and national level.
“I’m excited and proud that we can take this desire, this need, and this necessity in this moment of history to tell our story, but also to mark our territory forever,” Harris-Dawson said.
“We can take that and marry that with the opportunity of the Metro Rail that will run down Crenshaw Boulevard.”
The new Crenshaw/Los Angeles Airport (LAX) Rail Line will extend from the existing Exposition Line at Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards. It will travel 8.5 miles to the Green Line.
The most anticipated feature of the new light rail — expected to open in 2019 — is that it will connect Crenshaw and Green Line riders to one of the busiest airports in the world — LAX.
Part of the rail line will be underground, but a segment of it will be at-grade where Destination Crenshaw will be built.
“Nobody is going to be able to get through without seeing, hearing, feeling and sharing our story,” Harris-Dawson said.
For nearly two years, Harris-Dawson said he went to several house meetings throughout South Los Angeles to get community input. He spoke to young residents and asked for their thoughts on the corridor.
He said the younger generation is an important part of the project because “they will take over and they’ll be responsible for what happens.”
Kohshin Finley is a local artist and a Destination Crenshaw community partner. At 28, he is one of the youngest members.
“This meeting was great. I think it’s a beautiful project and I ask myself what I wanted to see as a kid,” Finley said.
“Can we change someone’s mood? Life?”
Perkins + Will — a world-renowned architecture firm — is leading the design of the project.
Zena Howard and Gabrielle Bullock, lead architects on the project, spoke about their commitment and ideas for the museum.
They are two of approximately 400 licensed black women architects in the country.
Howard spoke about her other projects such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. and the Motown Museum Expansion in Detroit.
“Like we are doing now, we decided on a song that was very revolutionary for its day and time by an artist that embodied what Motown and that time of history was about,” Howard said.
“That artist is Marvin Gaye and the song was ‘What’s Going On,’ so the lens of telling a very extensive story through the eyes of Marvin Gaye and sound mapping that pattern against all the colors of the number one hits that Motown had.”
These ideas were the seed for the multi-colored wall for the Motown Museum Expansion.
Once the presentations were over, people in the audience were urged to give their opinions on what they envision for the project.
There was a wall of various street art installations where attendees could put either a green (like) or red (dislike) circular sticker.
“I think this is a fantastic idea,” said Yvonne Hill, a South L.A. resident, who grew up going to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall.
“However I’m worried that they might obliterate the voices of our community.”
Karen Mack, founder and executive director of LA Commons in Leimert Park, an organization that promotes neighborhoods through locally based artistic programming, was asked to be a Destination Crenshaw community partner
“The councilman is really excited and he’s put together a great team,” Mack said. “I think they’re going to work wonders to transform Crenshaw and have it reflect the identity of African Americans in Los Angeles,.”
Destination Crenshaw is expected to open in fall 2019.