Re-imagining urban landscapes and cultural spaces

The Woodbury University is a pleasant old-school feeling oasis in Burbank. With brick and stone structures and green landscaped walkways, it reminds me of older well-preserved campuses back East. Trini and I went there last Friday to attend the all-day presentation of four-year architect students. Only this was special--the students were assigned to design real plans and models for Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural. They choose at least four sites in Pacoima and Sylmar and created amazing diagrams and color presentations, with studies of wind, sun, gangs, and other environmental concerns taken into account.

I can't describe the emotions I had entering a foyer with eight large architect plans on the walls. Each plan had two persons involved. They presented to the whole group with a commercial architect, former students, and other architect teachers (and teachers from other disciplines) critiqueing their work. Trini and I were the "clients." We had no critiques so much as observations, in particular to the innovative, imaginative, and thorough jobs the students did. I can't go into all the fascinating ideas the students had. I just have to say if we ever have the funds and place to do something like this, it would probably be a hybrid of all their ideas.

Trini and I were deeply honored and appreciative of all the time, energy and work the students contributed to these plans. I want to especially thank professors Jeanine Centuori and Gustavo Leclerc for making this happen. They met with myself and other Tia Chucha staff, and also brought the students to Tia Chucha's so that I could talk to them. Some of them showed up to an Open Mic and other events (a few remember Tia Chucha's from our old space in Sylmar).

We plan to have a community meeting in January with a similar presentation to the board and community. We have plans to make other presentations, including to policy makers. Engaging the imagination of young people is the key to bringing back our communities to life, with spirit, and enveloped in art. LA, where the arts are concentrated in a few places among a few people (Hollywood, Downtown LA, the Wilshire District, etc). must now look at spreading the arts to all neighborhoods, safeguarding the community flavor, independent bookstores, and cultural spaces wherever they may be.

With so much talent in our universities, colleges, and other institutions, it's time we had real community connections so that these young people had a real impact in how our communities look, feel, and thrive.


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