Esperanza April

Esperanza’s economic development project – Mercado La Paloma is a vibrant, dynamic, non-profit community marketplace in South Central Los Angeles. Mercado is a unique venue providing space for emerging entrepreneurs specializing in culinary, homemade, handmade and cultural items as well as non-profit office space for seven local organizations.

Our ArtPlace project is establishing Mercado La Paloma as the go-to place to explore and experience the indigenous cultures of the diverse residents of South Los Angeles. We celebrate a different cultural group every other month to highlight the deep and rich traditions that form the tapestry of our community. We recently completed our celebration of African American Cultural traditions and are currently celebrating Thai Culture.

ArtPlace spoke with Nancy Halpern Ibrahim, Esperanza Executive Director and Damon Turner, Art & Cultural Programming Coordinator about their ArtPlace project to learn about their most rewarding experiences thus far in the ArtPlace project.

ArtPlace: What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you have had during the course of your ArtPlace grant?

Nancy: In February we celebrated the late, great cultural icon, Gil Scott-Heron through a tribute event entitled Peace Go With You Gil. The event featured brilliant musicians performing the sounds of Gil Scott Heron and a rapt audience that grew as the evening progressed. The evening also featured Mark de Clive-Lowe’s “CHURCH” ensemble presenting a jazz and dance party experiment. It was a beautiful testament to our capacity as a venue to capture a broad audience and host culturally connected musicians with dancing and the energy of our community. We had an amazing dance party in South Los Angeles on a Sunday night and alcohol was not included –deepening our organizational belief that alcohol is irrelevant to create a great venue.

It was a phenomenal event for everyone involved – guests, musicians and vendors. We were honored to host this important artist tribute to Mr. Scott-Heron, his music speaks to our own organizational human rights values.

Damon: The Gil Scott-Heron event was an amazing success, not only did we have one of the biggest turnout of attendees outside of our Día de Los Muertos festival, we had a musical line-up of some of LA’s most elite musicians, creators, and visionaries all under the same roof. That talent combined with the local shared sense of place and reverence of community members who grew up listening to Gil Scott-Heron, together made a magical evening! The most rewarding element of the project was the palpable synergy within the room during the event.

The concept for this project came from one of our partners, Grand Performances, a key partner in our Cultural Continuum project who have helped us curate our musical performances. The Peace Go With You Gil event aligned with the theme of our African American celebrations of our Cultural Continuum Project.

ArtPlace: What lesson did you learn from this success?

Damon: The greatest lesson I learned through this production was simple – Trust your team. The evening was an affirmation of how great performances happen when you work with brilliant team players. The event was a great success because of the multiple artistic variables that our team brought together.

See a video from the event here:

Peace Go With You, Gil At Mercado La Paloma from Beats,Frames & Life on Vimeo.

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