Esperanza’s Cultural ContinuumLos Angeles, CA
Mercado La Paloma, an economic development project of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, is a vibrant, dynamic, non-profit community marketplace in South Central Los Angeles, that provides space for emerging entrepreneurs specializing in culinary, homemade, handmade, and cultural items.
Esperanza is seeking to turn Mercado La Paloma into the go to place to explore and experience the indigenous cultures of the diverse residents South Los Angeles and their present day manifestations within and outside their countries of origins; each other month they will celebrate a different cultural group through fixed media exhibits, film screenings, music performances, dance, workshops, cooking classes, tastings and lectures, that will make known the deep and rich traditions that come together to form the tapestry of our local community.
ArtPlace spoke with Beth Rodin, Director of Economic Development for Esperanza Housing Corporation and the Manager for Mercado La Paloma, about their ArtPlace project.
ARTPLACE: What do you have to do really well to achieve success with your initiative?
RODIN: In order to achieve success with our initiative we need to include the communities that are the target of the programming throughout our planning and execution process. This includes the cultural communities we are celebrating, the artist community, the community living in the area immediately surrounding the Mercado, and the urban adventurer community of Los Angeles. A program alone is not enough to make a space or location vibrant. A vibrant space must have on-going, collective and direct input from the community members who make up the space and are the driving force for its creativity. The power of a great gathering space is in the community presence.
Our curation process for each cultural series will include a group of stakeholders from the cultural group we are celebrating. They will help us to identify the goals of the programming, help connect us to key cultural resources in the community, and help us to do outreach within their communities. Our marketing process will rely upon traditional marketing tactics but will also rely heavily on community engagement strategies. By personally engaging our target communities in our work they will inform our work, making sure it is attractive to their demographic, and will act as messengers for our work, developing a genuine connection to the place and the programs. This authentic connection and love for the space and work will be palpable in the energy of the events – it will create the feeling of vibrancy.
ARTPLACE: How do you think the community will change as a result?
RODIN: Inviting people to experience art and cultural programming that highlights the cultural traditions of the people living and working in our community will change the way South Los Angeles is seen. The project will value heritage and promote cultural awareness. Community members will have the opportunity to connect with their native culture, reinforcing the worth and beauty of their history and the unique gifts that it possesses. Confronted with with the richness of each culture, people outside the culture will grow in their appreciation and awareness. Those from outside South Los Angeles will gain a more complex vision of South Los Angeles; instead of crime and poverty, they will experience beauty, creativity, authenticity and vibrancy. This redefinition will lead to an increase in visitors, a stronger local economy, an increased sense of pride among local residents, and increased investment in the community.