Greetings from Little Tokyo LA,
I’m Dominique Miller the Planning Administrator at Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC). I was hired about a month ago as part of the ArtPlace initiative at LTSC along with my coworker, Place-based Programmer, Maya Santos.
A little bit about us…
Maya has a degree in architecture and is originally from Seattle. She leads FORM Follow FUNCTION, a collaborative media studio creating non-fiction, place-based, documentaries, and media. Check out the website (fffmedia.com), to see the amazing projects she’s been working on that will be featured at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (April 21-28).
I’m originally from Washington D.C. and grew up in Los Angeles. I have a Bachelors in African & African American Studies and a Masters in Arts Management. I developed my love for arts while training at Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy and is now a writer. I currently in the View Park/Leimert Park area of Los Angeles and see a lot of parallels between the issues confronting Little Tokyo and my own neighborhood. I’ve worked primarily in and around performance art and have always wanted to tie that experience in with social justice initiatives. I am excited to get to know Little Tokyo, its history, culture and people.
Maya and I focus on ArtPlace funded work here at LTSC. The ArtPlace America Community Development Initiative (CDI) is about integrating arts and culture into community development and planning. We are focusing on how to strategically use arts and culture to combat the effects of gentrification and develop Little Tokyo according to the wants/needs of community members while positioning the community for sustainability.
As downtown Los Angeles is gentrifying and the Metro Rail system expands Little Tokyo residents and business owners face potential displacement while local culture is at risk of fading in the shadow of rapid private development. With ArtPlace CDI funding we have the opportunity to experiment and find effective methods to exert control over the development of our communities. This initiative is vital because it will yield results and methods that will be shared with other communities facing displacement.
Being of Native and African American heritage the issue of displacement and injustice was and is not new to me so I was able to instantly connect with the values of LTSC and empathize with the Little Tokyo community. Prior to being hired I had no experience in or with Little Tokyo so not only was the job new, the organization new, and the entire project new but the community itself was new. I found myself being constantly flooded with information about ArtPlace, my job function, my department, LTSC, the Little Tokyo community, and the Japanese American culture. It felt overwhelming at times as you could imagine.
I’m somewhat settled in now and things are really moving. We have been sifting through archives, meeting with longtime locals, and I canvassed Little Tokyo, getting ready to initiate the next phase of asset mapping. We are collaborating with artists to generate a comprehensive, creative and engaging way to display and share data acquired through the asset mapping process.
We are also exploring creative ways to support our asset-gathering process while opening up a continual channel of engagement and participation with the community. While these ideas are moving fast, we’re looking forward to the new and existing collaborations and partnerships that will help inform these next steps. Stay tuned for more updates from Maya, myself, or Remy about our progress.