Mechicano Art Center

Mechicano was one of the earliest Chicano arts organizations to emerge in Los Angeles. Founded in 1969 by community organizer Victor Franco in the La Cienega arts district, it moved to East Los Angeles in 1970. Artist and graphic designer Leonard Castellanos became the executive director. In 1972, they initiated the mural program at the Ramona Gardens Housing Project, directed by artist Armando Cabrera.

In 1975, under new director Joe Rodriguez, Mechicano moved to Highland Park. Located on the corner of Avenue 54 and Figueroa, the center continued to paint murals at Ramona Gardens, while holding series of art exhibitions in their studio space. In 1976, artist Sonya Fe was hired to run their silkscreen workshop.

Ghosts of the Barrio by Wayne Healy, 1974. Mural at Ramona Gardens for Mechicano Art Center.

During their two years in Highland Park (it closed in 1978 due to lack of funding and a changing economic climate), the Center's exhibitions included an ASCO exhibit, a Chicana exhibit featuring Judithe Hernandez, Sonya Fe and Isabel Castro, and solo exhibitions by Lucila Grijalva, Linda Vallejo and Roberto Chavez. Their last exhibition was for Dia de los Muertos in November 1977, which included among others, artists Carlos Almaraz, Roberto Chavez, Leo Limon, Harry Gamboa and John Valadez.

Above, Joe Rodriguez recounts the beginnings of Mechicano and its move to Highland Park and its integration with the community; Sonya Fe discovers the center while walking down Figueroa; Sybil Venegas on the lifespan of the Chicano art scene.

Photo by flickr user Lisa Newton used under a Creative Commons License.
About the Center
Mechicano Art Center began on La Cienega in 1969, before moving to Highland Park, placing them closer to the community with which they often collaborated.
Discovering the Center
The Center provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for artists and communities to come together to create works and experiences that would last a lifetime.
Serving the Community
Mechicano brought together artists and the community through the creation of murals.
Creating Awareness
Chicano and Mexican artists were not a part of the curriculum at art schools in the 1970s, as recalled by Sonya Fe.
A Brief Period of Time
The burst of creative energy in the vibrant Chicano art community of Highland Park in the late 1970s lasted only a few years.
Gang Diplomacy
Mechicano Art Center provided a safe haven for gang members from local neighborhoods to develop their artistic skills.
Explore the related interactive mural

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