Mauro Lopez, ArtLab


The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information visit www.mylariver.org

Young people have been an integral part of The Northeast Los Angeles River Collaborative (NELA RC) since the launch of the project in January, 2013. As part of Departures Youth Voices students from the L.A. River School, ArtLAB and the Los Angeles Leadership Academy explored their relationship with their community and the River, by mapping neighborhood assets and collecting and sharing stories of its residents. All the while, they learned and expanded their knowledge of multi-media production, digital literacy, and civic engagement. You can see the works created by the students here.

In his interview Mauro recounts how his experiences with the Anahuak Youth Soccer Association and Departures Youth Voices have helped shaped his views on the L.A. River.


My name is Mauro Lopez, I'm 17, I'm about to be a senior, I live in Downtown, and I go to Sonia Sotomayor in the ArtLab Academy.

I never lived in the area but I had friends that lived there so I would go visit them and we'd go the river, take walks, sort of just hang out in the river, so pretty much the river kind of is my backyard, just because I don't live there doesn't mean I don't know the river.

As kids we would just go and just play with the water, look at the fishes, animals, everything, explore. We'd run, we'd just take walks or just sit down and chill and just look at the view. It's a pretty nice view.

Raul Macias and Anahuak Youth Association had a lot of contribution to me learning about the river and getting to know more about the river. He'd have these conventions in the L.A. River Salon, the little place, the little venue, and he'd have like lunch and all that and he'd have a map of the river, he would always talk about the river, like how it's important to be clean, he's a big part of it, a big part of the L.A. River.

And then as time went by, I'd play at the park and the new park opened, Rio De Los Angeles River, right next to the river so it gave me more of a easy access to the river because I could just go take a walk and then right next to the park would be the river. So it's pretty much like one whole big community right there, you have the park, you have the river, you have Elysian Valley, so it's like one big whole...paradise.

Not until the Youth Voices came, I got more civically involved with the river. We took field trips to the river, and we would just shoot, we would learn more about the river, go beyond the surface. We interviewed the community, people from the community, what they think of the river, how does the river contribute to their lives, so pretty much we explored the river.

I know the park isn't perfect right now, and maybe with this experience I can start something, if I network more I can start something, make the river better. They recently had a river art walk that ran through the river and I think that's pretty cool because I love art, I love music, so maybe I can do something with the art and the music.

I know it won't change in a year or two or maybe three...it would take time to change. If I change something or we change something the river can be something iconic to Los Angeles, it would be like worldwide, people would come visit it. Tourists visit Venice for a reason and I want the river to be a main attraction to L.A. It would be amazing if it would change, it would change people's lives.

You can learn more about the Northeast Los Angeles River Collaborative and hear from other Youth Voices students HERE.

Story continues below

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading