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How Lincoln Heights' Church of the Epiphany Energized the Chicano Movement

CSRC_LaRaza_B1F7C6_DW_001 Father John Luce saying a prayer at the Board of Education meeting | Devra Weber, La Raza photograph collection. Courtesy of UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center
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Artbound "La Raza" is a KCETLink production in association with the Autry Museum of the American West and UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

Nothing signals “Revolution HQ” about the Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights. Its chocolate brown beams, gray-brown stonework and customary ecclesiastical architecture seem standard for a small community church in Lincoln Heights, but if its walls could speak, perhaps they would rally and roar because this place of worship was also a place of resistance in the 1960s and 70s.

“This church became a magnet to come and organize,” said Ravi GuneWardena, preservation architect for the church along with Frank Escher of Escher GuneWardena Architecture. “The basement of the church was given for activities. The newspaper, La Raza, was edited and created here. The Brown Berets met at the church. Both Robert Kennedy and César Chávez used it as a Los Angeles base.”

In East Los Angeles during the late 1960s and 1970s, a group of young activists used creative tools like writing and photography as a means for community organizing, providing a platform for the Chicano Movement in the form of the bilingual newspaper/magazine La Raza. Learn more about them in this documentary.
S9 E5: La Raza - Media Manager

Nothing speaks of its rebellious history more eloquently than the artwork that adorned its walls and ceiling these past three months. Inside the church’s Gothic Revival interiors, paper plane-like installations fly overhead (artist Ismael de Anda's “ Love Duster”), a tied up mattress occupies the aisle (Camilo Ontiveros’s "Deportables”) and tearful photos of families re-united for three minutes across the U.S.-Mexico border hang on a wall (Tish Lampert's “3 Minutes Allowed – Door of Hope”).  The artwork is part of “The Art of Protest: Epiphany and the Culture of Empowerment,” an exhibition that finished its run at the end of March. The exhibition was co-curated by LACMA educator Sofia Gutierrez; artist Ricardo Reyes, who was already working with the church during the Chicano Moratorium; historian Rosalío Muñoz, co-chair of the Chicano Moratorium; and GuneWardena. Many other artists works were shown in the church, each with an eye toward social justice.

“[We] chose these artists because they reflect the values of the cause and the culture of activism, social justice and civil rights which the Chicano and Mexican American leadership and youth refined at the Church of the Epiphany in the 1960s and 70s,” said Gutierrez.

Click left and right to view images of the church and the art exhibition below:

Church of the Epiphany exterior | Carren Jao
Church of the Epiphany exterior | Carren Jao
1/8 Church of the Epiphany exterior | Carren Jao
View of the sanctuary with artist Ismael de Anda's Love Duster, 2017 floating above the church pews | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
View of the sanctuary with artist Ismael de Anda's Love Duster, 2017 floating above the church pews | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
2/8 View of the sanctuary with artist Ismael de Anda's "Love Duster," 2017 floating above the church pews | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena
Chicano Moratorium history display, curated by Rosalio Muñoz | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
Chicano Moratorium history display, curated by Rosalio Muñoz | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
3/8 Chicano Moratorium history display, curated by Rosalio Muñoz | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena
Installation view of the sanctuary. Carolyn Castaño's Other Feminist Histories ( Violeta Parra), 2015 (below) and Wayne Healy's A Mural for Ramona Gardens, 1993 (above) in the foreground.| Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
Installation view of the sanctuary. Carolyn Castaño's Other Feminist Histories ( Violeta Parra), 2015 (below) and Wayne Healy's A Mural for Ramona Gardens, 1993 (above) in the foreground.| Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
4/8 Installation view of the sanctuary. Carolyn Castaño's Other Feminist Histories ( Violeta Parra), 2015 (below) and Wayne Healy's A Mural for Ramona Gardens, 1993 (above) in the foreground. | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena
Historian Rosalio Muñoz showing archival photo of Fr. Luce at a protest event | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
Historian Rosalio Muñoz showing archival photo of Fr. Luce at a protest event | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
5/8 Historian Rosalio Muñoz showing archival photo of Fr. Luce at a protest event | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena
Alicia Sterling Beach's Kinetic Diamonds, 2017 Mixed media maquette for a public art sculpture. | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
Alicia Sterling Beach's Kinetic Diamonds, 2017 Mixed media maquette for a public art sculpture. | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena La Raza AB s9
6/8 Alicia Sterling Beach's "Kinetic Diamonds," 2017 Mixed media maquette for a public art sculpture. | Courtesy of Ravi GuneWardena