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Activating Our Cultural Assets: A Story of Community Organizing in Boyle Heights Through Traditional Arts Practice

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Activating Cultural Assets: Boyle Heights
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The Power of Stories is an archive of projects submitted to the 2014 Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Convening. It showcases work created throughout California highlighting the power of individual and collective efforts to promote health and demonstrates how stories have the power to re-imagine and transform our communities. Produced in partnership with the California Endowment.
Project Submitted by Amy Kitchener, Executive Director, ACTA

Project Summary The Activating Cultural Assets Project aimed to integrate valued local community artists and arts practices into the work of the Boyle Heights Building Healthy Communities Initiative.

BHC Site: Boyle Heights

The Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), is a statewide organization that promotes and supports ways for cultural traditions to thrive now and into the future. ACTA collaborated with the Boyle Heights Building Healthy Communities Initiative and a task force composed of representatives from local organizations including; CASA0101, the YMCA, Brooklyn and Boyle, Maternal and Child Health Access, and the East LA Community Corporation the project Activating Our Cultural Assets was launched. The team designed the project and gave direction to local videographer, Sara Aguilar, to produce the video.

Our video submission presents the results of the Boyle Heights Activating Cultural Assets Project that aimed to integrate valued local community creative expressions - which provide spaces for engagement, empowerment, and collaboration -- into the work of the Boyle Heights Building Healthy Communities Initiative.

Segments in the video feature interviews that capture the intersections and connections that art and cultural practice have in personal and community transformation.

Community members practice playing and writing son harocho as part of the legalize street vending initiative.
Community members practice playing and writing son harocho as part of the legalize street vending initiative.
Youth practice interview skills in preparation for the work on restorative justice.
Youth practice interview skills in preparation for the work on restorative justice.
Youth host a radio show on restorative justice
Youth host a radio show on restorative justice
Master artist, Ofelia Esparza (bottom left) sits with participants from the alter making workshop exploring the need for affordable health care.
Master artist, Ofelia Esparza (bottom left) sits with participants from the alter making workshop exploring the need for affordable health care.

The compilation of the 3 workshop segments and culminating Saludarte event presents a larger Boyle Heights narrative that demonstrates how a neighborhood transforms struggle, utilizing art and cultural practices into a journey of healing and community empowerment.

Through ACTA's work in supporting traditions, artists, and communities, ACTA observed how individuals express feeling a sense of belonging and connectedness when sharing culture. Inspired by these observations, this project and video aims to contribute to deepened dialogue and further exploration of the connection between cultural practices and community health.

There is an inherent push-pull between the idea that the art must be a tool to carry a message for a campaign versus the inherent meaning, beauty and experience involved in artmaking. We aim to validate a both ways perspective and elevate the value of artmaking processes that foster community belonging, healing, and empowerment.

ACTA is continuing the work of the Boyle Heights Activating Cultural Assets Project by launching a series of Activarte events aiming to engage Boyle Heights residents, youth, and organizers through public art installations and participatory workshops that will support the campaign issues promoted by the local BHC workgroups.

Community members paint a mural depicting the school to jails pipeline at the Saludarte event
Community members paint a mural depicting the school to jails pipeline at the Saludarte event

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