LACMA, the NEA, and Watts

Tomorrow night, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan will be in conversation with Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Their conversation (free to the public) will touch on a number of topics related to the NEA’s national agenda, including a few topics near and dear to LACMA and Los Angeles’s hearts. Not least of those topics is the NEA’s Our Town grant program, which recently awarded the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) funds for master planning and design work in the Watts community. LACMA, as you may have read, has also been in Watts for the last year, working with the DCA and the community on plans for the preservation of Watts Towers.

Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, 1921–1954, photo © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA

The Our Town grant is not earmarked for the towers but rather for another project in the area—the repurposing of the Historic Watts Train Station, originally built in 1904 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This was a highly trafficked stop along the historic Red Line route, in the era before the city’s massive freeway system turned L.A. into the apotheosis of “car culture.”

Watts Station, Los Angeles

Plans for the train station and two “artist pathways” are still in the early stages and are being led by a local grassroots organization known as Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), which is focused on creating jobs and improving the overall quality of life for residents of Watts. LACMA is serving as an arts advisor for the project, which will turn the site into a Visitors Center and gateway to Watts that highlights the neighborhood’s impact on the arts and culture of Los Angeles. As plans develop, we look forward to sharing more of the WLCAC and DCA’s progress on this project. You can also hear more about both LACMA and the NEA’s support for this project during tomorrow’s Director’s Series event, among other topics.

Scott Tennent

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