Sister Mary Corita Studio
From 1960-1968, Sister Mary Corita used the building as her studio and classroom where she made some of her most recognizable works, hosted creative leaders, and influenced a generation of young artists.
On June 2, 2021, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve the Sister Mary Corita Studio as a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM).
From 1960-1968, Sister Mary Corita used the building as her studio and classroom where she made some of her most recognizable works, hosted creative leaders, and influenced a generation of young artists. Sister Corita’s studio, at 5518 Franklin Avenue, is the only extant property of primary significance associated with Sister Corita’s art production in Los Angeles.
Known as the “Pop Art Nun,” Sister Corita became a cultural figure known around the world. Throughout the 1960s Sister Corita used Pop Art to raise awareness about social injustices that included poverty, racism, women’s rights, and the Vietnam War.
The HCM nomination was submitted for the Sister Mary Corita Studio by the Corita Art Center. Approximately only 3% of the City’s HCMs are currently associated with women’s heritage.
On December 17, 2020, the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) unanimously voted in support of the pending Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) nomination for the Sister Mary Corita Studio. City staff were recommending against this pending nomination so we and many others are very pleased with this outcome. Next the HCM will be forwarded to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee for review.
On June 2, 2021, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve the Sister Corita Studio as a Historic-Cultural Monument. Thank you to everyone who supported the nomination by speaking at public hearings or by writing letters of support!
Learn more about the efforts to save the Sister Mary Corita Studio through KPCC’s Take Two program which aired on January 4, 2021. Tune in at the 42-minute mark.
About This Place
About This Place
5518 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood is significant for its association with the famed artist, educator, and social justice advocate Sister Mary Corita Kent. From 1962-1968, Sister Corita used the building as her studio and classroom where she made some of her most recognizable works, hosted creative leaders, and influenced a generation of young artists. The former studio, which is now a dry cleaner, is the only remaining property in Los Angeles primarily associated with Corita’s artistic production.
Known as the “Pop Art Nun” Sister Corita was born in Iowa moved to Los Angeles with her family. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree from Immaculate Heart College she joined the faculty in 1947. While teaching, Sister Corita earned her Master’s degree in Art History from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1951. Over the course of her career Sister Corita created over 700 screen prints, which were her primary medium of art. Watch Sister Corita at work in the Studio in this excerpt from a 1967 film.
While working at Immaculate Heart College, Sister Corita used the building as her primary studio space while living at the Immaculate Heart Motherhouse across the street. During this period, the Catholic Church under Vatican II began embracing reforms to modernize the Catholic Mass, introducing vernacular language, and contemporary liturgical music and artwork to make the Church’s aesthetic messages more relevant to the twentieth-century.
By using vivid, fluorescent inks, Sister Corita’s work embraced the widely recognized symbolism of commercial advertising. Her artwork juxtaposed inspirational and scripture influenced text with images to create broadly appealing, ecumenical messages of hope and optimism.
Because of the progressive spirit of art produced by Sister Corita and the other Immaculate Heart Motherhood nuns their work came under fire from the Los Angeles Archdiocese in the 1960s. In 1966, Cardinal McIntyre wrote, “We hereby request again that the activities of Sister Corita in religious art be confined to her classroom work.” Deeply influenced by the emerging progressive culture, Immaculate Heart Motherhood sisters began incorporating contemporary philosophies, modern psychology, and women’s liberation movement into their work.
By 1968, when Sister Corita left Immaculate Heart, her work had been shown in over 230 exhibitions. During the 1960s, she spoke lectures, interviews, and larger public commissions becoming a well-known public figure.
The Conservancy strongly advocated in support of community efforts to have the Sister Mary Corita Studio designated as a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM).
On December 17, 2020, when confronting a negative staff recommendation by City staff at the Cultural Heritage Commission, Conservancy staff provided the following testimony:
Ordinary places can sometimes convey extraordinary stories. We urge your support of this nomination, and respectfully disagree with staff’s findings on integrity aspects, which is an identified barrier for cultural resources. LA’s designation criteria and CHC ordinance do not include integrity.
City staff wrote in 2020 in the publication, ‘Achieving Equity Through Heritage Preservation’ that there is no integrity criteria in LA and it “gives the city leeway to recognize resources associated with more recent histories and those based on associative values rather than material or architectural integrity.” And further, City staff state, “[HCM] nominations can be more representative of the city’s diversity…[and]…encourage the designation of properties important for their associative qualities rather than their physical attributes.”
There is clear precedent for this in recent HCM nominations for the Tuna Canyon Detention Center (HCM 1039) and Irvin Tabor Residence (HCM 1149). Corita’s studio conveys its essential form so why is integrity an overriding factor in this case?
The Corita studio building is the only remaining property in LA associated with her artistic production. Her significance and contributions in LA and nationally are undeniable. It is also undeniable that only 3% of HCM’s currently reflect women’s heritage.
We need to change that so please support this HCM nomination. Thank you.
How You Can Help
Help support the Corita Art Center team and allies pressing for the long-term preservation of Sister Mary Corita’s Studio.