Self Help Graphics & Art / Brooklyn State Bank
A longstanding symbol of the arts, culture, and creativity in East Los Angeles, Self Help Graphics & Art (SHG&A) was a training ground for myriad artists, teachers, and musicians in the area. Purchased by the Archdiocese in 1944 to be used by the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), the site was a refuge for local youth, many of whom had experienced the violence of the Zoot Suit Riots.
The founder of SHG&A, Sister Karen Boccalero, had started the organization in a mobile truck. By 1979, the organization’s efforts were growing and SHG&A found a home for decades to come in the former CYO building. With increasingly strong support from the local community, SHG&A became a hub for the arts and the 1980s local punk scene until the building was sold by the Archdiocese and threatened with redevelopment in 2008.
The Conservancy’s effort to work with local community members and organizations to nominate and help designate SHG&A to the California Register of Historical Resources proved to be a success and built new partnerships between the Conservancy and the community of East Los Angeles. It was also exciting work for the Conservancy, as it entailed groundbreaking new work with regard to local cultural and historic preservation.
The building’s sale by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to a private developer threatened the integrity of the structure, which put Eduardo Oropeza’s iconic exterior mosaic design in jeopardy of alterations. A campaign to save the building and to keep SHG&A in unincorporated East Los Angeles was launched, but, eventually the nonprofit SHG&A and its staff were forced to move to a new location in Boyle Heights.
With the Los Angeles Conservancy’s technical assistance, the building’s designation on the California Register of Historic Places in 2012 gives it some protections and provides the site with statewide recognition that many had sought. The Conservancy continues to monitor this important community historical and cultural asset.
The Los Angeles Conservancy is committed to working with Latinx communities and sites that are important to Latinxs. Through our Latinx Initiative, we have worked with community members to assist in the identification, nomination, and designation of sites important to the community, including Self Help Graphics and Art.