Self Help Graphics & Art Building / Brooklyn State Bank | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Edgar Garcia

Self Help Graphics & Art Building / Brooklyn State Bank

The colorfully tiled two-story building located at 3800 East Cesar Chavez Avenue (formerly Brooklyn Avenue) in East Los Angeles was completed in 1927 to house the Brooklyn State Bank.

Designed by local architectural firm Postle & Postle, the building was to have four stores, a market and banking rooms on the ground floor, and a banquet hall, lodge room, offices, and apartments on the second floor. It appears the Brooklyn State Bank never occupied the building, as there is no record of it ever doing business at this location. It’s possible that either the bank never received its charter or it failed.

In 1944, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles purchased the building for use by the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). CYO opened in the building that same year, creating an important community venue to engage Mexican youth, curb violence, and counter systemic racism related to the Zoot Suit Riots in 1943.

CYO was also the incubator for the Chicanx/East Los Angeles rock and roll sound developed during the 1950s and 1960s. It was the place to go hear local bands – including Thee Midniters, Cannibal and the Headhunters, the Premiers, and the Salas Brothers – who went on to national and international fame for introducing the then-burgeoning East L.A. sound into mainstream rock & roll music.

In 1979, it became the new home of SHG&A. Founded by local artists and community activist Sister Karen Boccalero, a Franciscan nun committed to social change, SHG&A has become the leading visual arts cultural center in East Los Angeles, garnering national and international recognition. Established during the cultural rebirth of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and '70s, SHG&A has nurtured the talents of emerging artists through training and has given exposure to young local artists, many of whom have gone on to global prominence such as Patssi Valdez, Willie Heron, Gronk, Frank Romero, and Diane Gamboa. In the 1980s, the upstairs reception hall doubled as the Vex, providing a rare community venue for emerging East L.A. punk bands. 

In 1987, artist Eduardo Oropeza (1947-2003) began adorning the building with embedded ceramic pieces and mosaics. The three-year project resulted in his largest and most prominent artwork, and it transformed the building's relatively modest façade into a community icon.