Since 2018, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a Mexican-American museum and cultural center in downtown Los Angeles, has been planning an exhibition on the culture and history of Afro-Latinx Angelenos. From the project’s inception, the lead curator, Mariah Berlanga-Shevchuk, wanted the show to be realized by the local community. Over the course of several months, the museum put out open calls for local Afro-Latinx families and individuals to share their stories and artifacts, and received a wonderful range of submissions, from family photos and recipes to handmade jewelry, instruments, and orixa dolls. The result, afroLAtinidad: mi casa, my city, opened in late February of this year.
“We are aiming to scratch the surface at getting this community recognized on a broader scale, particularly with the non-Afro-Latinx community,” said Berlanga-Shevchuk in an interview with CBS Los Angeles on opening night, “but primarily this show is for the Afro-Latinx community to feel like they’re being represented and seen.”
As we all know, just a few weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and all art spaces closed their doors to the public. Since then, LA Plaza has made an effort to upload photos and videos of the exhibition online, and while the show is expected to be up through August 24, it might remain open longer to welcome visitors in-person again.
In the meantime, there is a special opportunity to attend the Zoom talk “When Community Creates Exhibitions” this Wednesday, July 29. You’ll get to hear from the core team that organized the exhibition: Berlanga-Shevchuk; adviser La Mikia Castillo; lender Janelle Hartley (whose childhood photo leads this article); and assistant curator and project manager Esperanza Sanchez. As Berlanga-Shevchuk shared over email, the panelists will discuss why involving the community was important to making the exhibition “authentic to the lived experiences of Afro-Latinx Angelenos.” They will also take us through a video walkthrough of the exhibition and dive into the stories of the individual objects on view.
When: Wednesday, July 29, 7pm (PDT)
More info at LA Plaza Cultura y Artes