Metro Art this week launched the first series of programs for Nos Vemos/We See Us, a pilot project created to support and reflect cultural expressions of the diverse neighborhoods of Southeast LA (SELA). The project is also helping inform future transportation investments in the area.
Four artists and artist teams were commissioned by Metro to create arts-based community engagement activities—both online and in-person—honoring culture in SELA.
The first Nos Vemos artist program to hit the streets is The SELA Community Map, a pop-up installation by collaborators Alejandra and David Martinez. Alejandra is the creator of The SELA Community Map concept and David helped bring it to life as a physical object for the pop-ups. The map will be traveling to community events through the fall and the artists invite participants to use the map to respond to questions like, “How would you describe Southeast LA in one word?”
The map’s next stop is at the South Gate Art Walk on Saturday, October 2 from noon to 4 p.m.
Learn more about the artists, and what’s in store, below.
Tell us a bit about your connection with SELA?
David: We are siblings who grew up in the City of Bell and went to school in SELA. We are first-generation, American born children of parents whose came to the United States from Durango, Mexico. We have always wanted to see change in the area to make living in SELA healthier and more equitable. We are also both artists and have been involved in efforts to support the arts locally. I have taught and designed community art activities for the City of South Gate, at the SELA Arts Festival, and with the SELA Art Walk in collaboration with other artists and friends. Alejandra has been involved in community mapping projects and defending against gentrification in SELA.
What inspired the creation of The SELA Community Map?
David: The SELA Community Map pop-up is our first collaborative project. We want to understand how residents perceive their place within the fabric of this expansive, diverse community. The SELA Community Map gathers stories and memories of people in the community but also documents the area before it undergoes another drastic change. As new efforts to change the landscape and develop the region have started to bring new businesses and transportation developments to the area, we believe SELA cities need to support local businesses and residents to prevent displacement as we face new development.
Let’s say you each had a good friend who was visiting SELA and you want to show them a great time (using transit, of course!). Where would you take them and why?
Alejandra: I’d first take the 111 Metro bus to one of my favorite local businesses, Cruzitas. After grabbing some great coffee and food, we’d hop back onto the bus and head to Pacific Boulevard in Huntington Park. We’d explore the shops, pick up some snacks, and head over to Miles Park for a picnic.
David: For a great time in SELA, I would first take them on a bike ride down the LA River Path all the way to Hollydale Park so they can experience nature in the river. After hanging out in the park, we would pick up Lebanese chicken pizza from Big Al’s Pizzeria in Maywood, a paleta from Paleteria Limon next door and eat it at my family’s house in Bell.
Alejandra Martinez is an artist and mapmaker, and received her BA in Economics, with a minor in Urban and Regional Studies, from UCLA. David Martinez is an artist, printmaker and educator with a BA in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. Follow their project on Instagram for updates at @theselacommunitymap.