Author: Charlotte Umanoff
Following a selection process that took place over the summer, the building that previously housed Oxcy Mart on the corner of Armadale Avenue and York Boulevard is slated to become the new home of an off-campus, multi-purpose arts space operated by Occidental’s various arts-focused departments.
Vice President for Finance and Planning Amos Himmelstein and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jorge Gonzalez selected the Oxy Arts proposal from a pool of six other suggested plans, according to Aandrea Stang, director of Oxy Arts.
Submitted by a committee of Art History and Visual Arts (AHVA), music, theater and interdisciplinary writing faculty members, the proposal will transform a portion of the space into the new home of the existing Weingart Gallery and leave another portion as a multipurpose space to be used for lectures, classes and performances from the various departments, according to Stang. Additional space will be turned into offices and storage.
“Everybody really wants to see the arts get a boost on campus,” Stang said.
The college is currently in the process of interviewing architects, so the community likely will not see the new space until sometime during the 2016–17 school year. The relocation of the college gallery from Weingart Hall will allow for the creation of more arts offices and classrooms on campus and will generate wider public audiences for student art, according to Stang.
Gonzalez said that expanding to the York Boulevard property will engage the community and create a more visible presence of the college in Highland Park.
“The exciting thing about this proposal is that it brings Oxy Arts to the middle of the community — not isolated in the middle of the campus,” Gonzalez said.
Another committee — comprised of Occidental faculty and staff, neighbors and owners of several Highland Park businesses — drafted a proposal for a non-profit community meeting space and also submitted a set of principles they hoped the college would use when deciding the future use of the property.
Titled “The Principles For College-Community Neighborhood Development,” the document outlined several key areas that the college should focus on: learning, collaborative partnerships, equity, sustainability and diversity.
“The robust campus-community coalition that came together to develop the principles represents a deep commitment and years of work by faculty, staff and students to advance the community engagement mission of the college,” Martha Matsuoka, committee member and professor of Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP), said via email.
Assistant Director of Student Life Diego Silva, a member of the Highland Park Neighborhood Council who was involved with the drafting of the principles, acknowledged the importance of the committee as a way to unify members of the Occidental and Highland Park communities under a common purpose.
“We were able to bring in perspectives that were dear to the community in Highland Park that are not necessarily easily [communicated] to Occidental,” Silva said.
Although the proposal submitted alongside the principles was not selected by Gonzalez and Himmelstein, Silva believes that Oxy Arts still represents an opportunity for the college to constructively engage the Highland Park community, should they follow the suggested principles.
According to Stang, the Oxy Arts committee plans to work alongside the Institute of the History of Los Angeles to preserve and build upon the character of the neighborhood via the arts.
“Historically, this neighborhood has been many things,” Stang said. “There will be a commitment to acknowledge the existing community and to try to be sensitive and thoughtful.”
Stang expressed excitement at what the expansion means for the students as well.
“If [their] audience members are not just [their] colleagues, [but] people who have other things to do with their leisure time, it’ll be interesting to see how the students react to that,” Stang said. “I think there will be some really cool, really dynamic things that transpire as a result.”
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