Self Help Graphics Shares Insights

Center is thriving in Boyle Heights.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

A little over a year after the eastside non-profit arts institution moved to Boyle Heights, Self Help Graphics & Art is doing what it has never done since it’s birth in 1973; aggressively seeking grants and partnerships to continue it’s mission of developing and nurturing Latino artists in printmaking.

The change was born out of necessity.

Artist Miguel Angel Reyes demonstrates mono printing in Self Help Graphics’ professional print studio. He made prints of Frida Kahlo using a golden opalescent paint. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Self Help Graphics moved from its location on East Cesar Chavez in East Los Angeles in March 2011, when their building was sold by the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese on behalf of the order of nuns that had allowed them to stay there rent-free for more than four decades.

The new site in Boyle Heights, offering the same amount of space, was affordable, explains Evonne J. Gallardo, the art institution’s executive director. They initially shared the space with another tenant, but are now the sole occupants. They are now conveniently located across the street from the Pico/Aliso Metro Gold Line Station, which makes them easy to get to.

Self Help Graphics Executive Director Evonne J. Gallardo

Gallardo joined Self Help about three years ago and says she is using her background in non-profit development to propel the center toward a more financially secure future. EGP interviewed Gallardo about Self Help’s recent annual, one-day print fair on June 24, and the organization’s progress.

EGP: How did the print fair go?
Gallardo: The print fair was a great success. Close to a thousand people came by throughout the day. Though we are still tallying up the results, we made about $25,000.

EGP: How does that compare to previous years?
Gallardo: We have certainly done better in previous years. It’s a reflection of the economic challenges our community and Los Angeles is facing. Sometimes when people think about art, it’s something they won’t normally buy, but our prices are more competitive than ever… Certainly our prices are low for the type of prints and quality of art, the prices triple if you go to the Westside and Santa Monica area to buy prints.

EGP: What was the highlight of this year’s print fair and exhibit?
Gallardo: The new works that premiered for the fair, two ateliers by 10 artists. One was the “The Jornalero Papers,” the other was “Sueños Libres: West Coast Soñasos.” The first addressed the life of jornaleros who themselves were or are day laborers. The other atelier envisioned fictional album covers of imaginary music groups, all in the medium of silkscreen print. Five of the ten featured artists are from Los Angeles, the other five were from other parts of the country.
The ateliers were funded in part by National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pasadena Art Alliance, as well as our collectors and donors.

EGP: I got the impression the T-shirts were top selling items, is that correct?
Gallardo: Yes. So, to us it doesn’t matter what the art goes on. It is still a piece of art. The process of silk-screening a T-shirt, we are able to do that at more accessible prices, like $10 to $20. We love to see people walking around with artists’ designs, or the Self Help Graphics logo, on their shirts. It’s beautiful work and great marketing.
What makes coming to Self Help Graphics so special is that you get to meet the artists, and that’s what makes the art more valuable.

EGP: So how is Self Help Graphics doing now? Your print sale flyer says you have several foundation grants.
Gallardo: Since I joined the organization, three years ago now, I’ve put a lot of time and hard work into creating the funding relationships Self Help Graphics hasn’t had … It’s an ongoing effort to keep doing what we do, so we can keep serving our mission.
We have wonderful partners and donors and we appreciate them, but we still need to hold the print sale and sell T-shirts to keep the organization healthy and growing. Certainly, we have a real need for the grants we rely on, but we also have a greater need for the community to continue to support us through contributions and art purchases.

EGP: What’s next for Self Help Graphics?
Gallardo: For over a year, we made the space, as it exists, work for our operations and programming with the help of Councilmember Jose Huizar and his staff. During the next 12 months, we are embarking on lease-hold improvements that will make things even better. We are re-working the space, and studio layout, putting in some skylight windows, and improving the air conditioning. In print production, temperature is very important. We are also doing all new electrical, and improving access to outlets.

Self Help Graphics offers programming year-round for youth and community members, for more information visit http://www.selfhelpgraphics.com/

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July 5, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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