Keeping Place

L.A.’s Little Tokyo combats displacement with summer arts series

The Wishing Tree in L.A.'s Little Tokyo neighborhood. (Justintran95/Wikimedia)

The Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) has announced its Little Tokyo Summer Arts Series, a series of free, all-ages, public events exploring the theme of “Ending Cycles of Displacement” from August 17 to 30.

The series will include work from the LTSC’s five artists from the three-month-long 2019 +LAB Artists in Residence (AIR) Project that began in June. This year’s residency focuses on creative place-keeping and addressing the most recent cycle of displacement affecting Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo.

Established in 1884, Little Tokyo is L.A.’s second oldest neighborhood and the largest of four remaining Japantowns in the United States. In its 133-year history, Little Tokyo has withstood numerous acts of displacement including the demolition of entire tracts of housing, businesses, churches, and temples that occurred during the city’s urban renewal of the 1950s through the 1970s. Today, roughly nine square blocks remain. The latest threat to the area is the market rate housing boom in Downtown L.A., making the neighborhood less accessible to small businesses, individuals, and families of all income levels.

The three public events are as follows: Future Echo: Public Hearing, an audio installation of stories of displacement, resistance, shared struggles, and acts of radical hope; Festival of Shadows: Mapping Invisible Dances, an immersive, intergenerational performance displaying a landscape of dance, video, installations, and shadow play; and Past Present: Conversations with the Future, where large projections and soundscapes will accompany conversations of the past and present, separation and displacement, and the future of solidarity, community, and home.

The 2019 +LAB fellows include traci kato-kiriyama, an L.A.-based artist, cultural producer, and community organizer, Isak Immanuel and Marina Fukushima, a Bay Area-based duo working together on intergenerational dance performances, and Misael Diaz and Amy Sanchez, a Santa Ana-based collective working across disciplines and mediums to engage transnational communities relating to topics of displacement.

AIR is a partnership between the LTSC and four community cultural institutions: the Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Visual Communications, and Sustainable Little Tokyo. LTSC is a social service and community development organization preserving and strengthening unique ethnic communities in Southern California.

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