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Self Help Graphics

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Didja catch catch the Los Angeles Times 8/1/04 piece about Self Help Graphics in East LA?

The community arts center, founded by Sister Karen Boccalero, not only promoted Chicano artists but also nurtured the LA punk rock scene in its infancy. Willie Heron of the band "Los Illegals" and Joe Suquett persuaded Sister Karen to let them found the Club Vex, a twice-monthly punk-rock club, at the Self-Help Graphics' hall.

Club Vex attracted people from all over town to see Latino bands on their own turf and brought many non-Hispanic musicians and fans from all over the city to a location in the heart of Boyle Heights East LA (thanks for the correction $andy Kane). This was a milestone for the deeply segregated LA youth cultures in the early '80s.

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Siser Karen passed away in 1997. After losing their founder, Self Help's leaders are expanding their mission to include a more international perspective encompassing the emerging post-border aesthetic. Times staff writer, Daniel Hernandez, does a good job of showcasing the tension between the center's admirers.

Hernandez writers "[Gustavo] Leclerc [the institutions new artistic director] envisions more exhibitions in...[Self Help's gallery space]...that push the envelope of what is considered Chicano or Lationo art, with shows that are organized not from "a subject-based approach, more like an aesthetic-based approach." He also wants to bring in master printers from the other parts of the world for workshops and start a lecture series."

In mid-June, Leclerc held an open meeting of Self Help artists to talk about new directions for the center. Many are wary about Self Help's plans to expand beyond its role as a grass-roots center for Chicano Art. Many of the artists aided by Self Help are featured in a traveling exhibitcalled, "Chicano Visions,"featuring works drawn from Cheech Marin's collection, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.

Time will tell if Self Help survives the transition. It's legacy in the community remains firm.

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