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SELA Cultural Center coming to South Gate

Aerial view of SELA Cultural Center. Photo: Gehry Partners LLP.

Joe Brizzolara

The arts will soon find a new home in Southeast Los Angeles County, providing a space for local artists to create and perform.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion on Dec. 19 to commence planning for the development and operations of the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Cultural Center. This project will repurpose a county public works yard, transforming the site into a “world-class cultural center,” according to a press release from Supervisor Janice Hahn.

Slated for the City of South Gate near the convergence of the Los Angeles River and the Rio Hondo, the center aims to address the longstanding gap in artistic resources within Los Angeles County.

“This community deserves the same access to arts and cultural institutions that the Westside and Downtown LA have had for decades,” Hahn, who authored the motion and represents SELA, said in a press release. 

“The Southeast LA Cultural Center has been a dream of artists here in SELA for years, and I am proud that we can take this huge step toward making this dream a reality with the full force of the County behind it and the unanimous support of our board,” Hahn said.

During the Dec. 19 meeting, Hahn emphasized the existing talent and passion for the arts within the community. 

“The talent and love for the arts is already in this community,” Hahn said. “They just don’t have a facility where they can gather to express themselves and showcase their abilities.” 

Danaly Leon, a local artist and executive director of the Latinas Art Foundation, echoed the sentiment, saying: “We deserve, in our region, the same investments that have been made in other parts of the county while (also) respecting and uplifting the current community through arts and the rich culture that it has.”

The project, which has already secured $124 million in state funds and philanthropic support, will be designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, known for his work on iconic structures like the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

California State Assembly Speaker Emeritus (D-South Gate) Anthony Rendon and state Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Downey) advocated for the state funding. Rednon first signed on to the project in 2017, teaming up with Gehry and Supervisor Hilda Solis (who represented SELA prior to redistricting). 

“Southeast Los Angeles has a stunning array of local talent but none of the cultural institutions or resources of other areas of Los Angeles,” Rendon said.

“We don’t have the wealth so we don’t get the art, or the music, or the theater, or educational opportunities. But with this project, we can change all of that,” Rendon said.  

The multi-arts facility will be comprised of various buildings, housing art galleries, and studios for audio recording, filming, and ceramics. 

South Gate Councilmember Al Rios expressed gratitude during the meeting, thanking the board and Rendon for the anticipated cultural and economic benefits of the center. 

“It’s so awesome that we have this opportunity to bring the fine arts to the Southeast community,” Rios said. “(It’s) gonna really benefit the community, not only at the arts center, but the surrounding region… (This is) a real economic development.”