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To celebrate Black history and creativity in LA, Destination Crenshaw—a $100-million, transformative, revitalization project—will develop a walkable commercial corridor defined by public artworks, tranquil green spaces, and beautiful storefronts along the 1.3 miles of Crenshaw Boulevard. Once finished, Destination Crenshaw will serve as an epicenter of Black American culture, as well as the most significant public/private Black art program in the United States.
Please join us for a discussion of the ways UCLA faculty and alumni have contributed ideas, expertise, and artworks to this pioneering initiative of an “Afrocentric streetscape,” including its monuments, murals, and augmented reality storytellings. Darnell Hunt, advisor to the project and UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, will be joined by President and COO of Destination Crenshaw Jason Foster, influential art collector and advisor Dr. V. Joy Simmons, prominent artist Maren Hassinger, and arts educator and independent filmmaker Ben Caldwell. Panelists will also explore further ways to connect Destination Crenshaw with UCLA campus in the years ahead.
This program is part of the Fowler initiative “Art of Liberation: Africa and the African Diaspora,” which is generously funded by the Nissan Foundation and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
Ben Caldwell is an arts educator and independent filmmaker. His passion for the visual arts led him to study film at UCLA and reside in the neighborhood of Leimert Park, the epicenter of the African American art scene in Los Angeles. After teaching film and video at Howard University in Washington, D.C. from 1981 to 1984, Caldwell returned to Leimert Park and created an independent studio for video production and experimentation that became the KAOS Network: a community arts center that provides training on digital arts, media arts, and multimedia. Its legendary Project Blowed is a weekly open-mic workshop that gave birth to rappers and rap groups, such as Aceyalone, Medusa, Busdriver, Freestyle Fellowship, and Jurassic Five. Caldwell’s own films often trace historical and cultural connections.
Jason Foster is the President and COO of Destination Crenshaw. Previously, Foster served as the Director of Strategic Partnerships at River LA, the organization charged with improving and revitalizing communities adjacent to the 51-mile stretch of the LA River. He worked closely with community partners, corporate representatives, and residents to grow the civic pride and social responsibility surrounding the LA River. Before moving to Los Angeles, Foster worked as a Project Manager for Impacct Brooklyn (previously Pratt Area Community Council) in Brooklyn, New York. Foster holds a B.A. in Business Administration, Finance from Howard University and an MBA from the Metropolitan College of New York where he focused his studies on community redevelopment and small business incubation.
Maren Hassinger is a visual artist and an alumna of UCLA’s Fiber Arts Program. She served as the director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore for 20 years. During her four decades-long career, Hassinger has explored relationships between the industrial and natural worlds in a practice that is both meditative and critical. She is the recipient of numerous honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for the Arts. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Baltimore Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, NYC; the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, among others.
Darnell Hunt is UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, an esteemed scholar of race and media, and the author of four books and numerous articles. For more than two decades, he has studied questions of access and diversity in the entertainment industry. From 2014 to 2022, he was the lead author of UCLA’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report, which provides comprehensive analyses of the employment of women and people of color in front of and behind the camera in film and television. He served as a member of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations Academic Advisory Board and as a staff researcher for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ hearings on the 1992 Los Angeles civil disturbances.
Dr. V. Joy Simmons is the senior art and exhibition advisor for Destination Crenshaw and a UCLA Medical School alumna. A physician at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center for 37 years, Simmons masterfully juggles her passion for patients and her love of art. She has been an avid collector of contemporary African American art for three decades and has serves on the board of Stanford University. Simmons is currently a commissioner of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her extensive and growing collection has been featured in exhibitions around the world, including at Tate Modern in London and California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Her eye for spotting talent has earned her recognition in NY Magazine’s The Cut, W Magazine, Ebony magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.
Image: Courtesy of Perkins and Will