The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday unanimously designated social justice advocate and artist Sister Mary Corita Kent’s former studio an Historic-Cultural Monument.
The building, located at 5518 Franklin Ave. in Hollywood, becomes one of a handful of sites affiliated with women to be designated for cultural or historical significance in Los Angeles. According to the Los Angeles Conservancy, 3% of the city’s Historic-Cultural Monuments are “associated with women’s heritage.”
It was near Immaculate Heart College at Franklin and Western avenues in Hollywood where she taught and created her art for many years while she was in the Immaculate Heart Community and after she left the order in the 1960s. She signed most of her works simply, “Corita,” and that is what most of her friends called her.
Her art became known in the 1960s during a time of the anti-war and peace movements across the nation. Her serigraph works often included quotes in her distinct writing form accompanied by blazes of color, and they included themes that were often political, religious or simply fun, such as “Damn Everything But The Circus.”
She gained additional fame when a major oil company had her wrap a giant oil refining tank in one of her works. It was also a time when the Immaculate Heart Community became embroiled in a well-known battle with the establishment Catholic Church and the Los Angeles-area cardinal.
She lived her final years in Boston.
Corita Art Center Director Nellie Scott called the designation “one critical step in redressing this disparity.”
“This work to uphold the legacies of women artists and cultural leaders is ongoing in Los Angeles and across the U.S.,” she said. “Corita reminds us that hope is not just optimism; hope is hard work. Hope means showing up every day for others. As we turn the corner from this pandemic, we will need spaces like the one at 5518 Franklin Avenue.”
The Corita Art Center applied for the designation after learning of a developer’s plan to demolish the studio. The center partnered with architectural historian Kathryn Wollan, Hollywood Heritage and the Los Angeles Conservancy to apply for the designation.
With an HCM list designation, city law allows the commission to formally object to the issuance of a demolition permit, delaying the demolition for up to 180 days, plus another possible 180-day extension, if approved by the City Council, to allow for time to preserve the monument, according to the city Planning Department.
The Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously on Dec. 17 to recommend the designation for the Kent studio.
“We hope that this designation, in all that it symbolizes, will inspire present and future generations to use their talents, time and tools for the greater collective good, and will ensure that those ethos are not only valued but recognized locally and nationally,” Scott said.
The commission found that the studio met two of the categories for designation:
— the studio’s association with the Pop Art Movement in L.A. in the 1960s “exemplifies significant contributions to the broad cultural, economic or social history of the nation, state or community;” and
— as the studio of Sister Mary Corita Kent, it “is associated with the lives of historic personages important to national, state, city or local history.”
The commission noted that Kent was an American pop artist surrounded by mostly male contemporaries, like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Edward Ruscha, Robert Indiana and David Hockney. The commission added that Kent used her studio to “create pop art serigraphs with religious and activist overtones from everyday sources such as newspapers, signage, advertisements and billboards, pushing the boundaries of art making and helping to shape a distinctly Los Angeles identity in the art world.”
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: