What happens when a building loses the humanity that once inhabited it? When its history is hidden from people?
In another post, I wrote about how buildings are killed, sometimes by neglect but also conscious attacks on the history. A few days ago, I walked in El Segundo Barrio where Dr. David Dorado Romo and I once directed a community museum on S. Oregon, Museo Urbano. In 2011, our landlord raised the rent in the belief that the on-going "revitalization" of downtown, just north of El Segundo would allow her to almost double the rent. We couldn't afford it. We were forced to move. The space remained empty for quite a long time and then at some point, a new owner took over.
The building, which lies at the center of El Segundo's Mexican community to the south; the historic Chinese community to the north; and the history African American community to the east has a rich history reflecting the different cultures that once thrived there.
When I saw the building, once alive with history and people, I stopped in my tracks, the memories of six years ago flooding back.
On opening day of our Museo Urbano on S. Oregon in 2011, we had over 700 visitors. People of all ages came to enjoy the festivities and view the exhibits that graduate students, artists, and others had created. They came to share stories of growing up in El Segundo in the 50s, in the 20s, and more recently.
The building, once alive, is now dead. The murals have been painted over with beige paint. Ironically, the artwork by David Flores that once enlivened the building was featured in a museum exhibit at the Smithsonian Hewitt Cooper Deigns Museum recently.
The courtyard where people danced and gathered to tell stories now has a "no trespassing sign."