On a cloudy morning, a group of about 50 Angelenos gathered under the bright Metro canopy at Mariachi Plaza to kick off our tour of Boyle Heights. The vibrant, predominantly Latino neighborhood has been in the headlines recently in stories about gentrification. That morning, as Bernie Sanders supporters staged a rally on one side of the plaza, and the namesake mariachis gathered on the other,  it was obvious that the colorful urban pocket between East Los Angeles and the LA River is changing.

Design Talk - Installation

It was fitting to hear from Joel Garcia, an artist, cultural organizer, and director of operations of Self Help Graphics & Art, the visual arts catalyst that’s been serving the Latino community of Los Angeles for decades, as he spoke about how the area is being transformed. An obvious and continuous theme throughout the day was that an empowered community is a sustainable community.

Joel Garcia - Un Solo Sol

Across the street, we were welcomed at Un Solo Sol Kitchen, a restaurant and gallery, by owner Carlos Ortez, who stressed that while Boyle Heights is considered to be one of the poorest communities in Los Angeles, its residents are proud and encourage community ownership.

Un Solo Sol Artwork


As we walked towards the Benjamin Franklin Library, the group stopped in at cafes and taquerias and took lots of photos of the local art, murals, and friendly faces.. Other stops along the way included Primera Taza Coffee House, a community hangout that made headlines recently for serving up the rarest sandwich in LA.

Girls - Dresses

Once we reached our final destination, convening between the tall, colorful pillars of the Todos Juntos installation, special hosts Siobhán Burke (Lyric Design and Planning) and Rob Berry (Berry and Linné), and spoke about how local groups were involved with the design process of the outdoor space.

Youth Community Reading - InstallationFollowing the description of its inception, we saw the public space in action as students at College Track and members of the local youth community shared powerful accounts of life in Boyle Heights. This event is part of de LaB’s Making LA initiative, focused on community programming—stay tuned for the next in our Making LA series!

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This is the fourth event in our series Making LA: Connect, Flourish, Thrive, Prosper. Following up on our 2014 Making LA conference, these events will look at issues in the areas of TransportationWaterDensity and Community with the goal of bringing designer- and artist-driven solutions to those issues to life. In this way, we hope to turn the original Making LA conference into a long-term call-to-action and turn in-person inspiration into four real-world solutions for the city. Making LA is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Want to sponsor an upcoming event? Learn more.