Architecture & Design

L.A. Artists Move to Opa-Locka With Plans to Redesign the Community

Read also: New Public Art in Opa-Locka Promises to Break Down Barriers, Literally

Los Angeles-based designers Christian Stayner and Jennifer Bonner do not look like they belong in Opa-locka.

But when the distressed neighborhood called for artists to come install public art and start a movement, the hipster pair answered and came to the impoverished site with experience and a plan.

One year ago, the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation received a grant that would allow it to launch a project to erect public art pieces and strengthen the community's involvement with the arts. Stayner and Bonner were one of four artist teams chosen to help drive the cause.

The thing about these Angelinos, though, is that they don't plan on leaving any time soon.

"We won't be just dropping a piece of art in the community and leaving," said Stayner, who along with Bonner, plans to turn deserted, foreclosed houses into public spaces for work and art -- including a living space of their very own.

"We have to be there on the ground," backed up Bonner. "We can't dump something off and leave. We really need to be invested in the community, because that's how [it] works."

Over the course of at least the next year, the pair will take the formerly private spaces and transform them into public amenities. Possible uses for the buildings include a planning office offering design services pro bono, an employment office, a neighborhood gallery, and an "artist hotel" for artists coming in from all over the country to participate in the larger, city-wide project. Talk about Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

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Ilana Shulevitz

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