The Wyvernwood Garden Apartments in Boyle Heights were built in 1939. Today, over 6,000 residents live in 1,187 rent-controlled units built over 670 acres of land. Real estate investment firm Fifteen Group has proposed a $2 billion redevelopment project that would replace the old apartments with a completely re-envisioned neighborhood, including 4,000 units, shopping centers, parks and high-rise condominiums. The future of Wyvernwood has raised much controversy, dividing residents and community members on whether the complex should be redeveloped or preserved.
More and more, as time goes by, we are reminded of what corporations are capable of doing to disadvantaged communities by turning a profit at the expense of displacement, poverty and more health problems for our people of Boyle Heights. This is what I consider the redevelopment blues.
My roots are buried deep in Wyvernwood, where I was born and have lived all my 36 years. I have raised my family here, and now, my four children live here with me. We value the people who live here because many represent low-income, non-citizen, limited education, Spanish-speaking folks, who just want a place to come home to that’s affordable. The green spaces here are extremely important too. There isn’t another place like this anywhere else in Los Angeles.
The idea of redevelopment or that our Wyvernwood could no longer exist can sure can bring us down sometimes. My husband, Alfonso Aceves, and I thought of ways to change this feeling within our community. We decided to have an art show dedicated to all the residents who have lived here for so many years who have a special connection to this place we call home.
Our collection titled, “El Pueblo de Wyvernwood-The Memories, the Movement, and the Struggles Continue,” shows portraits of residents along with symbolic images each representing a part of their lives and the beauty of nature that surrounds them.
To resist what the Fifteen Group and those who support them propose, we thought of a way to maybe change people’s way of thinking by creating powerful images that speak of our stories, our culture and the importance of preserving our beloved historic garden community of Wyvernwood.
Also, we wanted to honor and show our respect to all the activists who live here and have fought for so many years to make this place a better one. And even though we get the redevelopment blues, we hope to share our art so we begin to feel better about who we are, where we come from, and the importance of saving our community.
The image above is one of my long-time friend’s newborn baby, Joseph. He is one of our newest community members at Wyvernwood. I wanted to put a baby in our show because it’s hard to disconnect yourself from any place if that is the place you have called home for so many years. Our connection here is that deep; from generation to generation. It’s a beautiful piece showing symbols of our milky way: birth, nature, protection, different stages in life, Wyvernwood, innocence and movement. It also has symbols of culture, the sun/son- our energy, the fire within, and flowers.
Although our show closes Sept. 6, our next plan of action is to move this collection so we can share our story with many more people. Our stories matter because we matter.
“El Pueblo de Wyvernwood-The Memories, the Movement, and the Struggles Continue”
showing now through Sept. 6
Ave 50 Studios
131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042