356 Mission statement, February 2017

All of us at 356 Mission are deeply concerned about the negative effect that the gallery, and the other nearby galleries, have on the community of Boyle Heights. We are grateful to BHAAAD, Defend Boyle Heights, Union de Vecinos, and the other groups who have been working to bring the scale of this impact to our attention. We acknowledge the request for the gallery to leave the neighborhood. Our belief, maybe too optimistically, has been that the creative work and community programs taking place at 356 Mission are of value.  We want to stay in Boyle Heights, however we understand that in order to do so we have a responsibility to our community to address and work against issues of displacement.

We acknowledge the role that artists have historically played in the displacement of working class communities.  When 356 Mission opened in 2013 we believed that we could subvert this cycle with programming that was based on neither a traditional commercial nor non-profit model.  All of our events have been free, open to the public and focused on accessibility. When considering our exhibitions, we prioritize projects that do not have opportunities elsewhere and encourage proposals for events and exhibitions.

Since the July 12 meeting organized by Boyle Heights activists, we have developed more programs that center around political and community-based engagement. We have made the gallery more available as a workspace for groups and individuals without this resource. We oppose increased police presence, surveillance and the  “hate crimes” investigation initiated by the police department, and communicated our opposition in a letter to Hollenbeck’s captain of police.  We have reached out to community organizations, educators, city council staff, and the Human Relations Commission to figure out how we could lend the energy and intentions of our staff and audience to their efforts. We have met with the other nearby galleries to propose ways in which we could all contribute to this work. We have remained alert to this dialogue, attending discussions and corresponding with individuals who have contacted us about it.

We acknowledge that our public silence surrounding gentrification and the protests has made it seem like we are not engaging or working around this topic. We have not previously participated in press or issued statements surrounding this issue, as we preferred to listen and learn as a first step. We have chosen to engage with concerned parties privately, as to not sensationalize issues on social media, which we felt would limit our ability to be productive. We have reached out multiple times and have perhaps incorrectly interpreted the lack of engagement with our outreach to the protesting groups as a signal that these groups do not want to dialogue with us. In retrospect, our abstaining from public statement was a missed opportunity. This week has reminded us that we need to work harder to engage.

We recognize that 356 Mission will have to reimagine itself and we remain hopeful that the work we do can be a service to the community of Boyle Heights as well as the greater Los Angeles arts community.  This is an ongoing conversation and we don’t yet have the answers.  As always, we remain open to ideas about how to proceed.

To continue this discussion, to schedule a meeting or to share your thoughts please reach us at info@356mission.com