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Self Help Graphics & Art Supports Latino Artwork

Brianne Walker |
July 11, 2011 | 8:26 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Latino artists of all ages develop and enhance their techniques at Self Help Graphics & Art. The nationally recognized center for Latino art has been helping emerging and young Latino artists since 1972. 

Located in Boyle Heights, the visual arts and cultural center advances art through exhibitions, classes and outreach to artists all over Los Angeles. People can learn a variety of types of art techniques there, such as wood block carving, graffiti, paper mache, photography and t-shirt printing. For young artists, there is a free summer program called “Soy Artista” (Summer of Youth Art Program) that has a variety of workshops. 

Mono silkscreens, a type of art, were pioneered at Self Help. Silkscreening is the process where a screen is stretched on an open window, and the artist paints on the screen and then pulls it off. 

Jose Alpuche, Self Help's master printer and spiritual guide, assists people in creating these silkscreen serigraphs and monoprints. Alpuche, who has worked at Self Help for twenty years, teaches the artists how to reproduce their original work. He said every print made is inspected, signed and numbered by the artist with his supervision. And therefore, each print is a limited edition print. 

Alpuche says he enjoys working at Self Help because he also has the opportunity to create his own artwork there and meet many other artists. 

“It's a very good environment to work with artists," he said. "Here, you get to meet the artists and give back to the community your expertise. It's a little bit more rewarding.”

Alpuche applauds the center as being “a very original cultural center” because of Self Help's focus on print making and visual art.

“The other art centers have different activities, like dance and music. But Self Help is what started not only the Chicano art movement but also the Day of the Dead celebration,” Alpuche said.

At Self Help's Day of the Dead celebration, the artists congregate at the Evergreen cemetery to make paper mache cadaveras (or skeletons), masks and other objects that are related to the departed. Food and music also accompany the arts and crafts.

Besides its Day of the Dead celebration, Self Help also holds an annual print fair and exhibition. All prints produced throughout the years are displayed and later available for sale. The center  has a fundraiser that day as well.

Self Help is one of the only places in Los Angeles where people can view artwork from Chicano legends (like Frank Romero and Diane Gamboa), up-and-coming art stars (like Shizu Saldamando and Vincent Valdez), and kids.

Reach reporter Brianne Walker here. Follow on Twitter here.



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