Photo at top: Corita Kent Studio at 5518 Franklin Avenue in 1960, Image courtesy of the Corita Art Center, Los Angeles, corita.org
Who would ever dream a shuttered dry cleaners would represent layers of artistic Los Feliz and beyond heritage? Visionary preservationists thankfully did.
The Sister Mary Corita’s Studio at the corner of Franklin and Western Avenues was unanimously designated a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) by the Los Angeles City Council June 2.
This came as the building, most recently occupied by Sun Cleaners, was about to become a parking lot. Instead, the structure will pay tribute to the “Pop Art Nun.” It served as both her studio and for her Immaculate Heart College students during the tumultuous Sixties.
Many people and organizations in the community came forth in support of giving the storefront landmark status, including LFIA.
The effort was spearheaded by Nellie Scott, director of the Corita Art Center (CAC), a project of the Immaculate Heart Community. The center preserves and promotes Corita Kent’s art, teaching and passion for social justice and peace. It is located across the street from the former workshop on the Immaculate Heart High School campus.
In making the HCM announcement, Scott and the CAC Team, thanked all its partners for ensuring that “Corita’s studio would not be erased from history in exchange for a few parking spaces.”
One former student was long-time Los Feliz resident Jan Steward. As a young mother in the early ’60s, she took silkscreening classes from the artist, according to an obituary on Steward published last year in the Los Angeles Times. Steward, a JMHS graduate, went on to be an accomplished artist herself, with such commissions as the 1984 Olympics banners and George Harrison record label.
Together, they co-authored the book, “Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.”
How the Sister Corita Studio gets transformed back to its original purpose will be the next step in the journey. Scott said the center is “exploring the future of how this building can be of service to the creative community as part of Corita Kent’s legacy.”
Eventually, there will be a celebration commemorating the latest HCM in Los Feliz. Just like the pop artist’s colorfully symbolic artwork, it will be a spirited and joyful occasion.
The Corita Art Center is temporarily closed due to the pandemic. But plan to visit the free gallery when it reopens. Details on www.corita.org.