FOCUS – Self Help Graphics

By Mark Miller (Mark and Evonne, please scroll down to the bottom of the page for a special message.)

self help graphics tshirt designMany of you may not be aware of this embattled and historic local center for arts activism, but Self Help Graphics in East L.A. was the brain child of several artists including the late Sister Karen Boccalero, an Italian American, chain smoking Franciscan nun who had studied art in Rome. Sister Karen was apparently a force to be reckoned with. According to some who knew her she was loved, feared, reviled and adored, but never dismissed. Sister Karen had the moxy and the vision to tap into the emerging post 1960′s Chicano movement to bring about positive social change and empowerment through print making. The idea that she co-hatched in 1971 in an East LA garage endures as an important safe haven for artists, art students, and community groups. It’s a prestigous training ground for new and emerging print makers, and many artists who started there have gone on to national prominence.

self help graphics buildingThe Self Help building is splattered in a colorful explosion of broken pottery mosaics. Walk inside (the entrance is behind the building from the parking lot) and you’ll find an impressive space that hosts a wide variety of community events as well as insanely affordable classes in print making.

Self Help also has a very cool musical legacy. In the 1980′s, they played hosts to The Vex Klub, an all-ages music venue that played a pivotal role in the exploding Chicano punk rock scene. Sister Karen nixed SHG’s involvement with The Vex after an infamous concert by Black Flag ended with the place being trashed, but to this day SHG is almost as famous for its concerts and community events as it is for its involvement in local fine art. Their Deadly Stylish Dia de los Muertos event maryat the East LA Civic Center last October attracted thousands of festive local participants and celebrated the afterlife in uniquely L.A. style. HiddenLA will be there next year, that’s for sure!

Check ‘em out, and look into their classes and events! Supporting the local arts community can never be a bad thing…


(At right, the mosaic sculpture of the Virgin Mary which resides in the parking lot behind Self Help Graphics. Love it!)

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I (Lynn) would like to close this post with a heartfelt apology… as some of you know, HiddenLA went viral seemingly overnight a few months ago. It was a bit of a whirlwind here to say the least. Moments *before* the siege of traffic, I was slated to post two articles in particular that fell by the wayside… much to my chagrin and guilt. The above post is one of those articles and the second will be posted next week.

So at this time I would like to publicly apologize to the wonderful Evonne of Self Help Graphics who was so incredibly hospitable to us when we visited a few months ago, and also to my dear, talented and loyal friend Mark Christian Miller who worked so hard on researching the above article and also on supporting me as a friend through a very overwhelming and bizarre time in my life. I broke a promise to you by not posting this sooner Mark, and I apologize that it took so long for the dust to clear around me enough that I could give your efforts as well as Self Help’s the attention they both deserved. I know you were frustrated and I’m very profoundly sorry. For what it’s worth, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for everything. It’s been an honor to call you M.B.F.G. (It’s *nothing* dirty, people! Just an inside joke.)

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One Response to “FOCUS – Self Help Graphics”

  1. Catherine says:

    This place sounds fantastic! What a gem — can’t wait to check it out.

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