The previous artwork studio of Sister Mary Corita, LA’s ‘pop artwork nun’, was spared the demolition

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – The former Hollywood art studio of a Roman Catholic religious sister known for her pop art that deals with racism, poverty and misogyny will eventually be spared the wrecking ball.

The late Corita Kent’s art studio, known as LA’s “Pop Art Nun,” is now a dry cleaner and should be demolished to make room for additional parking.

To prevent this from happening, the nonprofit Corita Art Center and the Los Angeles Conservancy have asked the City of Los Angeles to designate the building as a historic cultural monument.

However, the city advises against it.

According to city officials in an employee report, the building has undergone extensive changes to the point where it “can no longer be recognized from its time of importance”. For example, the main entrance was once a wall of shop windows that has since been removed and extra square feet has been added to the building.

Corita Kent, known as Sister Mary Corita, in front of some of her artwork. Photo courtesy of the Corita Art Center / Immaculate Heart Community

In essence, they claim that the building must resemble the art studio where Kent produced some of their most famous works to be eligible for the historical designation.

But proponents of Kent and her legacy believe the building must be preserved.

On Thursday (December 17), the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission met to consider the application submitted by the Corita Art Center calling for the building to be designated a Historic Monument. During that meeting, Blake Megdal, the owner and developer of the proposed development, said he would no longer continue the demolition. However, he was against the proposed cultural name.

The motion argues that the building, a humble store on Franklin Avenue, is the only remaining Los Angeles property that is primarily associated with Kent’s artistic production. Here she produced remarkable works of art such as the 1965 piece “Power Up”, which deals with social justice and justice and is based on a sermon by the American Jesuit priest Dan Berrigan.

“It’s in the art studio where art happened,” said Adrian Fine, advocacy director of the Los Angeles Conservancy. “If you don’t have that connection, you are missing part of the story.”

If it persists, it is unclear whether Kent proponents and advocates want to use the building as a tourist destination or as a place to show off their legacy.

Corita Kent, circa 1967. Photo courtesy Corita Art Center / Immaculate Heart Community

Fine said in order to make future plans for the building they must first win their case in order to preserve the space as a cultural monument.

With only 3% of the city’s historic cultural landmarks associated with women’s legacy, conservationists say it is even more urgent to hold on to the building that many, including their former students, still associate with Kent.

Kathryn Wollan, an architectural historian who volunteers to save the building, said it was up to a new generation of conservationists to identify more spaces associated with the achievements of women, colored people and the LGBTQ community.

“We don’t meet anyone we want to include in the full spectrum of the American experience,” said Wollan. “It’s not for lack of history. It is not for lack of historical science. It is for lack of identification. “

Kent grew up in LA after her family moved from Iowa to Hollywood in 1923. The family belonged to the Jesuit-run parish on Sunset Boulevard where Kent and her siblings attended school, according to the Corita Art Center. After graduating from the Catholic Girls’ College in Los Angeles, she entered the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and took “Sister Mary Corita” as her religious name. She graduated, later entered the Art Department of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a faculty, and began screen printing when she graduated from the University of Southern California with her Masters.

While working at Immaculate Heart College, Kent used the building, now under threat of demolition, as their primary studio space while he lived in the Immaculate Heart Motherhouse across the street. This comes from a report from the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Kent’s work embodied the spirit of the 1960s and was widespread in church basements, dormitories, and communities of people involved in the civil rights movement and the campaign against the Vietnam War.

Corita Kent, center, teaches art classes. Photo courtesy of the Corita Art Center / Immaculate Heart Community

During this time, the sisters of the Immaculate Heart College “took to heart” the words of the Second Vatican Council, which the Catholic Church wanted to modernize through renewal and adaptation “to the signs of the times,” reported the Corita Art Center in its motion to preserve Open the building and add, “You wanted to meet the citizens of Los Angeles where they were physically and spiritually in their lives.”

The sisters have “incorporated contemporary philosophies, modern psychology and the women’s liberation movement into their work,” said the Los Angeles Conservancy.

In the field of pop art, Rebecca Morrill said in her book “Great Women Artists” that Kent’s screenprints in the 1960s “transformed advertising and local culture slogans into glowing spiritual messages.”

Kent’s fame and popularity rose when she was named one of the Los Angeles Times’ Women of the Year in 1966. A year later, Harper’s Bazaar named her one of the “100 American Women of Achievement”. Until 1968, her work was exhibited alongside that of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

For Wollan, saving the building is “an opportunity to maintain a tangible connection to Corita’s history.”

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