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Unveiling Environmental Injustices in Los Angeles Through Art

Confronting redlining and environmental disparities, this piece for Be the Change LA urges you to rethink access to nature in cities

By Jewish Arts Collaborative

Published Jul 26, 2023

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Collection

This Curation is part of Be the Change.

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Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Above: (3 min) Be the Change 2023 | Los Angeles | Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities with Stacey Vigallon and Diandra Dillon of Nature Nexus Institute. Video by the Jewish Arts Collaborative.

 

How is access to nature an environmental justice issue?

How might the notion of justice be extended to the more-than-human members living in our urban communities, such as plants and wildlife?

 

ABOUT THE ART:

Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities was created in collaboration between the Nature Nexus Institute and a team of present students and alumnae of the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program, led by Azul Calderon, Diandra Dillon, Akari Johnston, Joanna Ruacho, Stacey Vigallon, and Brian Young. This project focuses on the pressing theme of environmental justice, exploring the complex relationship between nature and urban landscapes.

Rich in detail and vibrancy, the art piece has been crafted to spark curiosity and initiate conversations. It incorporates student artwork, game board-style pieces, and a variety of plants, creatures, and scenes enclosed in a glass-covered “cabinet”. This collection underscores the importance of biodiversity and the interconnectedness of life within the Los Angeles ecosystem.

The artwork employs red lines as a striking visual element, representing the historical practice of redlining in Los Angeles, a symbol of systematic discrimination that resulted in unequal access to nature. It’s a call to awareness about environmental injustices within the city, emphasizing the need for fair access to green spaces.

Integral to the art piece are localized details from South Central Los Angeles, a community often deprived of access to nature. It includes elements like a pizza-stealing squirrel and iconic taco trucks, connecting the viewers to their unique experiences.

Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities is a visual feast with a powerful underlying message about environmental justice. It prompts viewers to reflect on disparities in nature access and their role in fostering positive change. Its design aims to make nature more approachable, inspiring viewers to appreciate and protect biodiversity within their own urban settings.

 

Learn more about Be the Change and explore more tzedakah boxes from Be the Change L.A. 2023.

Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Above: “Inspired by NATURE in the CITY” – One side of the Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities large-scale “tzedakah box” in Plummer Park, West Hollywood for Be the Change L.A. 2023. Photo by Brett Erickson.

Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Above: One side of the Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities large-scale “tzedakah box” in Plummer Park, West Hollywood for Be the Change L.A. 2023. Photo by Brett Erickson.

Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Above: A close-up of creatures and nature in the “cabinet of curiosities”. Photo by Brett Erickson.

Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Above: “What is your NATURE connection?” – One side of the Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities large-scale “tzedakah box” in Plummer Park, West Hollywood for Be the Change L.A. 2023. Photo by Brett Erickson.

 

What’s your favorite activity to do outside?

How much habitat is left for wildlife in our city?

How do the lights affect nocturnal creatures?

Can you name 3 species of birds in this park?

Do you ever take time to just sit and listen to nature?

Can you walk to your nearest park?

Is tree cover the same in all neighborhoods?

 

Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities

Above: “How does nature stewardship in Los Angeles feel?” – One close-up of a side of Los Angeles as a Cabinet of Curiosities, featuring six-word stories by students.

 

Friends laughing all around the place.

The soothing texture of white sage.

Reaching for lizard’s tail, but flees.

Plants in the ground, well watered.

With grandfather and brother into sunset.

Majestic hawk soaring over the sky.

See that cactus? Beautiful but prickly.

 

 

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JArts’ mission is to curate, celebrate, and build community around the diverse world of Jewish arts, culture, and creative expression. Our vision is of a more connected, engaged, and tolerant world inspired by Jewish arts and culture. Learn more at jartsboston.org.

Reflections

1

Considering the historical context of redlining that's highlighted in the artwork, how do you think this art piece contributes to ongoing discussions and efforts towards achieving environmental justice in Los Angeles? How can art play a role in addressing and overcoming systemic environmental inequities?

2

How do you think the project’s use of familiar local elements, like the squirrels or taco trucks, help to bridge the gap between the urban environment and nature? How might these unique touches encourage community members to become more engaged in environmental stewardship?

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