The biggest presence at the recent gala of the Lummis Day Community Foundation was an absence. The guest of honor, Amy Inouye, a prominent local artist who was slated to receive the foundation’s Noisemaker Award for contributions to art, culture and cooperation in Northeast Los Angeles, had chosen not to attend.
A spokesperson for the foundation told the Boulevard Sentinel that Ms. Inouye had been the target of “vitriolic” words from some people in Highland Park who oppose gentrification.
Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who was at the gala to present the Noisemaker Award, said from the podium that Ms. Inouye had been “mad dogged” by “punks,” adding, “There is no place for that in this district, not as long as I’m here.”
The award for Ms. Inouye was accepted by an actor dressed as Chicken Boy, the landmark statue that tops Ms. Inouye’s studio on Figueroa St.
The opposition to Ms. Inouye came from some of the members of an anti-gentrification Facebook group run by Mando Medina of Highland Park. Mr. Medina told the Boulevard Sentinel that the group’s harsh language reflects that we are “very pissed off because we are getting kicked out.”
One focus of their anger is the North Figueroa Association, a business improvement group for which Ms. Inouye is the secretary and which they say is implicated in the removal of three murals in Highland Park. The murals, on the walls of city-owned parking lots, were created as part of a public art initiative in the early 1990s and were removed in 2017.
Ms. Inouye told the Boulevard Sentinel she personally had no knowledge of the murals being painted over. Tom Wilson, president of the association, said the group had not received a complaint about graffiti on the murals.
Since the murals were on public property, the Boulevard Sentinel emailed Mr. Cedillo’s office and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, asking about their removal, but did not receive a reply.
What is clear is that mural politics are not only about art and culture. Mr. Medina told the Boulevard Sentinel that his overall strategy in fighting gentrification is to make it “not cool” to live in Highland Park.
“Right now, there is a demand to live in Highland Park,’ he said. His aim, he said, is to “destroy the demand.”