Rendering of the Destination Crenshaw project. Photo: Perkins+Will.

Destination Crenshaw, to Open in 2020, Aims to Fortify South LA’s Black Community

Construction on Los Angeles’s Destination Crenshaw, a privately funded 1.1-mile-long outdoor art museum that aims to celebrate the black community in South LA, is set to begin this year, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

Perkins+Will, one of the architecture firms that worked on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, was tapped to lead the project, which will include a public amphitheater, ten mini-parks, and over one hundred rotating art installations. Destination Crenshaw is expected to open in 2020. 

The idea for the museum came about after the city’s metro system decided to build a section of the Crenshaw/LAX line on the ground level along Crenshaw Boulevard, rather than on an underground or elevated track. Building on ground level is cheaper, but city residents raised concerns that ranged from gentrification to the link between street-level rails and increased accidents.

Leimert Park, the neighborhood where the project is based, used to be 83 percent black in the 1980s; now it is down to 70 percent. While some fear that the metro line (also slated to open in the spring of 2020) will escalate housing prices and development, collaborators on the project hope that it will strengthen LA’s African American population and their resistance to displacement.

“The community demanded that we have a response to the investment of Metro and the train,” city councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson told the Los Angeles Times. “We really wanted to look at how do we use the opportunity that the rail presents to solidify, to restore the historic African American community in Southern California, and doing it in a way that benefits the people who already live there,” while providing “a window into who we are for the people using the rail.”

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and a longtime Crenshaw district resident, added: “It also could be a boost for tourism, and an aid to small and minority businesses in the area.” However, he stressed that it is “unrealistic at best and a delusion at worst” for organizers to think it will halt or slow gentrification. 

Among those spearheading the project are Naima Keith, chief curator and deputy director of the California African American Museum; Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles; James Burks, director of special projects at the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; and rapper Nipsey Hussle

A call for artists was issued last year. It required that applicants be residents of LA for at least five years and employed by the county for at least three. Another call for artists will be made in the spring.