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LA Artists Launch Arts Space to Fight Displacement

Artists Michael Parker and Alyse Emdur have turned the studio space they’ve shared for the past sixteen years into a museum in order to raise awareness about skyrocketing rent increases and evictions in Los Angeles’s arts district. However, Parker told Matt Stromberg of Hyperallergic that they might soon be forced out of their space at 454 Seaton Street. Their landlord recently notified them that the rent has been raised $2,050, or 43 percent, which is about 200 percent more than what they paid six years ago.

The Artists’ Loft Museum Los Angeles (ALMLA) opened on August 31 with an inaugural exhibition featuring the works of twenty-five artists who have lived or worked in the studio that Parker and Emdur call home. The show includes photographs by Lisa Anne, videos by George Stone, and a painting of a couch by Nicole Capps. Parker and Emdur’s landlord, Kevin Chen of Capital KCS, tried to file a restraining order to prevent the opening, alleging safety concerns, but a judge allowed the event to continue as long as the number of visitors stayed under capacity. Parker claims that Chen has been targeting him since he complained about some illegal construction work Chen was doing in the building. According to architect Togawa Smith Martin, Inc.’s website, Chen is currently planning to turn the studios at Seaton Street into a twelve-story luxury boutique hotel with live-work condos, retail stores, and restaurants. Parker and Emdur will work with lawyer Elena Popp, executive director of the Eviction Defense Network, to fight the terms of their new lease.

Meanwhile, residents of another well-known artist space, 800 Traction Avenue, one of the first buildings to be designated an artist-in-residence space in Los Angeles, are also facing eviction. After the venue was sold to the New York–based firm DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, the sixteen tenants who live there, many of whom are senior citizens, were told to leave. Painter and sculptor Nancy Uyemura, who moved into the building with printmaker Matsumi Kanemitsu more than thirty years ago, told Catherine Wagley of LA Weekly that “whatever made the Arts District the Arts District before is no longer really here.” Yet, Uyemura is still fighting developers and displacement along with other artists in the neighborhood. In a show of support for ALMLA, Traction residents hung a banner across the street from the venue that reads: “Stop Artist Evictions.”