Story – How we got the Pico House

When I, Angelica Gonzalez-Oriol first came to Los Angeles, I volunteered at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and I then later became part of their leadership program.  It was through MALDEF that I found out that Latino artists had little or no representation in galleries/museums and that that they received less than 1% of the funding given to the arts. That’s how I started United Latinos for the Arts in Los Angeles (ULA LA) as an advocacy group for Latino artists.

As part of my advocacy, I was also producing videos on artists to give them more visibility and opportunities. I was showcasing these artists and videos in a cable show I called L A Art. Some of the artists I featured were in videos: Patssi Valdez, Rudy Calderon, Margaret Garcia, East Los Streetscapers and others.

In part of my leadership group with MALDEF, was a man named Victor Franco who worked for Miller Brewing in Community Affairs. I approached him for funding to do more videos. Mr. Franco said he loved what I was doing with the artists but preferred an art exhibit and that he would give me money for it. So now I had money for an exhibit but no space. That’s when MALDEF (Magdalena Duron) put me in touch with City Councilman Richard Alatorre. Mr. Alatorre told me to go check out this building that had been abandoned for over 40 years, windows were broken, some floors and walls were missing and some homeless had been living there for years. I went to see it, and fell in love with the building, the Pico House. I then went back to Mr. Franco and he agreed to give me more money for the needed repairs of the Pico House.

Now with money for an exhibit and a space I needed help from someone with construction background. That’s when I was introduced to Eriberto Oriol and that’s when the LOVE story began, but that will be another chapter.

The Pico House was in shambles and needed lots of work to make it work as an exhibition space.  Eriberto became responsible for the exhibit installation and space design. Eriberto brought in Reyes Rodriguez and his crew to put in floors, walls, fix the windows and paint the inside. Remarkably within 2 weeks the building was beautiful and ready to be used as an exhibition space. Daniel Martinez/artist a friend of Eriberto came and saw what we were doing and pretty soon we had exhibition lights from Cal Arts. The Pico House was then ready for it’s first exhibit.

 

The FIRST exhibit at the PICO HOUSE was LA LA and featured artwork from artists:  Carlos Almaraz, Alfredo De Batuc, Guillermo Bert, David Botello, Rudy Calderon, Elsa Flores, Margaret Garcia, Wayne Healy, Willie Herron, Rosalyn Mesquita, Francesco Siqueiros, Eloy Torrez, John Valadez and Patssi Valdez – February 25 – April 8, 1989.

Patssi sold every one of her pieces she had at the Pico House. A curator from France saw her work there and soon her work was seen in France, Spain and Sweden. See Valdez full story in the L A Times.

After the LA LA exhibit, Eriberto became Curator and Gallery Director and produced the FIRST major graffiti exhibit in Los Angeles – Burning Desire a graffiti exhibit before it was safe, trendy, and cool and later on also produced the FIRST Tribute to Alfredo Siqueiros.  See Burning Desire story in Frank 151.

For Burning Desire Exhibit (18,000 visitors) and A Tribute to Siqueiros (27,000 visitors) we received media from around the world: Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, USA Today, NBC, KCAL 9, KMEX 34, KVEA 52, Fox 11, Channel 22 and CNN in electronic media.  Burning Desire Exhibit at the Pico House in August 1989 then traveled to the “The Mexican Museum” in San Francisco from May – July 1991.

City Council man and chairman of Moca, Joel Walsh came to check out what we were doing at the Pico House and ended buying a graffiti piece of Armando Santiago, Mandoe for Moca’s permanent collection. Mandoe became the youngest Latino to be part of Moca’s permanent collection. Walsh is now President of the Andy Warhol foundation. More on Burning Desire story in Frank 151.

In print, here are two principal articles in the L A Times- Wilson (top art critic at that time) and Victor Medina Staff writer.  Besides the Los Angeles Times, we received extensive coverage from Downtown News and many more see print coverage.

We are happy for that through our efforts of bringing the space (Pico House) up to par, for over the past 30 years now it has been of service to many artists, variety of organizations and venues, and to the Hollywood entertainment industry.

Principal sponsors for the Pico House: Victor Franco from Miller Brewing, Latin Business Association, Harold Martinez Able Industrial Products, Teddi Mercure, Frank Casares from La Luz de Dia Restaurant, Andy Camacho from El Paseo Restaurant, Cal Arts, Al Nodal from City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs, Rockefellers Foundation and the California Arts Council.

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