For Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month I decided to feature two Hispanic Los Angelenos I saw this past week. One was an Hispanic male in a black sweatshirt, beige cargo pants and dark boots and the other was a female co-worker wearing a light-colored dress accessorized with a navy-blue baseball cap and high-topped Converse.
On the Saturday I visited and photographed the Department of Water and Power building at 4030 Crenshaw Blvd. I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t stopped to videotape a Juneteenth Day parade in front of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza with my iPhone. Out of the corner of my left eye I saw it, and was so excited I started photographing it immediately from across the street.
Exhausted and hungry, following a busy morning at BLK MKT FLEA, I ignored the urge to go to the Krispy Kreme next door for a doughnut, and explored the site instead. While this Art Deco Modern building was conceived in 1954 and it has the “rounded edges and smooth wall finishes” indicative of the style the aspect that most fascinated me was how crisp, timeless, and glamorous it looks compared to the bustling urban blocks surrounding it.
A natural landscape of trees, grass and bushes effectively shade its walkways, and the variegated palette of green compliments the red brick and light brown walls of the structure. Overall, after perusing the site, and noting all of its diverse features, the most memorable thing about it was the way squares and rectangles are consistently repeated without making it look bland or boxy. As strong and bold as the Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59 I visited previously, at 11701 Venice Blvd., this one also has an added touch of lightness representative of the early 1950s.
Department of Water and Power (4030 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. 90008)
For many years, whenever I passed by the Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59 on 11071 Venice Blvd. on my way to the Mar Vista Public Library,I always wondered if it was an Art Deco building. Solidly built, but elegantly simple, it beckoned me from the car and bus window to come and check it out up close.
Finally, one afternoon after picking up some books from the library, I walked the long city blocks down to its location.Using both my I-Phone camera and a small 35mm camera I battled the overhead sun and photographed the framed door, the striated line details, the rectilinear lights, and the period typography of the sign.
Accentuating the structure with equally sparse loveliness was the landscaping in the front that brought a touch of naturalness to its gray minimalism.
Backstory of the Building
Constructed in 1940 out of “smooth stucco” this particular building is a prime example of PWA (Public Works Administration) Moderne or Depression Moderne Art Deco. Representative of the “public works projects” Franklin Roosevelt proposed through his New Deal”it is one of a number of buildings in the United States overseen by the Office of the Supervising Architects. In addition to civic structures like the “Department of Water and Power”, from 1933 to 1944 “schools, hospitals, post offices, libraries and banks” were also built in the PWA Moderne style.
Sturdy and reliable, the goal of the style was meant to “depict permanence, stability and authority”. That doesn’t mean there isn’t grace and elegance in their classicism, it just means their characteristics are more subdued. So instead of the splashy effects that traditional Art Deco was known for in the 1920s, this time there is a more sombre hand at play rendering quadrilateral justification to “symmetrical exteriors and recessed windows organized into vertical panels”.
The Great Depression
To understand why this type of architectural image was so important, during its heyday, you need to know a little about The Great Depression. Since its start in 1929 until its end in the late 1930s, there was such an economic downturn, unemployment was out of control, and the overall morale of the people was at a low point. To turn this around the buildings designed as PWA Moderne personified the security society was seeking in their lives then.
In 2021, during the midst of our own crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to minimize the effects of The Great Depression if we didn’t live through it or know others who did. Still, regardless of this, the fact that we continue to appreciate such an important part of our past through architecture is encouraging and a great way to face the future.
“The most beneficial aspect of collecting is it’s a great STEM activity that teaches children a lot about categorizing, sorting, and observation.”
If you look up the word collection online you’ll see it either means “a group of things that have been gathered” or “a set of items gathered together.” That could mean anything from toy cars to comic books to rocks. It doesn’t matter as long as it includes something you’re passionate about and that brings you joy.
How to Start a Collection:
If you don’t collect something already, but want to start, there are a few things to consider first, such as your interests. If you like history, you might consider stamps or coins. If you like books, you might consider those. You could even start a collection with an item you inherited from a friend or a family friend, (i.e., a handkerchief or a watch.)
Since Summer’s right around the corner, and we’ll all be able to go outside freely soon, one of the best things to collect are natural objects, like rocks, shells, sticks and other portable souvenirs you can find either in your own backyard, neighborhood, park or school playground.
Before you start out on your expedition you should gather your equipment-a pair of gloves, newspaper to wrap your finds in, labels and markers-then create or buy a nature journal. To create a journal all you need is a large paper bag, a hole punch machine, a stack of three-ring binder notebook paper and some yarn to hold it all together. Now that you’ve created your journal you can bring it to life with sketches and observations from your trip about your surroundings and questions you’d like to ask yourself on your trip, such as “What types of animals do I see?”
Once you get your journal and growing collection home you can do further research on what you’ve collected, and observed, online and at your local library.
Storing and Displaying Your Nature Collection:
To further organize your collection, as you acquire more, you can decide what it can be based on (i.e., color, shape, texture, etc.,).To remain consistent, It’s an excellent idea to record as you collect by reporting in your nature journal. To further help you write down the information a great skill to perfect is labeling your items temporarily with a piece of masking tape listing the items date and place of origin.
Later when you want to store and display your collection it’s best to use something recyclable like an egg carton, shoe box, or glass jar to reflect the natural sentiment of the hobby.
The tragic thing about homelessness is it’s not caused by one specific thing and our most vulnerable citizens can become permanently traumatized. If the statistics are to be believed, California has about 151,278 homeless individuals. The disabled make up 38%, the extremely low-income 30%, the mentally ill 25% and those with substance abuse problems 64%.
Fortunately while this isn’t an easy problem to solve, there are a variety of things you can do to support the homeless and ease their burdens. Following are a few examples:
- Education: You can educate yourself on the causes of homelessness, then help educate others around you if you see them acting unkindly or biased.
- Advocacy: You can write a letter to your local or state government to ask for more funding or programming for the homeless (i.e., “tiny home villages created on publically-owned lands,” safe camping grounds, and permanent housing).
- Bombas: You can buy a pair of socks from Bombas.com (https://bombas.com) and through their “Make a Purchase, Make Difference” program they’ll donate a pair of socks to the homeless on your behalf.
So far Bombas has donated more than 40 million items to more than 3,500 organizations.”
- American Vets https://www.amvetsnsf.org): According to the 2020 United States statistics there were 11,401 veterans living as homeless citizens. What you can do to help them and other vets is to either donate your unwanted clothing and goods to American Vets thrift stores by arranging a scheduled pick-up at your home, or you can buy something online from their thrift store or eBay site. I can personally attest to the great finds you can buy on there because when I went on their eBay site I found a green 1970s and some vintage jewelry for under $100 and from their thrift store site I found a vintage fashion illustration book.
“In 2019 from January-December they raised $24,328,714 from their thrift store, eBay site, and other endeavors.”
Finally, despite the impossibility of solving this problem, the consensus seems to be in order to get it under control this country needs to increase services, social connectedness, provide affordable housing and offer well-paying jobs.
Since the pandemic has caused us all to experience an increased amount of stress, depression and isolation being cognizant of our psychological health has become essential. For organizations like Mental Health America https://www.mhanational.org it’s vital enough to cause them to promote May as Mental Health Awareness Month with plenty of advertising and resources.
“Created in 1949, its goal is to let the public know that no matter what race, age or sex you are it’s okay to seek professional help and do something to make yourself feel better whenever you need to.”
On your own that could be something as relaxing as reading a good book, writing or drawing in a journal or practicing yoga to your favorite music.
Tap Dancing Can Be Healing Too:
While I definitely believe and regularly lose myself in literature, write and draw in a journal, and relax with yoga and other exercises my real go-to healer is tap dancing. Joining May, in celebration, is another occasion that has special significance for lovers and dancers of tap-May 25, National Tap Dance Day. Due to the way my life has personally been turned upside down, in addition to the pandemic, I believe the art form ties in seamlessly with Mental Health Awareness Month because it encourages physical exercise and opens you up to positive feelings.
“On November 8, 1989 President George H. W. Bush signed into American Law National Tap Dance Day on the famous tapper Bojangles’ birthday. Now it’s celebrated worldwide.”
History of Tap:
To give you a little history of tap…”It originated in the United States in the early 19th century through a combination of African and Irish American dance styles. Characterized by various foot movements known as steps, flaps and shuffles it’s both extremely enjoyable to watch and perform.”
I’ve been tapping for over 10 years now, and besides being one of my security blankets whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s also a wonderful cardiovascular workout and inexpensive to do. All you really need to do it is a pair of tap shoes, a portable wooden board and comfy dance gear.
Finally, the best thing about tap is almost anyone can do it and learn something about themselves and others from this amazing dance.
While growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I visited Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza many times with my mother and my grandmother on various shopping trips. Besides the ultra-chic window displays, salespeople, and merchandise I also remember going to the May Co. regularly to get my hair done at the African American beauty salon Soul Sisters.Over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the architecture of the mall, so one sunny day while I was visiting, I grabbed my iPhone and took a few photos outside. Remembering the tips my teacher Ford Lowcock gave me in my iPhone Photography class at Santa Monica College I shot from a variety of angles.
Later while researching my photos on the internet I discovered the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was built in 1947 and officially opened on November 2, 1947. Known as one of the “first regional shopping centers in the U.S. that was built specifically for the automobile” it’s still a popular neighbored destination.
Secured on both sides by two Art Deco buildings, that still remain excellent representations and retain their Streamline Moderne characteristics, are the Broadway Department Store and the May Co. Department Store.
“Streamline Moderne is an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. It was inspired by aerodynamic design and emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and nautical elements. In industrial design, it was used in railroad locomotives, telephones, toasters, buses, appliances, and other devices to give the impression of sleekness and modernity.”
The Broadway Department Store:
The designer of the Broadway Department Store was Albert B. Gardner, and it’s located across the street from the May Co. Department Store.
The May Co. Department Store:
The May Co. Department Store opened as a “free-standing store” and was designed by Albert C. Martin and Associates. It was officially completed in October 1947.
Changes to the Mall:
During the 1980s a bridge was built to connect the two stores and “form a walkway for shoppers to the mall”. Today, in addition to a diverse group of stores occupying the mall, the two anchor stores are Macy’s and T.J. Maxx.
Blue and white striped Ralph Lauren shirt and red bead necklace
Now that I’m embarking on my third week back to school/work at my day job as a Special Education Instructional Assistant for LAUSD I’m more prepared to incorporate my current influences into my daily wardrobe. Over the summer I happily immersed myself in a more “put together” era, through Debbie Sessions’ historical 1950s style guides via http://www.vintagedancer.com and the book, The Gown by Jo Ellison, I’m reading for the Fashion Book Lovers Group I’m in, on http://www.goodreads.com. Despite this reality hit, and the hectic initial schedule of the fall semester beckoned, forcing me to contemplate how to wear something comfortable, sturdy, attractive and individualistic.
If I looked at the unofficial dress code for the part of the city I work in, I’d have skinny, pre-distressed jeans, leggings, tight slogan tees, pajama bottoms, short shorts and furry slides to choose from. If I incorporated my new ’50s inspirations, however, with the trends I saw in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and the new magazine Fudge I’d just bought at Kinokuniya Books, I could definitely sidestep these overdone trends and come up with something more unique and personalized.
Freudian Book Page Party Decorations
Learning Can Be Fun: Monday Week 1
With that in mind, I combined the old with the new and started my Monday with a brown and white swirl print jacket from Goodwill Thrift Store over a red plaid shirt from Ross and a pair of Mossimo jeans from Target. To give it that ’50s edge I accessorized the outfit with a yellow and brown retro print scarf tied as a doo rag around my hair, a strand of pearls and a pair of black cat-eye shades.
FIDM Tote Bag
Settling In: Monday Week 2
Contrasting the form-fitting elan of last Monday’s ensemble, my mood became increasingly relaxed as I entered the second week, and I chose to embrace the structured jacket + flowy pant look of the fifties, by coordinating a navy-blue blazer with a white button-down men’s shirt and orange and white polka-dotted tie-front pants from Kohl’s. Accented with a skinny navy-blue polka-dotted scarf, from Fallas I also introduced a touch of Prada into the mix.