February 10, 2020 1:00 PM
by Naomi Okuyama
This article originally appeared in the January/February edition of Seascape.
The Santa Monica Arts Commission recently approved artist April Banks as designer and lead artist for the Belmar History and Art Project, which is an artistic, educational and commemorative project celebrating the legacy of one of the original AfricanAmerican neighborhoods in Santa Monica. This neighborhood, called Belmar, was displaced by the expansion of the Civic Center campus in the 1950s. The upcoming Civic Center Multipurpose Sports Field is being built on this historic site, and the Belmar History and Art project is being implemented as part of the Coastal Commission’s approval process.
Ms. Banks works with art making as “social practice,” a form which puts human engagement and community at the heart of its process. In January 2020, she will be leading several workshops for community members to express themselves creatively through words, visuals and movement. Each session engages participants in learning about the history of the African-American experience in Santa Monica, and their reflections and personal histories will inform Banks’ design of the Civic Multipurpose Sports Field’s art and interpretive elements. Utilizing their contributions and historical collections and works about the area, in collaboration with Alison Rose Jefferson as project historian, the City is creating a dialogue with community members to make this history relevant and relatable. This work will continue through ongoing educational programming and further opportunities to engage.
The creation of this artwork and other interpretative programming encompasses an acknowledgment of displacement, an uncovering of neighborhood history and a celebration of the rich legacy of AfricanAmerican contributions to Santa Monica life. Through this project we aim to create a sense of hope and an expression of social justice for current and future generations. Learn more about the history of the neighborhood and the California Coastal Commission’s Environmental Justice mandate that facilitated this project’s development, and about the art and history project overall by visiting SantaMonica.gov/arts/belmar.
Cultural Affairs Supervisor