2021 Grants Challenge

Crenshaw Stories Power the Vote

Idea by LA Commons

The historic heart of Black LA, Crenshaw is ground zero for the pandemic’s inequitable impact based on systemic disinvestment, marginalization and now, accelerating displacement. Crenshaw Stories Power the Vote recognizes the 2022 election as a critical opportunity to create common purpose and demand action through a grassroots narrative change process led by local artists and youth. Vibrant art activations amplify our stories, build connection and inspire voter turnout for election results that drive the change we envision in our neighborhood.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Systemic inequality, public disinvestment and now, the threat of displacement and cultural erasure. The pandemic has exacerbated these issues. Crenshaw adjacent communities south of the 10 fwy are among the most endangered, ranking high or very high on the LA index of Displacement Pressure. And residents in this part of the city, home to a powerful, but under-resourced, network of youth, artists and community members, find their experiences mis-represented, excluded or exploited in policy-making, media, and other circles of power and influence. LA will be at its best when Crenshaw District citizens have direct, sustained and meaningful input to policy-makers, and the power to envision and create a thriving community. Crenshaw Stories Power the Vote uplifts local stories of community needs and vision, and supports an intergenerational network of artists and culture-bearers to create art that amplifies calls to organize and get out the vote, and hold public leadership to account.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Crenshaw Stories Power the Vote taps the potency of sharing stories to increase civic engagement and voting among residents. Through three phases - Storygathering, Creation: Art as Call to Action and Art Advocacy - we build creative and civic participation, increasing volunteerism, awareness and voter turnout in the June 2022 primary. Phase I: Story Gathering Youth and artists lead story circles, finding in histories and hopes, inspiration for art activations to amplify local narratives. The sharing of personal and community stories transformed into murals, performance and public festivals enhances for all connection, purpose, and hope about the future. Young people draw people in, making them feel welcome and ready to engage. Phase II: Creation: Art as a Call to Action The stories seed public artworks, activations, festivals and digital media that uplift the issues and spark the advocacy necessary to truly transform the Crenshaw District. By making voices often ignored visible, we enable local priorities to be heard ensuring real attention to address the issues raised. The art will be strategically placed in highly visible locations i.e. Crenshaw and Slauson, the People’s Street in Leimert Park, in addition to leveraging the power of social media. Phase III: Art Advocacy In this phase, we move from storytelling to joint advocacy and action, uplifting narratives as part of a platform for change, supporting policies that advance our shared vision for Crenshaw residents.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 5,000

Indirect Impact: 40,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our goal is to use art and cultural programs as a vehicle for connecting Los Angeles residents more deeply to their neighborhoods and the larger city. “The arts and humanities can broaden citizens’ voices and participation, offering a welcoming entry point to those who have not felt access to the civic realm before.” Civic Dialogue Arts and Culture: Findings from Animating Democracy (Americans for the Arts). Residents who participate in Crenshaw Stories Power the Vote will be empowered through recognition of the value of their stories, their neighbors’ stories, and those of the neighborhood as a whole. We want to dismantle past barriers keeping them and other low-income communities of color from our seats at the table. We will invest in the long-term capacity of our community to use deep wells of local art and cultural resources as a basis for exerting greater influence over local policy making processes to achieve a more equitable city for all.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Crenshaw Stories Power the Vote impacts three Connect metrics: public art and cultural events, social and emotional support, and voting rates. At the project’s core are neighbors sharing stories facilitated by youth, artist and community partner teams, increasing connections through listening and being listened to. Success will look like a growing intergenerational network of youth, artists and culture-bearers with increased feeling of belonging, connection and mutual support. The stories will be transformed into 20 locally led accessible workshops or events engaging 10-2000 people each - pop-up and semi-permanent public art and performance - DJ set in a parking lot, a mural, African Diasporic dance, drum and mask-making workshops - to enhance participation and multiply opportunities for people to connect. Finally, and most importantly, the project increases voter participation as story gathering and art activations result in a high impact call to action that ends at the ballot box.

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

LA Commons will lead the design and implementation of all elements, managing partnerships and the delivery of project objectives. Our work depends on long term local partners like H.O.P.E., Lula Washington Dance Theater, We Love Leimert Destination Crenshaw is a key partner on outreach and amplifying local activations. They have built a citywide base of support and national profile for this unique cultural endeavor. Community Coalition will advise on organizing to get out the vote. USC partners at School of Cinema and School of Public Policy will advise on digital tools to support story gathering and evaluation. KAOS Network and artist Ben Caldwell is our ongoing partner, a bridge to artists and key community networks, he a visionary veteran in creating impactful community engaged art.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will you impact?​

Social and emotional support

Public arts and cultural events

Voting rates

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to LEARN

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to PLAY

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE