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Neighborhood Interpretive Center

Grafik Neighborhood Interpretive Center © Goethe-Institut

About the Neighborhood Interpretive Center

The Neighborhood Interpretive Center is a hyperlocal neighborhood initiative of the Goethe-Institut in the diverse MacArthur Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, launched in 2021. Each fall, there is an open call for cultural practitioners and creative professionals to propose innovative cultural programs for the project space that engages with MacArthur Park and the surrounding neighborhood. Special consideration will be given to cultural practitioners and creatives who live or work in MacArthur Park or the surrounding area, as well as artists* who are considered underrepresented. Content focuses on supporting projects that demonstrate an understanding of the unique history and characteristics of the neighborhood, and celebrate cultural diversity. A committee selects 3-5 projects from a large number of submissions to be implemented and presented at the Goethe-Institut the following year.
The 2024 Open Call for Cultural Workers and Creatives submission period ended in January 2024. The selection committee chose three projects from a large number of proposals.

Since 2021, the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles has been located in the MacArthur Park neighborhood, where many Hispanic, African and Asian Americans live. The Goethe-Institut worked with local partners and cultural practitioners and focus groups to conduct surveys to better understand what the diverse community wants for the new space. As a consultative part of the local community council, the Goethe-Institut was able to network and exchange ideas with various organizations in the immediate area. Through this process, it was decided to use the Goethe-Institut's project space as a place for the people and cultures in the immediate neighborhood and to provide a platform for events that have particular relevance to the area around MacArthur Park. The focus on collaborations with local people is at the heart of the Goethe-Institut's work worldwide. 



02.08.2024 – 03.08.2024

Curated by Homies Unidos, the interdisciplinary exhibition INSIDE|OUTSIDE seeks to raise awareness about the challenges faced by immigrants entangled in the criminal justice system. Many of these individuals, at risk of deportation upon release, leave behind children and families who suffer their absence deeply. In presenting the work and poetry of currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, INSIDE|OUTSIDE gives voice to their stories through their work, revealing their struggles, hopes, and dreams. This powerful showcase and the accompanying programs delve into the dual realities of being confined within prison walls and marginalized on the fringes of society upon release, confronting the harsh aspects of deportation, including the potential for re-incarceration in their home countries.

Serving the Pico-Union, Westlake, and Koreatown communities, Homies Unidos presents trauma-informed and culturally competent art, education, and leadership development activities tied to social justice advocacy programs. 

Inside-Outside © Goethe-Institut


11/ 2 - 12/15/2023

Tahanan: Home Is Where Your Paról Is

“Tahanan,” the Tagalog word for “home,” can be anywhere for millions of Filipinos around the world: whether in the Philippines, the United States, or the many other countries to which they have immigrated. With immigration comes feelings of fear and displacement, and immigrants often embrace old traditions to help overcome adversity and feel closer to their heritage. For Filipinos, one of those traditions is the paról—ornamental stars that are hung near the front of the home, to be seen by visitors and passers-by. Not only have they become a symbol for the Christmas season, but also a symbol of solidarity in the Filipino community. The paról connects them through shared experience and signals, “A Filipino lives here.” Whether homemade or store-bought, it’s a tradition that Filipino immigrants have brought with them into the diaspora—a relic of their upbringing that makes their adoptive countries feel more like home.

For the holiday season, artist Jaana Baker transformed the exhibition space of the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles into a colorful, illuminated celebration of the Filipino-American experience with her large-scale installation “Tahanan: Home Is Where Your Paról Is.”
Tahanan Home is where your paról  is. © Jaana Baker  

9/1 - 10/6/2023

Unlocking Sacred Spaces-The Public Art Movement in MacArthur Park

The story of how Public Art can return the land back to the people. In this program curated by Marlené Nancy Lopez Artists united to create interactive public art installations that demonstrate the power of “Functional Community Art” to shed light upon the unseen, fight gentrification, decolonize and create radical connections. Together the installations called upon the creation of permanent Public Art spaces that can be activated by NGOS, Activists and Artists for ceremony and programming in Los Angeles’ most vulnerable communities.
While on view at the Goethe-Institut, installation lead artist, Marlené Nancy Lopez, and the first generation of Art Corps artists hosted story-art circles, documentary screenings, discussions and art happenings to explore the mission and provide examples of future programming and ceremony possible in these sacred spaces. In the spirit of the “Aesthetics of the Oppressed”, the exhibition served as a launching point to begin legal and political negotiations for the permanent installation of the art pieces in MacArthur Park.
unlocking-sacred-spaces-2300x1000-gray2 ©

5/12 - 7/7/2023


In celebration of 40th anniversary of Radiotron Hip Hop youth center that opened across from MacArthur Park in 1983, the Goethe-Institut was the venue for GRAFFITINSPIRE. This multidisciplinary graffiti art exhibit featured artists that attended the Radiotron as teens or were inspired by the graffiti art movement and participated in other projects organized by Youth and Culture Advocate Carmelo Alvarez. These iconic Los Angeles graffiti artists and crews have influenced the art form worldwide. Additional programming events for GRAFFITINSPIRE included Hip Hop elements workshops (breaking, popping, DJs, rapping, beat boxing, graffiti art) as well as film screenings.


Read more about the Graffitinspire program in the Hyperallergic article by Matt Stromberg:
"Radiotron, the ’80s Youth Center That Shaped LA’s Hip-Hop Scene"
Graphic Graffitinspire © Graffitinspire


How to: Community Engagement

On December 6th 2022, Thomas Mann House Fellow Swenja Zaremba met with Neighborhood Interpretive Center" project partners Byron, Pauletta Pierce, the Frida Kahlo Theatre, and Homies Unidos for a collective gathering and evening of conversation focused on community engagement and to discuss "How to: Community Engagement?". How do cultural workers, artists, and cultural institutions develop strategies to engage with local communities and each other in a meaningful way? Zaremba's project in Los Angeles was dedicated to collaborative spaces on the local level and inclusiveness in public collaboration. During her time in L.A., she examined how local participatory approaches can strengthen trust in interactions between civil society and institutions to see what transformative potential for public organizations and civil society networks these approaches hold.

9/23 - 11/17/2022


Serving the Pico-Union, Westlake, and Koreatown communities, Homies Unidos presents trauma-informed and culturally competent art, education, and leadership development activities tied to social justice advocacy programs. For their project, the Goethe-Institut Project space served as a venue for "Encuentros-Encounters," offering an intergenerational and cross-cultural dialogue around pressing social issues such as immigration, mass incarceration, and climate change. At the heart of the ENCUENTROS exhibition is the series LLAMAME POR MI NOMBRE, curated by local contemporary artist Kiara Aileen Machado, and includes her own works, as well as the works created by the participants from Homies Unidos' youth programs. Public events included artist talks, film screenings, musical performances, and educational workshops focusing on inter-communal solidarity and art production.
Together with Creating Creators, a partnership with schools in the neighborhood was initiated to visit and engage with the projects of the Neighborhood Interpretive Center.


8/19 - 9/16/2022

THE FRIDA KAHLO THEATER: Disrupting the Mainstream

For thirty-five years, Grupo de Teatro SINERGIA has produced predominantly original works in Spanish and English. The plays have been directed and performed by L.A. Latinx/Mexican and Central American theatre artists. In 1994, under the Artistic Direction of Rubén Amavizca-Murúa, the group moved into what is now The FRIDA KAHLO Theater in the Westlake district of Los Angeles. The group's productions focus on historical, political, and social themes that are relevant to and directly affect the primarily immigrant community. These original productions have also toured both nationally and in Mexico. Some of the original works presented by the group have also been produced in Belgium, Latvia, and Spain.

The Goethe-Institut Project space served as the venue for "The FRIDA KAHLO Theater - Disrupting the Mainstream," a Spanish and English language audio-visual retrospective and exhibition that documents the history of the FRIDA KAHLO Theater and its impact on the community, highlighting the group's most significant productions. In addition to plays, the exhibit featured work generated by young artists and community members in the form of photography, animation, and theatre for youth. A panel discussion with FRIDA KAHLO Theater artists, L.A. historians, journalists, and scholars placed the theater's body of work in a cultural and historical context.


6/25 - 7/23/2022

Voices in the Water

This storytelling, movement, and memory sound installation by Robin Garcia and Nefertiti Altan, incorporated an afro-diasporic storytelling format to reflect on the stories, songs, and significance of water from the diasporic, immigrant, black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities in and around the MacArthur Park/Westlake area. The team drew on their experience working in and around the area and their experience using contemporary dance methods. A remembering/oral history methodology was utilized to activate the vibrational consciousness of memory in the body, making for a somatic experience as community members shared their ancestral and cultural stories about water. Black and indigenous elders and culture bearers participated in the storytelling project, further anchoring and highlighting surrounding communities' cultural and ancestral traditions. The stories gathered served as the platform for an immersive soundscape of intertwining voices, sounds, and rhythms designed to fill the gallery space in a call-and-response format.


4/1 -  5/6/2022

Vibing with Cultural Leafs

With the understanding that cultural awareness can help us better understand differences and cross barriers, cultural worker Pauletta Pierce led an eight-week workshop for Westlake community members aged 13-24 who have little or no experience in the arts that explored how bias and information are processed as a way of understanding culture. At the Goethe-Institut, Pierce implemented Zaretta Hammond's "Culture Tree" teaching model, where participants constructed a mixed media Culture Tree presentation called "Vibing with Cultural Leafs." With an emphasis on the rich, diverse cultural history of the Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood and cooperation with local artists like Pop Locker Street Dancer O.G. Jeckle, teaching artist Joan Zamora, and Youth IT Video Creator Angelique R. Hurtado, various disciplines, including dance, video production, and street art, were integral parts of the workshops. The project culminated with a public presentation of the participants' "Culture Tree" at the Goethe-Institut.




LA’s only queer performance art night
Created in 2009 as a space to produce and curate queer performance art nights at various contended sites throughout LA, Tranza showcases various artists, performances, and disruptions/reclamations of historically and traditionally queer/immigrant/trans spaces struggling to survive gentrification, displacement, and rampant violence. Creator and producer Byron collaborated and engaged in discourse with LA-based artists whose work centers, raises consciousness, and stems from the artistry and work of various comunidades en lucha, through a multi-issue lens.

Tranza’s 13th-anniversary installation was presented as part of the Festival de Barriletes exhibit at Goethe-Institut in MacArthur Park.
TRANZA-2300x1000 © Goethe-Institut

3/26 - 5/31/2022

Festival de Barriletes

For the past four years, on November 1st, All Saints' Day, giant kites have been created and installed at MacArthur Park as part of the annual Festival de Barriletes LA. Through kites inspired by Maya communities, art, and traditions, the festival seeks to commemorate and amplify the struggles of people whose lives have been lost to various forms of state violence. At the Goethe-Institut, writer, artist, and educator Byron Jose led a series of English-language immersion training and kite construction workshops for Maya children and im/migrant youth displaced in the MacArthur Park area. Participants acquired language skills, learned about indigenous communities in Guatemala, and how they celebrate this day to honor and send messages to their dead through giant colorful kites. The Goethe-Institut Project space served as the venue for the kite-building workshops and a final exhibition of the kites created for the 5th annual installation.



Disruptive Representation and the Limits of Diversity

In partnership with the Thomas Mann House, a series of discussions accompanied the Neighborhood Interpretive Center. On February 26th at 11 am at the Goethe-Institut, Mohamed Amjahid, Thomas Mann House Fellow, journalist and author of the book "Der weiße Fleck" (Whitewash. A Guide to Antiracist Thinking), and Alice Hasters, journalist and author of  the bestselling book "Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen, aber wissen sollten" (What White People don't want to hear About Racism, but Should Know) discussed the topic of "Disruptive Representation and the Limits of Diversity." Diversity is seen as the solution to structural oppression. Although it is an inevitable step towards a more just society, it will not be enough to dismantle a system based on inequality. Companies and institutions often seem to settle for a superficial approach to diversity - providing a certain look - without any interest in driving real change forward. This may benefit individuals but ultimately helps to secure the status quo, which is the exclusion and exploitation of many for the advantage of a few. Representation only helps if it is disruptive to structures of oppression. How can we prevent the idea of diversity from being tokenized? And: How can we make sure that the pressure of changing these systems is not solely placed on the ones who are burdened with the responsibility of representation?