Farmlab Public Salon
Mike Blockstein & Reanne Estrada
W/ Special Guest Aurora Flores
Friday, September 7 @ Noon

"Commitment Issues and Cross-Disciplinary Entanglements"
Featuring Mike Blockstein & Reanne Estrada of Public Matters; and Aurora Flores, of the Healthy Eating Active Communities Initiative

About the Salon

This week's Farmlab Public Salon asks: Do you have chemistry? Are you compatible? What does it mean to step outside your comfort zone? What does it take to make meaningful, long-term relationships thrive? And how do multiple partners figure in their success?

Relationships between artists and community-based organizations are complex organisms. For the past nine months, Public Matters has been working in partnership with HEAC to develop and integrate place-based youth media projects with the group’s health policy and community initiatives, positioning the youth as active community health leaders. Public Matters has worked with a group of high school students at The Accelerated School (TAS) to assess health disparities and create short videos about the reasons underlying poor access to fresh produce and nutritious foods in South L.A. These videos are closely integrated with broader policy and community actions.

For instance, given the scarcity of supermarkets and groceries in the area, students are leading the effort to convert and “green” a South L.A. corner store to carry healthier food choices. This “market makeover” will serve as a model for other neighborhood stores and will help HEAC establish a partnership of corner stores that will increase their collective buying power for healthy produce. The student videos will also be featured and set the tone for a broader community forum on public health issues in South L.A. co-produced with the office of Councilwoman Jan Perry in District 9 this fall. These actions ensure that Public Matter’s work doesn’t end with a well-meaning youth media project that few will ever see, but in fact extends and realizes HEAC’s civic goals and gives the HEAC youth a prominent leadership role in the community.

These issues—creating cross-disciplinary projects with depth and the link between creative acts, civic engagement and policy initiatives—are key to not only both Public Matter’s and HEAC’s work, but also to realizing effective civic impact. At the heart of this Salon are the questions of sustainable projects, length of commitment and depth of integration. What are the impact of short and long-term projects and interventions? How can these be understood from the artists’, practitioners’ and community’s point of view?

About the Salon Presenters

Public Matters is a recently formed group of artists, educators and media professionals who integrate civic engagement with interdisciplinary neighborhood-based art, media and educational projects. It aims to train community leaders who are creative, media savvy problem solvers and critical thinkers who have a deep understanding of their neighborhoods. Public Matters generates innovative, artistic, place-based projects that build creative, civic and social capital in communities. Public Matters’ goals are to build social capital, bring forward unknown aspects of community life, and give future leaders a diverse and effective set of skills to work on behalf of their communities.

The South L.A. Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC) Initiative is a diabetes and obesity prevention initiative including health, education, advocacy, civic and media/advertising entities supported by The California Endowment. Creating healthy eating and physical activity environments in low-income and resource-poor communities requires the adoption of policies, practices and norms that make healthy foods and physical activity opportunities available and appealing. HEAC aims to demonstrate how collaborative approaches can change environmental risk factors.

Mike Blockstein is a visual artist, educator and the Principal of Public Matters. He works in community-based art that explores the intersection of cultural narratives, artistic process and civic engagement. He has created and led place-based interdisciplinary projects nationally, working with youth, community leaders and organizations to reflect on, understand and shape their physical, social and political geographies. Projects include A Chinatown Banquet, a collaborative multi-disciplinary project about Boston Chinatown and Custom Mobile Commerce, an exploration of street vending in Los Angeles. Committed to civically-based art, Mike also holds a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Reanne Estrada is an internationally exhibiting visual artist whose diverse practice includes installation, performance, video and public art. She worked for nine years as an educator and in cause-related marketing, design, and curatorial programming at Creative Growth Art Center, an internationally recognized studio and gallery for artists with disabilities. Currently working on a project in Historic Filipinotown, her public art projects emphasize a collaborative approach and focus on community narratives in Asian American communities. Reanne has an A.B. in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University.

As Project Coordinator for South L.A. HEAC, Aurora Flores plays a lead role in engaging policy makers, collaborative partners, community residents and youth leaders to promote safe, healthy environments. Ms. Flores has more than 10 years of experience as a public health practitioner. Her areas of expertise encompass health promotion and disease prevention, program planning and implementation, and training and technical assistance in HIV/AIDS, tobacco policy, and cancer control. Ms. Flores holds a B.S. in Health Science with an emphasis in Community Health from California State University, Long Beach and received her Master in Public Health from the University of Southern California.


Ignacio Coronado, owner of the Coronado Market, located at 42nd and Avalon. Owned by the Padrino (Godfather) of HEAC student Magali Bravo, the market is going to be the first South L..A. corner store to undergo a makeover by the HEAC students to highlight healthy food options and enhance the market's appeal. It will be a model for the other neighborhood markets to follow and is tied to HEAC's policy efforts. Photo courtesy Mike Blockstein



At 5:14 PM , Blogger Julie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:27 PM , Blogger Julie said...

What a thoughtful, meaningful and relevant project. Sending appreciation to everyone involved for undertaking it. Hope that when this first iteration of the collaboration is in full operation, that it becomes recognized, valued and then spreads (in some adaptable form) to where ever it's needed or can be useful. Good work!

J. Lazar


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