Daimaru Hotel / 341 FSN

Organization and community: Little Tokyo Service Center (Los Angeles, CA)

In 2018, Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) used a portion of their ArtPlace grant to support the purchase of the Hotel Daimaru, a residential and traveler hotel, in order to preserve its stock of single room occupancy (SRO), low-income housing. LTSC also set aside five SRO units that had been used by the prior owner as traveler hotel rooms to support +LAB Artist Residencies.

In addition, LTSC turned one of the vacant retail spaces in the building into 341 FSN, a collaborative and experimental space designed that explores community control and self-determination in Little Tokyo and at First Street North. +LAB partners to activate the 341 FSN space include: Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo Community Council, Little Tokyo Service Center Small Business Assistance, Sustainable Little Tokyo – Arts Action Committee, and Visual Communications. They are creating projects that:

  • Promote artistic and cultural experiences that protect the cultural and historic identity of Little Tokyo;
  • Share community members’ voices and stories to promote and empower Little Tokyo;
  • Inform participants about the Little Tokyo neighborhood, its history, and ways to help shape its future; and
  • Build connections between artists, community members, and organizations; and incorporate creative practices to positively impact Little Tokyo.

In August and September 2018, the space became Art @ 341 FSN. Prior to the storefront activation, the partners established an art action committee to educate artists about civic processes (such as displacement, city land disposition, and zoning), learn what types of supports they needed, and incorporate their unique perspectives as collaborators. Phasing the work this way helped artists connect to their heritage, see themselves as advocates for the Sustainable Little Tokyo Community Vision, and generate ideas for the two-month arts and culture hub which hosted 23 events, engaged with 70+ artists, was attended by more than 2,000 participants, and generated over 3,000 petition signatures.

+LAB Artist Residencies

On an ongoing basis, +LAB is managing Little Tokyo Service Center’s annual Artist Residency program in which select California artists (including at least one artist from the Little Tokyo community each year) from multiple disciplines will collaborate with local arts organizations to create artworks and projects promoting community engagement and creative placemaking strategies around broad community development themes defined by Little Tokyo Service Center. In year one (2018) and year two (2019) of the residency program, the themes were, respectively: “Community Control and Self Determination” and “Ending Cycle of Displacement.” The selected visiting artists have been hosted by participating organizations: the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, the Japanese American National Museum, Sustainable Little Tokyo, and Visual Communications.

Year One artists and Their Projects:

Dan Kwong, a performance artist from Los Angeles created a performance entitled "Tales of Little Tokyo" with the Japanese American National Museum using informal story-circle gatherings throughout Little Tokyo to collect personal memories of the neighborhood from seniors and younger generations.

Kuniharu Yoshida, a traditional calligrapher and hip-hop dancer from Torrance, CA worked with Sustainable Little Tokyo to reinterpret the traditional form of calligraphy. Yoshida also conducted a series of calligraphy workshops for the neighborhood’s senior residents.

Susu Attar, a multimedia artist from Los Angeles worked with the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center to explore the shifting boundaries of Little Tokyo over its 130-plus-year history. Entitled “Conceptualizing Borders,” Attar’s project draws inspiration from the Japanese concept of omotenashi, a sense of pride in anticipating and fulfilling the needs of a guest, and noren, Japanese fabric hung in doorways that serve as both conceptual border and protection.

Tina Takemoto, a visual artist from Daly City, CA worked with Visual Communications to create a short experimental film portrait of First Street North that combines the historical material, photographs, audio clips, and moving imagery from the timeline project in addition to the sights, sounds and textures of Little Tokyo captured and created in the community-based hands-on filmmaking workshops. She also created a project entitled “First Street North: Interactive Multidimensional Timeline.”

Read more about these projects in "Artists Are Addressing the Tide of Gentrification in LA’s Little Tokyo," published in Hyperallergic.