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LAUNCH PAD // Little Tokyo Service Center +Lab Residency

The Little Tokyo Service Corporation of Los Angeles is pleased to announce its inaugural +LAB Artist Residency Program. A Call for Entry on the Western States Arts Foundation CAFÉ ( web site is now active for California based artists only, who wish to work within the Little Tokyo community. The deadline for submission is January 15, 2018.

Established in 1884, Little Tokyo is Los Angeles’ second oldest neighborhood and the largest of four remaining Japantowns in the United States.  The neighborhood continues to serve as a cultural center for Japanese Americans across Southern California and the nation.  

In its 133-year history Little Tokyo has withstood numerous acts of displacement including the forced removal and incarceration of people of Japanese descent during World War II and the demolition of whole tracts of housing, businesses, churches, and temples that occurred during the city’s urban renewal and civic center expansion of the 1950s through 1970s. Today, what remains of Little Tokyo is roughly nine square blocks. The latest threat to the cultural and historic identity of Little Tokyo comes in the form of the market rate housing boom in Downtown LA, which is making the neighborhood less accessible to individuals and families of all incomes. Commercial rents have also risen, forcing out longtime small business owners. 

Throughout its history, Little Tokyo and its stakeholders have struggled to define their community, based on core values such as equality, justice, sustainability, and self-determination. Arts and culture has always been an integral part of this movement. 

Through this residency, Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) seeks to further explore and deepen the relationship between arts and the pursuit of self-determination. To be fully immersed in Little Tokyo, participants will be embedded in local community organizations and will live at the historic Daimaru hotel—a single room occupancy hotel that is an important piece of Little Tokyo’s legacy.  Artists in this program will have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to Little Tokyo’s fight for self-determination while also spending three months deepening their own community practice.

The Creative Place making Challenge and Opportunity for Little Tokyo Service Center and its +LAB Artist Residency Program

Little Tokyo is a special place for the 5000 Los Angelinos who call it home, and for the many more thousands who pass through it every day. In a city as diverse as Los Angeles where there are 60 languages spoken on a daily basis, retaining the identity and history of Little Tokyo and is a vibrant and creative challenge that artists have embraced since they moved here more than a century ago. At the same time, new populations have been reshaping the demographics of Little Tokyo, enriching the fabric of its cultural life and adding to the fabric of its evolving histories and legacy. The +LAB Artist Residency Program in its pilot years will be asking basic questions

  • How can we more creatively highlight Little Tokyo's story - past and present - and connection to a larger Los Angeles identity of historic ethnic neighborhoods?
  • How can we engage arts and artists/cultural workers to build local power and advance community control over Little Tokyo's future?
  • How can community development efforts support existing community, arts & cultural assets, ensuring the long-term viability of affordable housing for residents with low incomes and historic small businesses?

Partnering Organizations

The selected visiting artists will be hosted by local arts organizations that will provide staff support, studio and workspace. Participating organizations are the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center; the Japanese American National Museum; Sustainable Little Tokyo; and Visual Communications.

Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

Founded in 1971, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center is one of the largest ethnic arts and cultural centers of its kind in the United States.A hub for Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture and a community gathering place for the diverse voices it inspires – Japanese American Cultural & Community Center connects traditional and contemporary; community participants and creative professionals; Southern California and the world beyond.Since first opening its doors in 1980, JACCC has evolved into one of the largest ethnic art and cultural centers in the U.S.

Japanese American National Museum

The mission of the Japanese American National Museum is to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. We share the story of Japanese Americans because we honor our nation’s diversity. We believe in the importance of remembering our history to better guard against the prejudice that threatens liberty and equality in a democratic society. We strive as a world-class museum to provide a voice for Japanese Americans and a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. We promote continual exploration of the meaning and value of ethnicity in our country through programs that preserve individual dignity, strengthen our communities, and increase respect among all people. We believe that our work will transform lives, create a more just America and, ultimately, a better world.

Sustainable Little Tokyo

The mission of Sustainable Little Tokyo is to develop a dynamic community-driven future for Little Tokyo through green initiatives, small business development, and cultural/arts programming that perpetuates its historic character for generations to come. Since late 2012, Little Tokyo has been developing and implementing a vision for neighborhood sustainability that respects and enhances the neighborhood’s history and culture. The vision is based on community values for resource conservation, mottainai, and consideration of children and future generations, kodomono tameni. In the Japanese and Japanese-American communities, “Mottainai” is a familiar Japanese phrase, roughly translated as “Don’t be wasteful.” Artists are at the heart of our Sustainable Little Tokyo work.  Artists are integrated into creative problem solving and community engagement with regards to issues of the built environment, environmental strategies, land use, and working with Metro regarding transportation.

Visual Communications

Visual Communications mission is to develop and support the voices of Asian American & Pacific Islander filmmakers and media artists who empower communities and challenge perspectives.  Founded in 1970 with the understanding that media and the arts are powerful forms of storytelling, Visual Communications creates cross-cultural connections between peoples and generations.

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