A local nonprofit is having a block party and you’re invited.

The 18th Street Arts Center is hosting its 4th Annual Pico Block Party this weekend, Saturday, June 1. The celebration will look to highlight local artists (and artists in residency at the Arts Center) and artisans while connecting the community with them in a fun, engaging way.

The free festival will feature art, performances, food trucks and workshops touching on topics including puppet-making, autobiographical collages and even learning how to compost with worms.

An artisan marketplace will also debut at this year’s Block Party, featuring handmade items from Santa Monica-based and West Los Angeles artists and artisans.

“[The Pico Block Party] is a showcase of cultural assets that we have come across in our neighborhood,” Sue Bell Yank, Director of Communications & Outreach for the 18th Street Arts Center said. “We know there’s such richness and diversity on Pico. For audiences not as familiar with the neighborhood or city–new people or longtime residents–they can come explore local culture and interact with artists.”

Gina DeBaca, a longtime Pico Block Party participant and Founder/Executive Director of the Cabeza de Vaca Cultural Center, views the event as more than just a celebration.

While DeBaca acknowledges that the event primarily helps foster connections between artists and the community, she says the event, to her, also acts as Pico cultural preservation.

“There’s fun things to do and see and that’s why everyone goes, myself included,” DeBaca said, “But [The Pico Block Party] introduces you to the history of the community, to the community itself. It gives you a feel for what the Pico community is like, the art and culture of Pico.”

DeBaca currently teaches many forms of dance through the Cabeza de Vaca Cultural Center, including Aztec dance and drum, belly dancing and Folklorico.

When DeBaca grew up in the Pico neighborhood, an abundance of Folklorico dance troupes was available to her and the surrounding neighborhood. However, gentrification “hit us before we knew what was happening,” erasing much of the identity she associated with Pico.

She founded the Cabeza de Vaca Cultural Center to preserve her culture, something she hopes the Pico Block Party will do for her and other artist’s diverse identities for years to come. 

“We want to let people know that we’re still here and we want everyone to see what this neighborhood can do,” DeBaca said. “Pico culture is beautiful and rich.”

The Pico Block Party and Artisan Marketplace will take place at the 18th Street Arts Center, 1639 18th Street on Saturday, June 1 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit https://18thstreet.org/event/pico-block-party-artisan-marketplace/


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