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Unlocking the Doors of Discrimination

Chatsworth High students create assemblages illustrating pathways to acceptance.

An artistically decorated door by Chatsworth High School students illustrating how people with tattoos are discriminated against in the job market will be displayed from Jan. 9-23 at Cal State Northridge as part of a high school invitational exhibit of student art.

The assemblage comes from an exhibit held at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Called “Pacific Standard Time: From Post War 1940-1980,” the exhibit highlighted Southern California artists' paintings, sculpture, short films and multimedia from the period.

"Pacific Standard Time" was an unprecedented collaboration of cultural institutions  celebrating the birth of the Los Angeles art scene. The Getty expanded PST to include a presentation called “Unlocking LA: Sub-cultural Efforts to Achieve Equal Access” which involved students’ dance performances, photographs, short films, and Chatsworth High's illustrated doors.

Amy Davis, the Getty’s education specialist, decided to include the students after a phone call last year from Jane Patterson, the director of Humanitas for the Los Angeles Education Partnership.  Chatsworth High was one of the schools that Patterson selected.

As part of the school's Senior Students Humanitas interdisciplinary program, teams of 4-to-6 Chatsworth High School students, 137 in all, decorated 24 doors to represent positive and negative experiences in Los Angeles subcultures. The doors were on display for two days in the Chatsworth High School auditorium for judging by visitors. The four doors which received the highest number of votes were displayed at the Getty. Their subcultures were: Special Needs, Mexican Americans, The Role of Women, and Senior Citizens.

According to Chatsworth visual arts teacher Kathie Donner, the rules required that one side of the door depict the events, attitudes, institutions and customs that hindered the subculture from gaining equal access and acceptance in the community. The other side of the door needed to depict the events, attitudes, institutions, customs and leaders that helped unlock the door to admit the subculture into society. 

The doors had to include text, layers, textures, a question, a minimum of eight materials and an organization that advocated for the subculture, including a court decision which affected the group. 

Donner said that the initial idea and how the work was put together was inspired by Southern California post-war artist Betye Saar, and James Ensor’s critical depiction of society, "Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889" in the Getty collection. Saar is an African-American artist who grew up in Watts. Her assemblages of found materials depict the struggles of African-Americans, especially women.

Following interdisciplinary guidelines, the students also gathered artists’ statements which were included in the Getty catalog of the exhibit. “English writing got into it,” said Donner. “Studies show that when students enter the job market, those who were schooled in integrative thinking outside the box do better than those who have not.”

The Chatsworth High door, chosen by a CSUN professor, will be displayed from Jan. 9-23 at CSUN Art Galleries, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. For exhibit details, call 818-677- 2226.

Laura Brodian Freas December 26, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Update from J.J. Askol at the Getty: Hi, Laura! Thanks for the lovely story! I just wanted to offer a couple of corrections you might want to make: 1) Ami Davis' first name is "Ami" not "Amy." 2) I want to clarify that Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980 (the correct title) is not one exhibit -- it is an initiative that comprises more than 60 exhibitions at arts institutions across the Southland, an unprecedented collaboration that highlights, as you said, Southern California artists' paintings, sculpture, films, and multimedia from the period. The exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, is called Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in LA Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970. Thanks for highlighting this great program with the students! Happy holidays. From Laura: Thanks, J.J. Much appreciated. Cheers!!

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