Clockwise from top left: Sarah Rara, Mecca Vazie Andews, Nancy Stella Soto (all images courtesy the artists, photo by Candice Molayem)

For over a century, Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles has served as a culinary haven for generations of Angelenos. Originally home to produce merchants, butchers, and Jewish delis, the market has constantly evolved to reflect the city’s changing demographics, subsequently catering to Mexican, Central American, and Asian communities. It underwent a major transformation in 2012, which brought in hip new restaurants and vendors alongside longtime tenants. Although the conversion revitalized the food hall, it also brought claims of gentrification, as the market’s working class character was overhauled with a shiny new veneer.

Chiles Secos in Grand Central Market (photo by Jakob Layman)

This weekend, the site will host the inaugural public project of Active Cultures, a new nonprofit focused on the intersection of art and food. It was founded by artist Glenn Kaino and curator Laura Fried, who told Hyperallergic “our real purpose is to produce programming for a wide public and to make critical ideas in culture more accessible.”

Taking place over two weekends, this first event is curated by Asha Bukojemsky, who has tapped three artists to engage with the market’s layered history. On Saturday, Sarah Rara will host a textile workshop in the former 99 cents store underneath the market, guiding participants to print on fabric using mole, coffee, turmeric, and other foodstuffs available from vendors upstairs. For five years, Rara has been recording the changing sounds of the market, and these soundscapes will provide the inspiration for fabric patterns.

On Sunday, these fabrics will be used in a sewing workshop led by Nancy Stella Soto to make everyday garments. An Angeleno native, Soto will bring a multigenerational perspective to the area’s changing face: She has been manufacturing her clothes in downtown Los Angeles for years, and her mother used to work in the fashion district. These clothes will then be worn by participants in a movement workshop led by choreographer and dancer Mecca Vazie Andrews on Saturday, November 23, followed by a performance at 5pm.

Each event will feature a communal lunch and discussion with guests, the first being Claudia Armendariz of Chiles Secos, one of a handful of legacy vendors who has weathered the market’s recent transformation. All events are free and open to the public.

When: Saturday, November 16 & Sunday, November 17, 10am–3pm daily; Saturday, November 23, 1–5pm, performance at 5pm.
Where: Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway, Downtown, Los Angeles)

More info at Active Cultures

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.