LOS ANGELES — You can now pick vegetables in the parking lot of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA thanks to a living, breathing pod created by artist collective Crenshaw Dairy Mart. The edible installation, titled “abolitionist pod (prototype),” was created for Art Rise, the offshoot of We Rise, an initiative of the LA County Department of Mental Health in which exhibits, pop-ups, and programs emphasize healing and mental health throughout the month of May.

Along the walls of the dome-like structure, pockets teem with herbs, kale, and lettuce. Periodic mist keeps the plants moist, creating a vibrant, humid ecosystem in the middle of Downtown LA. Through an abolitionist framework focused on mutual aid, autonomy, and community care, the artists hope to build edible pods across neighborhoods in LA as a way to bring generative, healthy foods to places impacted by systemic racism.

Up the street at Grand Park, Mexican artist Tanya Aguiñiga and dublab founder Mark “Frosty” McNeill designed an ode to all the missed and postponed festivities of this past year called “Celebration Spectrum,” featuring lively decorations and playlists from local artists. A colorful canopy of party materials sourced from the city’s various ethnic enclaves is the highlight. As songs play in the background, paper lanterns and dragons sway together with Día de Muertos papel picado and flower leis. Large metallic balloons spelling out celebratory song lyrics like “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” float over the park’s fountain. 

Tanya Aguiñiga and Mark “Frosty” McNeill, “Celebration Spectrum” at Grand Park

Healing from trauma and loss is a common thread through the Art Rise exhibits. At Los Angeles State Historic Park, artist veronique d’entremont built a sculpture inspired by bee hive caves in Griffith Park. A golden tapestry surrounding the sculpture describes the process of creating new bee colonies: When a new queen bee is born, the elder queen leaves to form a new hive elsewhere while her offspring rules the home she left behind. For the artist, this is an allegory for their mother’s suicide. The installation reframes a traumatic experience as one of regeneration. 

veronique d’entremont, “THEIR BODY BECAME (an antenna, transmitting the message of god)” at Los Angeles State Historic Park

While some mourn the loss of a year spent inside and in isolation from community, others mourn the loss of loved ones. At Community Coalition’s South Central office, a community altar was created to honor familial ancestors and those gone due to COVID-19, systemic racism, and transphobia. Community members and local organizations placed portraits throughout an outdoor structure adorned with flowers and hanging wreaths. Last Saturday, Danzantes Aztecas blessed the altar with copal incense, drumming, and dancing.

In taking over corners of the city, these art and community installations have created space for anyone walking by to process their emotions.

Danzantes Aztecas blessing Community Coalition’s altar

Art Rise continues throughout Los Angeles through the end of May.

Samanta Helou Hernandez is a multimedia journalist and photographer covering culture, identity, and social issues. She's published with Playboy, PRI "The World," and Curbed...