Self Help Graphics & Art, the community arts nonprofit and print-making studio based in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, has announced that Betty Avila has been tapped as its next director. Since 2015, Avila has worked in a number of roles at the organization including as an administrator, and most recently, acting director.
The Los Angeles native previously held positions with other local institutions such as the Getty Research Institute, the Music Center, and the Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park. She sits on the boards of the Center for Cultural Innovation and Arts for LA and serves as a founding board member of the People for Mobility Justice. Fueled by a strong interest in the intersection between art and social justice with a focus in community building, Avila is also involved with various civic initiatives.
Avila’s appointment follows the organization’s decision to buy the building where it had been housed since 2011 for $3.6 million. Located on 1300 East First Street, Self Help Graphics is in the industrial part of Boyle Heights, known as “The Flats.” The area has recently been the subject of much debate due to recent protests of galleries staged by anti-gentrification activists. Despite being a community center and having a long history of supporting Chicano and Latinx art, the nonprofit has also been targeted by protesters.
Following a community meeting in 2016, where activists accused the organization of escalating gentrification, Avila told LA Weekly, “It’s tough. It’s tough to hear folks call out an organization that has done so much to support the artistic community, the greater community. But it’s opening up a needed dialogue.” Many artists have also voiced their support for the nonprofit.
Looking ahead, the organization will present “Entre Tinta y Lucha: 45 Years of Self Help Graphics & Art” in celebration of its forty-fifth anniversary later this month. The exhibition, which was organized in collaboration with Cal State LA’s Fine Arts Gallery, where it will open on August 21, will showcase four decades of fine art prints and highlight the organization’s impact on the print-making and cultural community in LA and beyond.
“It’s an interesting moment for Self Help, a bridge almost in our upcoming programming, in which we’re looking back at where we’ve come from, honoring it, and moving the organization forward by building on that legacy,” Avila said in an interview with Artnews.