The Pioneer Boulvevard History Project

The Community Quilt: How and Why of the Pioneer Project by Gabrielle Garcia and Michelle Lopez
Recognition for and within a community is never an easy task for anyone to accomplish. Imagine stitching together a variety of ideals and interpretations of history into one simple theme. It is a process that takes many different hands, minds and goals; nonetheless it is the art of community. The Pioneer Project consisted of communicating to each other the importance of history, and commuting to a new level of appreciation and understanding. Michelle Lopez and I (Gabrielle Garcia) have taken many trips to a vibrant area called the city of Artesia, California.

We originally went to document important places in history in the city of Artesia for “The Pioneer Project: Histories of Artesia,” using a GPS Navigator to place the specific sites on to Google Maps, so anyone would be able to view the city’s important buildings through the click of a mouse; landmarks like the Community Center and Park, the first Artesia School District established in 1875, the oldest Fire Station in town, and so many other places. We also provided surveys to the people of the community, and interviewed business owners that thrive off the area. However, after a number of visits to the city, we discovered the difficulty of gathering historical information into our portfolio. The Pioneer Project partners decided with enthusiasm to create our own interpretation of Artesia’s beauty and diversity in culture and consumer goods.

We were given the assignment of collecting data in the first half of the summer, and interpreting that data into a project in the second half of the summer. We chose to create a community quilt for a variety of reasons. We wanted to have a quilting bee where we could meet and discuss the community as we sewed. We also wanted to have a sewing corner for our presentation of the quilt on September 3, 2011 at the Studio for Southern California History. We wanted individuals to talk to us about the project in an intimate fashion. We did not want to have a piece of paper that people could read to understand the project-- we wanted to make sure visitors asked us personally about our stake in Artesia. We picked this way of presenting because local history is very personal and intimate and more likely to be shared through a casual conversation than in a position paper.

The quilt was completed September 3, 2011.  It depicts a map of Artesia printed out on to a beige colored piece of fabric measured 5' X 2'. This was then attached to a bigger burgundy colored piece of fabric underneath one size bigger than the last; this was framed with a gray fabric. Finally all the layers were attached to a white 7' X 4' piece of white cotton fabric that was beautifully crafted. The map was printed on to the fabric using iron on transfer paper. We integrated Eric Brightwell's map from his blog on Amoeba because it was so creatively done and it demonstrated his personal love of Artesia. If you look at his pink map carefully, you will note that the top of the map says "Little India" but it is written in a way that resembles Sanskrit. We then used 5” X 5” squares to cover up the frame of the quilt. These little squares were fabrics picked out by the Pioneer Partners to represent our vision of Artesia. The fabrics were remnants from sari stores from Pioneer Boulevard and Indian cotton as a base. The blocks had personal photographs of important places, significant people, and symbols of Artesia. These pictures could be lifted off the quilt to view a brief history about each one. The Pioneer Partners received help from all of the Studio staffers including Lucas Benitez, Carla Calderon, George Castillo, Marcella Haro, Sharon Sekhon and Janani Subramanian to decorate the squares and outer layers of the quilt.

Creating the quilt required the following materials: one beige colored piece of fabric 5' X 2,' one burgundy piece of 6' X 3' fabric, and one ash black/slate colored piece of cloth. Most importantly, the patience, assistance, and support from all the members of the Studio for Southern California History, and the city of Artesia. The creation of the quilt provided both partners with the satisfaction of a town well explored. The exposure to a new culture helped our horizon expand, with the knowledge to question everything we walked, biked, or drove by through a personal scope. We wish for individuals to take interest in the rich communities around them; with this project, we expressed the minds of two young adults through many messages.

We decided to donate the quilt to the Artesia Public Library upon completion of this project in order to share what we learned with Artesia. As young students of the world around us, Michelle and I grew up in minority neighborhoods, never realizing the everyday struggle to be acknowledged as a young culture and evaluating everything with a new scope. We did not see the distinct racial lines that segregated, for example, Asian Americans and Mexican Americans in our neighborhoods until this experience and being exposed to an older "distinguished" point of view; one that shows how it is a constant battleground for any minority community to receive recognition in Los Angeles. However, as the nature of democracy requires the voices of the minority to be acknowledged, we recognize the differences in our ideals and our realities. We hope that in providing our quilt to Artesia, it will give them the confidence to challenge our quilt, make a new one, or build a new set of oral histories that track this amazing community.

When we learned about Artesia, we were surprised and even embarrassed to acknowledge the fact that we had never heard of a "Little India" in Los Angeles before. We had never seen saris or tasted Indian sweets like jelabees, berfi or mango lassi. We hope to show the importance of examining a community beyond a business or commercial point of view. The goal is to look at a neighborhood and observe the deeper connections, like family meetings in shopping centers, and street conversations impacting social awareness, and connecting one's own history to reveal a bigger picture, instead of racing by in a car on a freeway unaware.