UCLA's first Centennial initiative honors former students who fought for social justice


To highlight the legacy of UCLA and its former students in creating a world with more equity and equality, the university is launching an itinerant art exhibition that highlights the Bruins who have advanced social justice in fields ranging from law and politics to the arts to political and cultural activism.

"UCLA: our stories, our impact"It is an important part of the ongoing celebration of its centenary by UCLA and presents 10 new original works – nine portraits of alumni and one representing" A century of activism at UCLA "by Californian artists Ernesto Yerena, Gabe Gault and Mer Young, all produced works commenting on social movements.

This exhibition, which debuts today and later in the Kerckhoff Art Gallery on tour throughout Los Angeles, is the first in a series of four Centennial initiatives that are designed to expand public access to the academic resources of UCLA and relying on the long-standing commitment of UCLA to the Community. Each is a collaboration between multiple departments, centers, institutes and community groups.

"As we celebrate the first century of UCLA, we also celebrate the impact of our alumni," said UCLA Registrar Gene Block. "Their efforts, in a wide range of sectors and disciplines, embody the commitment of UCLA for the public good. We are extremely proud to present these powerful images of Bruins that are leaving an indelible mark on our society. "

Among the former students of the exhibition are Charles Burnett, multi-award winning director of L.A. Rebellion; Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; Antonia Hernández, former president and general counsel of the Mexican American educational and legal defense fund; and Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix, immigration activists.

"The former students we celebrate have followed less linear paths through education, but have had a lasting impact," said Abel Valenzuela, director of UCLA Institute for Labor Research and Employment and head of the project. "They have led efforts to support diversity, equity and social justice at UCLA and beyond. They make our campus and Los Angeles a better place and continue to connect with the most urgent issues of the day, including the UTLA teacher strike, the support of undocumented students and the organization with the Black Lives Matter movement. "

The exhibition will remain in Kerckhoff until 17 October. Then he will move to the Los Angeles City Hall Gallery, the La Paloma Mercado in South Los Angeles, the UCLA Community School Robert F. Kennedy in Koreatown, the Social Public Art Art Resource Center in Venice and Graphics and Self-Help Art in East Los Angeles. The exhibition is open to the public and the entrance is free. A pop-up version of the exhibition will appear at CicLAvia on October 6th.

The other former students in the exhibition are:

  • John Delloro, job leader and co-founder of the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles
  • Chancee Martorell, founder and executive director of the Thai Community Development Center
  • Luis A. Perez, defender of undocumented immigrants and director of the legal services department of the Los Angeles Immigration Coalition
  • Robert Singleton, one of the original members of the Freedom Riders and founding director of the Center for African-American Studies, now Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies
  • Natalie Stites Means, supporter of indigenous rights and member of the South Dakota Advisory Committee of the United States Civil Rights Commission

"UCLA: Our Stories, Our Impact" also incorporates a multimedia component on the website of the exhibition which will be published on 3 October and will contain 15 additional stories and short documentaries from five selected.

UCLA has enlisted three artists with a commitment to social justice to create portraits of mixed media that will become part of the permanent collection of the university.

The portrait of Yerena's poster on the UCLA Roxana Dueñas alumna has become the visual symbol of the recent teachers' strike in the unified school district of Los Angeles. He is also known for his work with mentor Shephard Fairey as part of the "We the People" poster project launched around the January 2017 presidential inauguration. Born in El Centro, California, Yerena's great project "Hecho With Ganas ", he fuses his vibrant palette of colors and experimental plots to tell stories of struggle, perseverance and hope in the Chicanx community.

The artist inspired by pop culture Gabe Gault, a native of Venice, has created portraits of cultural icons such as Nipsey Hussle, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stan Lee. Use classic techniques with modern materials to explore themes of identity and duality, challenging the notions of labels and definitions of its viewer.

Mer Young, from Long Beach, focuses his mixed-media aesthetic on images that tell stories of marginalized communities, such as migrants, indigenous people and women of color. His public works are located in Long Beach, Glendale, South Pasadena and in the downtown Los Angeles Arts District.

Shedding light on lesser-known stories of former students who had a positive social impact, Valenzuela said she hopes the show will inspire current and future Bruins.

"Every time I travel around the world or visit events in Los Angeles, it occurs to me that so many stories have yet to be told because the current and future Bruins have an impact on Los Angeles and the world," said Valenzuela. "I believe, like many on our campus, that we have to change and improve Los Angeles. If we can channel this work through the power of art and visual storytelling, then we will have moved our mission forward to promote transformative change, civic leadership and social justice for the next century. "

The project is led by the UCLA Institute for Labor Research and Employment, the UCLA Labor Center and the Chancellor's Policy Advisory Council on Immigration collaboration with the Institute of American Cultures, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation, the American Indian Studies Center, the Asian American Studies Center, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and the Chicano Studies Research Center.



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