Willowbrook, MLK

Willowbrook Murals Win Prestigious Art Award

Los Angeles artist Louise Griffin knew she had a challenge on her hands when she saw the ribbed concrete walls lining the Augustus F. Hawkins Mental Health Clinic courtyard. Hired by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission to conceive of a project for the facility, Griffin knew that the textured walls, with their folds and edges, would be challenging for a mural. But the folds reminded her of the paper origami cranes she would make with patients in recreation therapy. So, incorporating the folds into the work, she designed a mural with brightly colored cranes flying over a landscape of blue, green and orange mountain peaks.

As it turns out, others also thought her idea was innovative and creative. The project was so engaging that it recently won an international competition called the Collaboration of Design + Art Awards (CoD+A Awards) for work in a public space. There were 433 entries submitted from more than 29 countries. A prestigious panel of judges narrowed the contestants down to 100 and then opened the competition to voting from the public where only 8 winners were selected.

[raw] Griffin wanted to make sure the residents at the health clinic participated in the making of the mural, so she included them in priming for painting, painting and touching up the areas all with the supervision of their recreation therapists. The two outdoor courtyards each measure more than 4,000 square feet.

“As the artist, I would stay near the patients, encouraging them and reinforcing their contribution to the mural’s overall success,” said Griffin, describing the process. “As more color was put down and the patients’ excitement grew, we saw doctors, psychiatrists and nursing students come out to help paint and be part of the mural’s process. The transformation of the courtyards brought on a positive reaction in both the patients and the staff long before the murals completion.”

The mural project, which was funded as part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town “Project Willowbrook: Cultivating a Healthy Community through Arts and Culture,” is part of an ongoing effort to bring more civic artwork to Willowbrook, a small community between Athens and Rancho Dominguez near Compton. Project Willowbrook, is also part of a broader investment in the community, in particular with the construction and completion of the new MLK Jr. Hospital and Outpatient Center as well as the upcoming renovation of the Rosa Parks Metro station.

Griffin, a Los Angeles-based artist, has focused much of her work on environmental sustainability including an installation, Rooted which is a series of glass panel at East Rancho Dominguez Library comprised of collaged layers of photographs of neighborhood trees, historic maps showing East Rancho Dominguez and how it grew over time and children’s library books.

MLK Hospital Construction Nears Completion

Moving forward with construction of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willowbrook, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $29 million to complete the County’s share of construction work on the facility within the next 60 to 90 days.

After the construction of hospital, which is 92 percent complete, is finished, the staffing and equipping of the facility will begin; the hospital is expected to open in early 2015. Workers will be on site, working overtime and on weekends to meet the Oct. 31 deadline to complete construction of the hospital. The adjacent Outpatient Center is also near completion and is scheduled to open April, 2014.

After the board vote, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas emphasized that the hospital, part of an entire medical complex with a focus on preventive care in addition to inpatient services, will be a model of cutting edge care for the region and the nation.

“We’re making wonderful progress, and I really think it’s important to understand that this is more than a hospital,” he said. “This is an entire medical campus that’s in the works. And if it takes a little more time to get more than what was anticipated, I can live with that. But it will not be second rate health care for the people of this portion of our county. It will be as good as it can possibly get. That’s why we’re taking care to build a first-rate, 21st century medical village.”

The funding pays for such necessary items as bringing utilities up to seismic codes, replacing structural floor slabs and rebuilding deteriorating sewer pipes—all issues that came to light as workers began renovating the 40-year-old structure.

The board, which approved of the motion brought by Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, was approved 4-0.

Moving toward completion: MLK Outpatient Center Gets Glassed In

  Wonderful progress continues to be made at the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center Campus. Construction of the new MLK outpatient center is more than 80% complete, and this short video shows workers installing the very  last pane of glass onto the façade of this beautiful new facility. More than 150 skilled construction workers are hard at work on the new building, putting in complex electrical wiring, finishing rooms and landscaping the grounds on the site. When it opens next year, the center will  far surpass what is typically expected in a “clinic”. Through approximately 70 specialty clinics and an urgent care center that will operate seven days a week, 16 hours per day, the outpatient center will provide a full range of primary and specialty services. The outpatient clinics will specialize in pediatric, obstetric and genecology services, as well as ophthalmology, orthopedics, maxillofacial and even neurosurgery treatment. The center also will have clinics for special populations, including pediatric foster children and people with HIV/AIDS.   Also, an ambulatory surgery center will offer elective outpatient surgical procedures, rehabilitation services and a wide array of diagnostic services. Stay tuned for more updates!

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science Receives $1- million Donation

Ask a student attending college about the cost of higher education and they will likely attest to the mounting debt and financial burden that comes along with attending a university.

But for some students attending Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, the financial weight is about to get a lot lighter thanks to a $1 million donation from Joe Adams, Ray Charles’ former manager and his wife Emma.  The donation is equivalent to 100- $10,000 scholarships  – the largest one-time individual gift  in the school’s history.

Charles R. Drew President David Carlisle says he is grateful for the gift and recognizes the positive effect the scholarships will have on the students.

“The more scholarships we can give out,  the less their educational debt and the less dependent they are for borrowing money on their education,”  he said.  “Thousands of lives will be impacted by this contribution- including students, patients, and members of the community that we serve.”

Angela Minniefield, Vice President of Strategic Advancement at the university agreed.

“This is a tremendous investment in our students,” she said,  noting that approximately 78 percent of Charles Drew students qualify for financial aid. “These funds will help to retain our excellent students that experience financial obstacles and help them maintain their commitment to serving the underserved.”

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the area where the university is located, said the gift will help scores of Charles Drew students contribute to the future Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus. The campus, which will house a new hospital and comprehensive health center, will bring health and wellness to a community that has gone on too long without a large health service provider.

“The scholarships will help countless students achieve their dreams of becoming doctors, nurses and experts in the medical community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.  “That’s something to celebrate.”

Read the Los Angeles Times story about the $1- million donation here…


Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Willowbrook

Dancing in a conga line, listening to the trumpet, guitarron and violin of Mariachi Ellas Son, nearly 300 Second District residents celebrated the Cinco de Mayo holiday at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook. The festive celebration, which commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, is an annual tradition at the Center for Public Health sponsored by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“We are here to promote and celebrate health, fitness and wellness,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Over the next year the Martin Luther King, Jr. medical campus will be transformed into a center of excellence for healthcare delivery in the Willowbrook community and beyond.”

As guests received fitness and nutritional eating tips from various resource tables staged in the parking lot, danced to salsa music or munched on salsa verde with chips, corn and bean salad and a vegetable salad prepared by Chef Cheryl Tate, others contemplated what the holiday means to them and reflected on their Mexican roots.

Among those singing along to the ranchera music was Raquel Piñeda, 60, of Florence-Firestone who moved to Los Angeles from Michoacan, Mexico when she was 15-years-old. When they were young, she instilled in her now-grown children a love of Mexican music and dance.

“On Cinco de Mayo we have a family reunion,” said Piñeda. “We teach the kids how to dance to cumbia, mambo, and rock and roll. We play bingo and poker and watch the kids take turns swinging at the piñata.”

Sandra Gonzalez, 33, from Los Angeles, also pauses on Cinco de Mayo to share memories of family.

“We took my first family trip to Mexico when I was nine and my last when I was 14-years-old,” said Gonzalez. “We share stories with younger generations of visiting Mexico when we were younger and it gives the young people in my family an opportunity to learn about their culture -to know who they are and where they come from.”

For others, like Andres Gonzalez, 33 of South Gate, Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity for people of all cultures and walks of life to come together to learn about Mexican history.

“People forget that the city of L.A. was founded by Mexico — San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento- all kept the original names that were given to them when they were part of Mexico,” said Gonzalez. “People forget that not all Latinos are immigrants and that they were here when the south west states became part of the U.S.”

Fabiola Galvan Torres, 23, who was born in Michoacan, Mexico and now lives in Canoga Park, says the holiday makes her feel American.

“I feel like now it’s more of a Mexican-American holiday,” she said. “I think it’s great because it brings everyone together not just Mexicans but it has become like St. Patrick’s Day.”