Education, Arts & Culture

Providing Relief to the Korean American Community During COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stood with business leaders in Koreatown to announce new measures to help both business leaders, employees, and consumers across Los Angeles County. Among the new services, now open is the LA County Business and Worker Disaster Help Center – a new centralized call center and website providing free, one-on-one counseling and support for business owners and workers who have been adversely affected by the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas visits Koreatown. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

“Small businesses are facing serious financial distress and disruption during this time, and we want them to know they can rely on the County to be an effective leader and service provider as we help our business owners and workers navigate this crisis. The Help Center will not only help them to connect to resources but position our communities for recovery,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The announcement was made during a press event at the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles where Korean-language media was able to hear directly from LA County policy experts about COVID-19 mitigation and containment strategies being implemented – providing much needed information on resources available to small businesses impacted by this unprecedented crisis.

“On behalf of the entire Korean American community, I applaud Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for the creation of a Korean language hotline at the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to provide vital resources to our small business community,” commented  Korean American Federation of Los Angeles (KAFLA) President Laura Jeon., Ph.D.

LA County Department of Public Health Representative and Nurse Manager Mei Lien Chu delivers her findings during Korean Press Conference

In addition to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ COVID-19 updates, Korean American Federation of Los Angeles Chairman James Ahn, LA County Department of Public Health Representative and Nurse Manager Mei Lien Chu, and LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) Director Joseph M. Nicchitta, spoke about the recent County and City “Safer-At-Home” guidelines and provided technical assistance and resources for small businesses whose business will be substantially impacted by COVID-19.

DCBA Director Joseph M. Nicchitta talks about COVID-19 during Korean Press Conference. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

DCBA Director Joseph M. Nicchitta said, “We recognize that every person in the County is dealing with their own unique circumstances due to the coronavirus emergency, and the County is rising to meet that challenge. DCBA is proud to lead a coalition of departments and agencies to help improve the lives of business owners and workers in our communities.”

The Help Center will assist businesses in determining the applicability of public health orders and access governmental resources, including recent relief packages from the state and federal governments. For individuals, the Help Center will assist with filing unemployment insurance claims, finding employment opportunities, and discovering available County resources. “They can now turn to one dedicated place for assistance,” said Nicchitta.

To ensure the most efficient services possible, the Help Center will enact a live call center with DCBA, Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, and volunteer staff from other departments to assist business owners and workers.

Its hours of operation will be open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and will provide assistance in six primary languages including: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, and Armenian.

For more information, please contact the Help Center (833) 238-4450, email: disasterhelpcenter@lacounty.gov or visit dcba.lacounty.gov.

 

 

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Supervisor Honors Korean American Artist Suzy Taekyung Kim

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles hosted a press conference and personalized meet and greet for the local Koreatown community. Suzy Taekyung Kim was recently awarded with a major grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture for a unique public art project that will welcome visitors to a new 21-story County building currently under construction in Koreatown.

“I am extremely honored to be recognized today. I am overwhelmed from receiving so much support and encouragement. I am grateful to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for this opportunity,” commented Suzy Taekyung Kim.

This new building will serve as headquarters for the Los Angeles County Departments of Mental Health and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services. The lobby, where Suzy Taekyung Kim’s artwork will be showcased, will host a peer resource center and walk-in mental health services, utilizing a ground-floor clinic and office space. With access to the Metro Vermont/Wilshire Red Line Station, Los Angeles County residents will be able to access an array of mental health services. The civic art project, entitled Canopy of Blooms uses a base layer of old Korean script which will be sealed and covered by flowers from Koreatown, embracing the fragility and strength of those who will pass through the future lobby.

“For me, this civic art project is a matter of revitalization, investment, and putting something good back into the community and city of Los Angeles. This project is not just about land usage – but about entrepreneurship, fairness and uplifting a culture,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“DMH embraces creativity and creative expression as platforms for healing so we are grateful for this artwork, heart forward,” said LA County Department of Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin. “Its sheer creation and the energy it brings to our clients, staff and space will inspire hope, promote recovery and support wellbeing.”

Suzy Taekyung Kim was born in Daegu, South Korea. She is the recipient of several national and international awards including the Scholarship for North American Scholars. Her works can be found in a select number of private and corporate collections in Canada, Great Britain, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.  In 2016, she completed a permanent public art commission awarded from the New York City (NYC) Department of Cultural Affairs, Percent for Art Program in collaboration with the NYC School Construction Authority.

Canopy of Blooms is a multilayered painting that celebrates hope and healing. Situated in the grand lobby of the Vermont Corridor Building, this 53 x 10-foot artwork is at the entry point of the Department of Mental Health and Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services and warmly welcomes all. The painting reflects the unique identity of Koreatown through the analogy of an infinity loop of blooming motifs native to Los Angeles County. This artwork celebrates multi-generational life stories through the metaphor of natural elements. Throughout the artwork, the cascading waterfall background gradually changes colors mirroring the changing seasons. The imagery starts as a bubbling seed of dreams that become buds of growth, twisting vines, blooming flowers, and, finally, fallen petals and foliage. This change is rhythmic with improvisational elements forming an infinity loop, symbolizing the endless cycle of life. Conceived by Suzy Taekyung Kim, the painting highlights life’s journey through the metaphor of nature’s birth, growth, and death.

“The Department of Arts and Culture’s Civic Art Division integrates art and design in the development of high-quality civic spaces that reflect the diversity of Los Angeles County,” said Director Kristin Sakoda. “We are pleased to announce the selection of Suzy Taekyung Kim for her plan of strong public engagement and her connection between arts and community at this important facility.”

(Left to right): LA County DMH Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin, Korean American Federation of Los Angeles Chairman James Ahn, LA County Departments of Arts and Culture Director Kristin Sakoda, Artist Suzy Taekyung Kim, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Korean American Federation of Los Angeles President Dr. Laura Jeon, Trammell Crow Company Managing Director Greg Ames

Board of Supervisors Elevates Arts as a Justice Reform Strategy

An incarcerated student paints the transformation of a butterfly. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture’s “Countywide Plan for Elevating the Arts as a Criminal Justice Reform Strategy,” furthering the transition of LA County’s justice system from a punishment-based model to one that embraces trauma-informed and healing-centered approaches.

“Research shows us that the best outcomes for decreasing justice system involvement are achieved through individual and community development efforts, along with opportunities for job placement. These strategies also tend to be much more cost-effective than long-term custody and care,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lead author of the motion that directed the development of the plan. “The Department of Arts and Culture has an ambitious strategy to not only help individuals re-enter society after their time in the justice system, but to prevent system involvement in the first place.”

The new plan guides the development of countywide infrastructure that expands arts-based programs and services to those impacted—or at risk of becoming impacted—by the justice system. Its core components focus on prevention, community development, diversion, custodial care, and re-entry strategies. The plan directs the LA County Department of Arts and Culture (Department) and Chief Executive Office to assess resources for implementation.

“Arts-based strategies have already shown a wonderful ability to foster resiliency and positive self-images in young people,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, co-author of the motion. “As the County embraces more rehabilitative and trauma-informed practices in our juvenile system, we recognize that it’s important to incorporate innovative arts strategies. As the poet Thomas Merton wrote, ‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.’ Let the healing begin!”

The arts also play a unique role in connection to community. In the criminal justice context, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals suffer additional trauma and isolation as a result of societal stigma. Engaging with arts bring forward the stories, experiences, and emotions of those affected by the justice system to be heard, felt, and embraced by the broader community.

“Arts and culture have the power to promote positive narrative change and connect us to our humanity and the humanity of others,” said Department of Arts and Culture Director Kristin Sakoda. “By investing in justice-impacted youth, individuals, and communities as part of alternatives to incarceration, arts and culture can play a meaningful role in helping the County enhance our systems of care, and build safer, healthier, and more equitable communities.”

Starting in 2014, the Department of Arts and Culture (then the LA County Arts Commission) has partnered with community-based organizations, the Los Angeles County Probation Department, and other County agencies to pilot provide arts-based services for incarcerated and at-risk youth. This work expanded in 2018, when the agency was awarded a one-year, $750,000 grant from the Art for Justice Fund to build support for youth involved or at risk of becoming involved with the LA County juvenile justice system.

“In our cross-sector collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture, our staff has been trained in arts-based interventions, and we have been able to bring transformation and access to creative career pathways to County juvenile facilities. We are incredibly proud of the work,” said Department of Probation Interim Chief Probation Officer Ray Leyva.

In December 2018, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl advanced a motion, “Investing in Justice Involved Individuals Through the Arts,” which called on the Department of Arts and Culture to create a Countywide plan to elevate the arts as a criminal justice reform strategy. The Department submitted the plan in September 2019. It advances the Department’s work even further—the new plan supports not just young people, but youth, families, and adults touched by County criminal justice systems. It sets out five goals, including establishing Countywide leadership and coordination of arts-based strategies; expanding prevention strategies; strengthening and sustaining support for justice-involved youth and their families; supporting justice-involved adults; and expanding external partnerships.

Supervisor Honors Entertainment Pioneers For Women’s History Month

(Left to Right) Vanessa Bell Calloway, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Kym Whitley. All photos by Aurelia Ventura  / Board of Supervisors

With 2020 being designated as the year of the woman, this year’s Women’s History Month program brought together women pioneers in the entertainment business. In celebration of the accomplishment and contributions of women in history, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrated 2 extraordinary individuals. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors presented scrolls to Comedian and Actress, Kym Whitley; and legendary Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway.

“This month we honor the voices of the past, present, and future. Without the heroic actions of many, we certainly would not be where we are today,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

The recognition is part of the Second District’s Women’s History Month Celebration honoring Los Angeles County residents who have made outstanding contributions to the arts and entertainment industry. They include:

(Left to Right) Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Kym Whitley

Kym Whitley is an actress, comedian, director, producer; entrepreneur, and arts advocate. Born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio; Whitley got her big break starring in Shelly Garrett’s popular play Beauty Shop. Since then, Whitley has gone on to receive notable roles in major hit series such as; The Parkers, Moesha, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Raising Whitley and Young and Hungry. In addition to all her work as an entertainer, Kym is a dedicated activist. Her ‘Don’t Feed Me’ campaign, dedicated to her son, is a project dedicated to raising awareness about food allergies for children and adults. Finally, Kym holds an honorary doctorate from UVA — Lynchburg and serves on the boards of both The Jefferson Homes Adoption & Foster Home and The Special Needs Network.

(Left to Right) Vanessa Bell Calloway and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas

Breaking barriers in the entertainment industry, Vanessa Bell Calloway has graced the stage and screen as a television actress and professional dancer. Widely recognized for her critically acclaimed role as Zora Neale Hurston in Letters From Zora. She continued to make her mark in Hollywood by appearing in box office smashes such as; South Side With You, Coming to America, What’s Love Got to Do with, Biker Boyz, Love Don’t Cost A Thing and Cheaper By The Dozen. Vanessa is also a director, producer, and creator. She directed the first episode of her hit series “Saints and Sinners.” When she is not acting, the entertainer can be found spending time with her loving husband Dr. Anthony Calloway and daughters Ashley and Alexandra.

“Many women in history have broken barriers, changed laws and orchestrated some of the most powerful movements in history. They have paved the way so that we and generations to come will have a bright and triumphant future,” commented Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Korean American Artist Awarded Major Grant for Innovative Public Art Project in Koreatown

Artist Suzy Taekyung Kim. Photo by Costas Picadas

Korean American Artist Suzy Taekyung Kim was awarded $165,000 from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture for a unique public art project that will welcome visitors to a new 21-story building coming to Koreatown.

This new building will serve as headquarters for the Los Angeles County Departments of Mental Health and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services. The lobby where Suzy Taekyung Kim’s artwork will be showcased, will host a peer resource center and walk-in mental health services, utilizing a ground-floor clinic and office space. With access to the Metro Vermont/Wilshire Red Line Station, Los Angeles County residents will be able to access an array of mental health services.

The civic art project, entitled Canopy of Blooms uses a base layer of old Korean script which will be sealed and covered by flowers from Koreatown, embracing the fragility and strength of those who will pass through the future lobby.

“This civic art project represents our commitment to supporting Korean American artists, as we work to revitalize the communities that are home to the County facilities and services,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas whose office was actively involved in the selection panel.  “This unique work of art will be seen by thousands of local residents as County staff help deliver vital services – from prevention to recovery – and assist clients to take the first steps on a journey toward healing and self-sufficiency.”

“The Department of Arts and Culture’s Civic Art Division integrates art and design in the development of high-quality civic spaces that reflect the diversity of  Los Angeles County,” said Director Kristin Sakoda. “We are pleased to announce the selection of Suzy Taekyung Kim for her plan of strong public engagement and her connection between arts and community at this important facility.”  

Collage by Suzy Taekyung Kim featuring 1910-25 South Vermont Ave in the Wilshire Center district along with a family picture.

Canopy of Blooms is a multilayered painting that celebrates hope and healing. Situated in the grand lobby of the Vermont Corridor Building, this 53 x 10-foot artwork is at the entry point of the Department of Mental Health and Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services and warmly welcomes all. The painting reflects the unique identity of Koreatown through the analogy of an infinity loop of blooming motifs native to Los Angeles County. This artwork celebrates multi-generational life stories through the metaphor of natural elements. Throughout the artwork, the cascading waterfall background gradually changes colors mirroring the changing seasons. The imagery starts as a bubbling seed of dreams that become buds of growth, twisting vines, blooming flowers, and, finally, fallen petals and foliage. This change is rhythmic with improvisational elements forming an infinity loop, symbolizing the endless cycle of life. Conceived by Suzy Taekyung Kim, the painting highlights life’s journey through the metaphor of nature’s birth, growth, and death.

Suzy Taekyung Kim was born in Daegu, South Korea. She is the recipient of several national and international awards including the Scholarship for North American Scholars. Her works can be found in a select number of private and corporate collections in Canada, Great Britain, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.  In 2016, she completed a permanent public art commission awarded from the New York City (NYC) Department of Cultural Affairs, Percent for Art Program in collaboration with the NYC School Construction Authority.

“It is my honor to be part of the Vermont Corridor Building Project which not only serves Los Angeles County but also the entire community of Koreatown.  As a Korean-American immigrant, I connect with the unique resilient identity of Koreatown,” said Suzy Taekyung Kim. “I sincerely hope that anyone who views my multi-layered painting entitled Canopy of Blooms will experience a magical journey of contemplation and healing.”

In addition to the new County Administrative Office Building, future phases of the Vermont Corridor Project will include a 72-unit affordable housing development and supportive services reserved for seniors with limited means and formerly homeless seniors, as well as market-rate housing in Koreatown.

Concept rendering of Soffit Wall at 510 South Vermont entrance.