Art Auction to Benefit Restorations for L.A. Church with Ties to Chicano History, Classic Architecture

August 8, 2014 by No Comments

Artists in Los Angeles are gathering for an auction to support the Church of the Epiphany, which has significant ties to the Chicano movement in California.

The church is considered a landmark in Los Angeles, especially in Lincoln Heights, the residential neighborhood that houses L.A.’s oldest continuously used Episcopal church.

The church dates back to 1886 and has been used for religious services, weddings, community meetings and events. It has also evolved with the community around, going from a predominantly white area decades ago to a center for Mexican immigrants in the area.

The church also has political ties: more recently, Cesar Chavez has given talks at the church, and organizers for Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign used the church, too. It’s also been a hub for activism, from planning for the 1968 school East L.A. high school walkouts to the 1970 anti-Vietnam War protests by the Chicano Moratorium.

Today, Church of the Epiphany continues to serve the community through SAT tutoring, a food bank, arts and dance programs and health services.

But today, the church is finally showing signs of aging: the heating and cooling systems have stopped working, the historic pipe organ and stained glass need repair and the building needs seismic upgrades to withstand earthquakes. Stained glass is itself a work of art, as it adds value to homes and houses of worship alike; however, it can also require routine repairs to restore its unique appearance.

Now artists and others are coming together to support the Epiphany Conservation Trust, an organization created to help restore the church, through a benefit auction and other services.

The auction will feature work from three dozen high-profile artists and will be held through August 23 to raise money for the church’s restoration. The artworks were chosen by Emi Fontana, director of West of Rome, an arts non-profit organization, and Rita Gonzalez, contemporary art curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The value of the art to be auctioned is estimated at around $100,000. If it goes well, the church will be closer to its $1.2 million goal to complete the build’s renovations.

This is the second benefit that has been held for the church. The first was in 2011 and earned the church $50,000 to go toward restorations.

The restorations will be completed by Escher GuneWardena, an L.A. architecture firm. The firm has previously completed work on the Eames House in Pacific Palisades and the Chemosphere, a spaceship-like home designed in 1960 by John Lautner.

The church itself was design by Ernest Coxhead, who also designed the Church of the Angels in Pasadena. Its architecture is a blend of Mission-style and Romanesque influences.

Frank Escher, a co-founder of the firm, said that they normally handle mid-century buildings, but of Church of the Epiphany, he said, “It’s an extraordinary piece of architecture and it’s practicially in its original condition.”

Perhaps more important than the historical ties, however, is the connection the Church of the Epiphany has with community members.

The church’s vicar, Father Tom Carey, explained that the importance of maintaining the church was that it’s a part of “living history”: “The reason landmarks are important is because they remind us of who we are. They remind us of people in this country who demanded their rights. It reminds us of who we are as a nation.”

The auction will begin on Saturday, August 9 and run through August 23. The works can be seen on auction website Paddle8 in the meantime, where bids can also be placed.

On August 16, the art will be put on view from 5 to 7 p.m. at Epiphany’s Parish Hall.

This is a change from the last auction, which was held in Culver City. Gonzalez explained that this year the group wanted to display the art at the church because it is such a “special space.”

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