This week a major organization dedicated to Black art announced its marquee park in Los Angeles’s Crenshaw neighborhood will open later this year.
Designed by Perkins&Will, Sankofa Park will feature works by Charles Dickson, Maren Hassinger, Artis Lane, and Kehinde Wiley installed along and beside a winding, raised path in the middle of Crenshaw Boulevard. From the top of the path, visitors can take in views of the surrounding area and learn about the community though interpretive displays and specially-commissioned sculpture. Landscape architect Studio-MLA is working with Perkins&Will on the project’s green spaces.
The median sculpture garden is part of a $100 million Black L.A. placemaking initiative led by Destination Crenshaw, a nonprofit that’s remaking 1.3 miles of the eponymous roadway into a destination for Black art and culture, as well as Black-owned businesses.
Beyond Sankofa Park, the Destination Crenshaw streetscape design was influenced by the scripture-derived idea of “Grow Where You’re Planted.” Formally, the design takes cues from the rhizomes of giant star grass, a resilient plant whose leaves were used as bedding on slave ships in the Middle Passage.
In the months after Sankofa Park’s opening, the Destination Crenshaw team will oversee the painting of murals by Patrick Henry Johnson, Anthony “Toons One” Martin, and Kissai Ramsess, among others, and install sculpture by Melvin Edwards, Alison Saar, and Brenna Youngblood. The art and parks parallel the path of the under-construction Crenshaw/LAX light rail extension.
“This is not just a passion project for Perkins&Will but rather one that reinforces our focus on just and equitable design,” said Gabrielle Bullock, director of global diversity at Perkins&Will, in a press release. “It emerged from a very intensive and intentional community engagement process, which resulted in an authentic design created with the community. It has reinforced our social impact ethos as a design practice. We look forward immensely to seeing the community claim it as their own.”
The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Federal Community Project Funding, and The Getty Foundation, are just three of the institutions the have contributed to the project. Other funds have come from individual donors and bundlers like the Sankofa Circle support group. Led by actor Issa Rae and and basketball star DeMar DeRozan, the group raised $2.4 million for the Sankofa Park portion of the project.
“Since we broke ground in February 2020, Destination Crenshaw has continued to grow in scope and ambition,” Destination Crenshaw President and COO Jason W. Foster said in a news release. “Responding to our community, we have been supporting Black-owned businesses and hiring local workers, resisting the erasure of Black culture, and designing a vibrant, green urban corridor that, when completed, will be bursting with storytelling and magnificent public artworks. We are doing all this in celebration of the history, heritage, and creativity of Black L.A., so I’m thrilled to announce that the jewel in the crown of this project will soon be done. We look forward to welcoming the world to Destination Crenshaw in fall 2023 and to its beautiful new gathering place at Sankofa Park.”
When it’s complete in 2027, Destination Crenshaw will have collaborated with over 100 artists for works up and down the boulevard.