The Coalition to Save The First Street Store and artists Don Juan aka Johnny D. González and David Botello are excited to announce that we have come to an agreement and are now working in partnership with Judy Burton, President & CEO of Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, and Eli Kennedy, President & CEO of Pacific Charter School Development, to preserve the entire FIRST STREET STORE MURAL ...WALL, titled "The Story of Our Struggle", as part of their new high school for the arts and media.
We thank Judy and Eli for agreeing to contract Melvyn Green as the lead structural engineer on this project, who was recommended by our attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley. Melvyn's many accomplishments in the area of Seismic Rehabilitation and Historic Preservation include the Golden Gate Bridge, Watts Towers and San Gabriel Mission. After seeing The First Street Store building, Melvyn confirmed that the entire mural wall could be preserved and conceived of the idea to showcase it as a FREE-STANDING MURAL WALL.
This inspired Don Juan/Johnny to create the attached Rough Concept Design Sketch of its Future Architectural Re-Design, titled PLAZA LA PRIMERA™, as the foundation for his long-term Community Revitalization Plan. In 1970, Don Juan/Johnny created the original architectural re-design and presented it to Bob Kemp, a Jewish Merchant and owner of The First Street Store. Bob believed in Don Juan/Johnny's vision to transform East L.A. through the creation of monuments, murals, architecture and other cultural public art.
Because of the East L.A. Chicano Moratorium and killing of LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar, Bob asked to hold onto Don Juan/Johnny's drawing. In 1973-74, Bob contracted architect Raymond Stockdale, AIA to construct Don Juan/Johnny's re-design and commissioned Don Juan/Johnny, together with David Botello and Robert Arenivar, to design its 18 ceramic tile panels that are integrated into the 100ft. mural wall.
On April 7, 1975, The First Street Store was featured in TIME Magazine, and, in 2011-12, in the Getty initiative "Pacific Standard Time"; thus, continuing to attract local, national and international media acclaim and tourists to view this community treasure. This Chicano/Jewish Legacy and PLAZA LA PRIMERA™ is the foundation for the revitalization of the First Street Corridor and serves as a memorial to Bob Kemp in honor of our beloved community of East Los Angeles.
The Artists and myself thank all of our supporters and our Coalition Core Team which includes: Marcello Vavala, Preservation Associate, Los Angeles Conservancy; Isabel Rojas-Williams, Executive Director, Mural Conservancy of L.A. (MCLA); Manuel Huerta, Survey Director, Eastside Heritage Consortium (EHC); Laura Dominguez, Research and Advocacy (EHC); Jazmin Garcia, Outreach and Administration (EHC); Ofelia Esparza, Muralist, Fine Artist and Owner Colibri Boutique; Susan Brandt-Hawley, Brandt-Hawley Law Group (CEQA Attorney); Eric Bjorgum, Karish & Bjorgum, PC (Copyright Attorney); and Melvyn Green, Structural Engineer, Melvyn Green & Associates, Inc.
Our special thanks to Judy Burton, Eli Kennedy, their attorneys Neal Millard and Alex DeGood, the L.A. County Department of Regional Planning and the Office of Supervisor Gloria Molina for working diligently with our Coalition Team to preserve this important historical landmark as part of the Alliance high school for the arts and media. Together we will be creating the foundation of a cultural center that will become a shining example of how people who come together can create positive change for all.
Stay tuned for ONGOING UPDATES! This is just the beginning!
With Sincere Appreciation,
Irma Beserra Núñez
Coalition Chair & Spokesperson
Educator & Archivist