A new public art installation has suddenly beautified a segment of Central Avenue in Little Tokyo. On the eve of the Nisei Week Parade in August, workers at twilight hung 20-some large banners around the construction site of the Metro Regional Connector Project.
“Little Tokyo: Snapshots Through Time” is a collaborative art installation of Community Arts Resources (CARS), Metro, and the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) whose goal is to educate viewers on the history of Little Tokyo, inform them that businesses are open during construction, and encourage visiting the 132-year-old neighborhood.
The banners, approximately six feet by ten feet, replaced mesh-green tarps on the corner of First Street and Central Avenue. The photos of Little Tokyo from 1907 to 2015 primarily come from the archives of Toyo Miyatake Studio, Visual Communications, and the LTHS.
“It started as a vague concept of part of the Go Little Tokyo marketing plan, but really came to life once we started meeting with and collaborating with Steve Nagano and Bill Watanabe at Little Tokyo Historical Society and mapped out the moments in the neighborhood’s history that were important to show,” says Midori Mizuhara of CARS. “Projects like this ‘Snapshots Through Time’ photo wall exhibit help turn normally unsightly construction infrastructure elements such as walls and fencing into something beautiful and educational to celebrate the community.
“As the neighborhood undergoes change, and gains connectivity through this massive transit project, this photo installation helps to remind the public of the incredibly rich history and heritage of this unique neighborhood.”
Go Little Tokyo is a multi-year Little Tokyo Community Council marketing effort that is supported by Metro as part of its Regional Connector Project construction mitigation fund. The marketing campaign is aimed at promoting local businesses and cultural/community institutions to a broad Southern California audience.
“The Little Tokyo Historical Society is a proud participant in this endeavor to educate people about Little Tokyo and to preserve its uniqueness and its specialness to Japanese Americans and to the wider community,” says Mike Okamura.
LTHS focuses on researching and discovering the historical resources, stories, and connections of sites, buildings, and events related to Little Tokyo as an ethnic heritage neighborhood. LTHS is committed to preserving and sharing the history and personal stories of Little Tokyo and its residents. For more information, visit www.littletokyohs.org.
Photos courtesy Little Tokyo Historical Society