Historic Filipinotown is Los Angeles’s most comprehensive outdoor art gallery. On Saturday, August 27, “Hidden Hi Fi: Art Alleys Celebration”, co-presented by de LaB, Gabba Gallery, and Hidden Hi Fi, celebrates the neighborhood’s culture and the works of more than 80 artists who transformed alleys, buildings, and parking lots. The LA Forum spoke to Hidden Hi Fi’s Reanne Estrada about the heritage of this vibrant community.
What unique aspects of Hi Fi do you think are currently “hidden” and could be more celebrated?
Hi Fi, short for Historic Filipinotown, is one of those Los Angeles neighborhoods whose personality is not immediately legible. Designated in 2002, Historic Filipinotown has few cultural or physical markers to indicate the ethnic identity its name implies, compared to nearby K-Town or Chinatown. But a closer look at Hi Fi’s 2.1 square miles yields robust, multifaceted narratives that reveal the historic and ongoing contributions of Filipinos/Filipino-Americans to Los Angeles and their place in the larger context of the Angeleno immigrant experience. That, I think, is worth celebrating.
How did the Jeepney project come about?
Hidden Hi Fi is an arts, culture and equitable development project by Public Matters, a social enterprise, and the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), one of Hi Fi’s anchor organizations. Hidden Hi Fi illuminates the neighborhood through interactive events, tours and experiences that inform, delight, and surprise, offering a vibrant dose of Los Angeles Filipino/Filipino-American flavor. Our vintage jeepney is our antidote to the low-visibility of Historic Filipinotown. After World War II, Americans left behind these military transport vehicles in the Philippines. Resourceful Filipinos transformed them into colorful, low-cost forms of public transit-jeepneys. There are only a handful of street-legal jeepneys in the U.S.; one of them is Hi Fi’s unofficial automotive ambassador.
How did the art alleys develop?
Back in 2014, Hi Fi’s Gabba Gallery owner Jason Ostro responded to the graffiti and trash in the neighborhood with a vision of turning “blight to bright.” From his first mural, a collaboration with street artist Andrea LaHue (aka Random Act), the project has blossomed to include 110 murals by 85 local and international artists. The body of artworks-the city’s most comprehensive outdoor art gallery-is constantly evolving, spreading to other walls, adding layer-upon-layer. It embraces and embodies the dynamic and constantly shifting nature of neighborhoods.