Episode 31: Erick Arguello, Rachel Lastimosa, & Tommy Wong


Episode 31: Erick Arguello, Rachel Lastimosa, & Tommy Wong

By Weston Teruya May 23, 2018

Weston Teruya welcomes artists, arts administrators, and cultural workers of color to get real about their lives, practices, and careers. Each episode is an in-depth look into how art gets made, but more importantly how these folks are seeing to the system of art’s (UN)making.

We’ve got a supersized discussion this episode as we talk with three Bay Area cultural organizers who are helping to build resilient local neighborhoods that are grounded in communities of color: Erick Arguello from Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, Rachel Lastimosa of SOMA Pilipinas - the Filipino Cultural Heritage District, and Tommy Wong of the Oakland Chinatown Improvement Initiative. This panel, Keeping Our Space: Organizing Cultural Districts in the Bay Area, was recorded live at the Bayanihan Community Center in the heart of SOMA Pilipinas in early April as the final event in Art Practical’s Process + Practice + Progress series.

The Bay Area continues to feel the impact of predatory development and policies that structurally benefit wealthy corporations and their workers over lower-income residents. Within the arts community, there is often frustration that the very sector that generates the atmosphere that draws in the self-described innovators of the new creative industry, now struggles to hold on to their place in the increasingly unaffordable cities they helped to shape. This tension is heightened in cultural communities anchored by people of color and queer folks, whose work is not always legible in arts discourses, and can therefore be overlooked in arts policy or advocacy efforts. Self-organized cultural districts have risen in recent years as a legislative mechanism to give folks mobilizing those communities leverage in collectively engaging with (and holding accountable) governmental agencies, developers, and larger institutions. Some of these neighborhoods are a reclamation of historic enclaves that were created through physical, legal, and economic violences that constrained people to certain areas within cities. Others are spaces that have to be continuously asserted because urban redevelopment (and its offshoots) continuously threaten to wash them away.

In the course of our conversation, we talk about the history and context for the organizing happening in each neighborhood—what this means legislatively and culturally; the stakes of this work; and how communities are evolving and what it means to hold space to welcome in other people.


Erick Arguello is the co-founder and President of Calle 24. He is a longtime Mission neighborhood activist and Program Coordinator with AGUILAS.

Rachel Lastimosa is the Arts & Culture Administrator of SOMA Pilipinas. She is also a composer and musician who performs with indy/soul/r&b band, Dirty Boots.

Tommy Wong organizes the Oakland Chinatown Improvement Initiative. He is also a core member of Eastside Arts Alliance and co-founder of Civic Design Studio.

Subscribe to Art Practical on iTunes to catch (un)making as soon as it publishes, or look for it here every other Friday! #APaudio

This episode is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.

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