During the Spring semester of 2019, community members from Highland Park shared their histories and personal journeys with Occidental College students from Professor Dr. Jeremiah Axelrod’s course “Countercultural Northeast LA: the Arts of Resistance”. The completed interviews were digitized, archived and available online. These interviews are the first in NELA Stories: an ongoing program of community story collection and archiving to be housed at Occidental College.
These personal stories are at the heart of Compass Rose, an exhibition by artist and Highland Park resident Debra Scacco. The exhibition utilizes these interviews in tandem with the historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas (1867 - 1977) to create a new kind of map: one built by the stories generously contributed by community members. Compass Rose deconstructs the map of Northeast Los Angeles, transforming a historic set of lines into a series of unfolding stories. Compass Rose proposes a contemporary cartographic rewrite. One which does not compress, but expands. One which does not dictate, but invites. One in which the map is made by stories, not the other way around.
Compass Rose is a collaboration between OXY ARTS, the Institute for the Study of Los Angeles, the Center for Digital Liberal Arts, the Occidental College Library Special Collections & College Archives, Occidental students and members of the community in Northeast Los Angeles.
The interview archives presented on the iPads in the gallery can be found Oxy's Scalar website.
In addition to living in Highland Park, Debra Scacco's studio was once located at 4755 York Blvd: the same building that is now the OXY ARTS complex. Her personal relationship with the space makes this one of the most meaningful projects she has embarked on.