From Novice Artists to Papier Mache Master Sculptors, Self Help Sparks Creativity for Eastside Couple Affected by Gentrification


Norma Coronado and her husband Edgar Coronado, have been dedicated supporters  of Self-Help Graphics for over 15 years. They recently sat with us to share their stories and how they have found inspiration, love, and connection through their involvement with the organization. Norma and her family originally hail from Sinaloa, Mexico, where they were pushed out out of their homes due to Canadian mining corporations, crime, and drug trafficking. Her father eventually relocated in California, where Norma and the rest of her family would later settle as well. Since then, Norma has stayed very close to the Boyle Heights community as she spent much of her childhood visiting her relatives in the projects of East LA.

Norma, a day-time accountant, discovered SHG when she was looking for a way for her daughter to be immersed in her Mexican heritage. For many years, her 17-year old daughter used her strong art skills and the resources at Self Help Graphics to make sculptures and other forms of art for la Dia de los Muertos. Norma sees these activities as invaluable not only because they have instilled a sense of pride for a culture that she wants to see stay alive for the upcoming generations, but also because it has provided a tool of self-expression. “For me, Self Help Graphics gave me insight into my potential for creativity and my healing. It’s therapeutic to do art. It can be the unplug that you need from whatever stressful time you are going through. Self-expression I think is golden. To be able to find the means to express whatever you need to express and the space for that is invaluable,” said Norma.

Currently a resident of Torrance, Norma says she and her family have been living gentrification for most of her life, living through the effects of displacement. “Gentrification creates difficulty in life. The reason why I moved to Torrence, was the home that I rented was sold. I had 30 days to move, and I had to move during Christmas. Christmas, for us, is an important time and it was a very insensitive process.” Norma explained that she was fortunate to not be driven out of California like many people have, and that gentrification has been a big cause for displacement. “That’s where the real cry for justice is. That’s why people are upset. Because these people are really being forced out not just out of their neighborhoods, they’re being forced out eventually and potentially out of LA county. And that’s tough. You’re being displaced.” Norma shared that understands the frustrations that people may have towards thinking that Self-Help lends to gentrification, but that one needs to immerse themselves in the organization in order to see the positive role and impact it has played in individual lives.  

Edgar, a general contractor who did not get involved in art until his involvement with Self Help Graphics & Art, emphasized that Self Help Graphics has provided an important space for artists in the community for the past 45 years; and if the SHG’s space had not existed, with its support network and resources, it could be possible that many well-known artists today may not have been as popular or express as they do now without its influence in their lives. Self Help Graphics, moreover, has served as a arts cultural center at the intersection of social justice. It has been a space where artists engage with the community through printmaking and the arts about issues important to them, such as gentrification. SHG has even given space for young girls to advocate against patriarchal cultures. By “helping people express when they see something wrong,” Self Help Graphics ultimately serves as a medium to increase social justice within our community. Norma and Edgar hope that the community will see start to see that as well and perhaps, one day, experience the beauty they have felt since being an member of Self-Help Graphics.