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ArtCenter Collaborates with Local Native American Tribe While Constructing New Facility in Pasadena

Published on Sunday, November 20, 2022 | 5:57 am
 

The demolition and excavation of the 908 Shops facility at ArtCenter College of Design was monitored by representatives from the Gabrieleño Native American tribe, a California Indian tribe also known as the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians-Kizh Nation. [© ArtCenter College of Design/Juan Posada.]
908 Shops, a new ArtCenter College of Design facility projected to be completed in the fall of 2023, will provide students with a cornucopia of state-of-the-art fabrication tools in the South Campus property at 908 S. Raymond Ave., between California Blvd. and Glenarm St., in Pasadena. 

Since the 908 Shops construction site is located on the historical lands of the Gabrieleño Native American tribe, ArtCenter collaborated with the Gabrieleños, a California Indian tribe also known as the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians-Kizh Nation, to monitor excavation and protect any artifacts that might have been uncovered during construction. 

Rollin Homer, Vice President of Facilities and Campus Planning at ArtCenter said the design school connected with the tribe between 2014 and 2018 when it was developing its master plan. 

“When we started the project, we had reached back out to make sure that we had them on board with us,” Homer said, adding that it is part of the school’s culture to respect indigenous cultures. 

“We put a lot of effort into coordinating to make sure that we could preserve and protect anything that might have been found in this region,” Homer said. 

In a report published by the ArtCenter, Tribal Biologist Matthew Teutimez said, “We hope we don’t find any cultural resources during these ground disturbing activities but the benefit of having a Native monitor on site is being able to identify, discover and efficiently process anything that may be uncovered in a traditional and respectful way.” 

“We’re involved to protect these resources that both parties will benefit from,” Teutimez said, explaining the tribe’s role in the excavation process. “Our generation feels that this is our last chance to protect California’s tribal heritage. These are  the last remaining resources of the Gabrieleño people, which are older than the Roman, Greek, and even Egyptian cultures that we are taught about in school. That’s a major reason we are dedicated to work closely with ArtCenter.”

“We are the original indigenous people of the Los Angeles Basin,” added Chairman Andrew Salas in the report. “We continue to protect and preserve our indigenous and ancestral lands including our plants and animals because they too were given the breath of life.”

With the deep history of the site, Homer believes collaborating with the tribe was necessary as construction work for the project could have potentially led to the discovery of new artifacts.

“We know that there could have been a real chance of finding something out there. So we didn’t want to find ourselves in a position where we weren’t prepared to be able to honor their past and make sure that we preserve it with them,” he said. 

“Our goal was set out to say, how do we be the best partner with them and put in place the mechanisms that would allow others to follow suit,” added Homer.

As part of the collaboration, ArtCenter required contractors to bring in their crews, anybody dealing with anything related to the groundwork to go through a training set up by the tribe members themselves.

“As part of the training, they were showing the contractors what to look for, when to be able to stop work in order for them to take a closer look if something was found. So they’re heavily involved in all the excavation,” Homer said. 

According to him, the tribe has provided several documents that they had collected and put together over the years that outlined how their ancestry had used the area and where the artifacts might be located. 

“It was very interesting and collaborative. But we really had to rely on their history and their knowledge in order to help guide us,” he said. 

According to Homer, the work was 90 % done and no artifact has been unearthed yet since the excavation started. 

The 908 Shops will include a 5,000-square-foot mezzanine for instructional and lab classes while the ground floor will house industrial workspaces in which students will be able to produce works in any medium. 

Through 908 Shops’ expanded space both indoors and outdoors, students will soon be able to create larger class projects. 

Large-scale fine art structures, full-scale car models and furniture are a few examples of the work that will be easier to produce in the new space, according to ArtCenter.

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