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  • CRA/LA’S commitment to public art began over 40 years ago.
  • Over 200 art projects in 21 redevelopment project areas have been completed to date.
  • California Plaza developers met their art requirement by building a $23 million facility for the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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 \\Commonspot\internet-site\images\bullet1 Art Projects
Isamu Noguchi
To the Issei

Project Area: Little Tokyo
Project: Japanese American Cultural & Community Center
Project Location: 244 S. San Pedro Street
Project Type: CRA Initiated


Noguchi's "To the Issei" is a large brick plaza with two large sculptural centerpieces. Each sculptural element has a variety of textures carved onto the surface of the stone; and, one part is upright, while the other part is horizontal. Noguchi wanted the space to be a "piazza," serving a variety of community purposes "like a town square in Italy." Reflecting different moods, the plaza cannot be fully experienced in one visit. On quiet days, it appears stark and empty, a space to pass through and an enclave to rest in. But during the annual cycle of festival days, the plaza is a crowded outdoor urban theater hosting public events and activities that bind the community together.
Sculpture close-up
Overview Image of Plaza

Artist Profile

Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was born in Los Angeles.  He is most recognized for his large-scale politically and socially conscious public artwork.  In 1922, Noguchi enrolled at Columbia University as a pre-med student while simultaneously taking night classes at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School.  Within three months of his enrollment, Noguchi held his first exhibit and soon after dropped out of Columbia in order to pursue a career as a sculptor.  In 1926, the artist was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship despite the fact that he was three years short of the age requirement.  Noguchi’s first public artwork, History as Seen from Mexico in 1936, a 20-meter long relief mural for the Abelardo Rodriguez market in Mexico City, created a maelstrom of debate because it featured controversial symbols such as the Nazi swastika.  In the early 1940s, Noguchi volunteered to design parks and recreational areas to be incorporated in the Japanese American Interment Camps in California.  After several plans were presented to the War Relocation Authority, the artist realized they had no intention of implementing any of his designs.  Frustrated, Noguchi retreated back to New York, where he still retained residency, and was soon accused by the FBI of espionage due to his involvement with Nisei Writers and Artists for Democracy.  Today, numerous Noguchi public artworks can be seen across the globe including California Scenario, Costa Mesa; a sunken garden for Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, New Haven; Billy Rose Sculpture Garden, Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and a bridge for the Hiroshima Peace Park, Japan.