HomeA South Los Angeles art gallery owner wrestles with gentrification

A South Los Angeles art gallery owner wrestles with gentrification

Terrell Telford loves to wander the streets around his art gallery, Band of Vices. With West Adams changing rapidly, a walk lets him check on his neighbors.

He’ll swap waves with the guys at Tak Collision, the auto shop across the street, or rap some time with the staff at Delicious Pizza in one block. He will arrive at Vees Café for his breakfast and browse the selection at the Adams Wine Shop.

Last month, Telford, 52, returned from a brisk walk to get milk when he stopped dead on his way. On one side of the bright pink Band of Vices building, someone spray painted – in large black letters: “What are all these white people -!!!”

The paint has not dried yet.

Some activists see it as Vanguards of infringement of improvementIn recent years, art galleries have become polarizing institutions in working-class neighborhoods from South Los Angeles to the East Side.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Telford said. “It felt like an instant attack.”

More so because, for years, his gallery has featured the work of local artists of color. Then there was the inescapable irony of the accusation drawn on the wall.

Not only did Telford grow up in West Adams, but he is a black man.

Visitors hear gallery owner Terrell Telford talk away from the camera.

Band of Vices visitors hear gallery owner Terrell Telford, off-camera, discussing the exhibition “C11H17NO3” featuring “Persuasion” by artist Edita Bachovich, during a talk this month.

(Ginaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

in a In West Adams, many residents have a story about a favorite business being replaced or a loved one being pushed into the Inland Empire or Texas. They wonder when it will be their turn.

Shocked by the vandalism, Telford He entered his gallery and sat for a moment collecting his thoughts.

“I just tried to address it. I was really trying to tap into the psyche of who it could be,” he said. “I can’t tell you if it’s a white, black or brown person because everyone has a different relationship to what happens in the neighborhood. And we’re all involved at some level of it.”


In recent years, trendy restaurants and stores have opened along West Adams Boulevard. A band of Vices sitting in a building with Alta, a fine restaurant “Cali soul food” and Adams wine shopBoth opened in 2018. Delicious Pizza arrived in 2015 and four years later, in 2019, saw the arrival of Mizlala, a Mediterranean grill.

Alongside the Tilford Art Gallery, an unusual collection of works has been created in the working-class South Los Angeles neighborhood.

Over the past 10 years, median home values ​​have risen, too, from about $330,000 to about $1 million today, according to Zillow.

Melvin Marshall and Jasmine McNeill in Band of Physics.

Melvin Marshall, left, senior curator at Band of Vices and his partner, and Jasmine McNeill, curatorial director, speak this month in front of an artwork by Lauren Pierce.

(Ginaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

“People have definitely been priced in. Improving is a real thing,” said Zell Johnson, a real estate agent who lives and sells homes in West Adams. “I’ve been in West Adams for about 20 years and what I’ve seen in recent years is older people, black and Latino, selling to downsize. size or out of state.”

Johnson adds that most young families are looking to buy into West Adams. Most of those who can afford the asking price are white, he said.

“On the street where I live, a black couple recently moved,” Johnson said. “This is rare.”

said Laura Myers, a historian at West Adams Heritage Assn. , the original West Adams neighborhood was a small neighborhood located between Figueroa Street on the east and West Boulevard (east of Crenshaw Street) on the west. It was once the wealthiest area in the city, as it was home to railroad magnates and industrialists who built magnificent mansions.

These early residents left for Westside beginning in the 2000s, making way for wealthy black buyers. By the 1940s, the area was called “Sugar Hill” and was home to the likes of Hattie McDaniel, the first black American to win an Academy Award, and boxer Joe Louis.

It maintained its reputation as a black neighborhood of the affluent in the 1960s, when the Santa Monica Highway cut through the neighborhood—destroying dozens of homes in the process. Since then, what is known as West Adams has extended south down Interstate 10 to include areas previously cut off by the highway.

Photographer Clifford King, in front of a piece by Tommy Mitchell.

Photographer Clifford King, in front of Tommy Mitchell’s artwork “Flowers from My Garden”, attends a lecture at the Band of Physics art gallery in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.

(Ginaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Today, it is surrounded by Jefferson Park and Leimert Park to the east, Culver City to the west, Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw to the south and Mid-City to the north. It’s a diverse, working-class neighborhood where Latinos make up more than half of the population. The black population now makes up just under 40% of West Adams.

Development plans for the region have rebounded, regardless of concerns and tension. Bicycle lanes are coming To the two-mile stretch of Adams Boulevard between Fairfax Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard. Developer CIM Group also has Dozens of projects are underway in West Adams, including office, hotel and apartment buildings.

“If you look at the history of this entire region, you will find that it changes almost every decade,” Myers said. “The current changes are happening very quickly.”

Yolanda Davis-Overstreet, Vice President of West Adams Neighborhood CouncilShe lives with her 98-year-old mother in a house her parents bought in 1960. She doesn’t condone vandalism. She supports the “gang of vices”. But she saw how people ended up beating the specter of gentrification.

“People are frustrated. People are shocked,” she said. “These kind of things are people who act seriously because no one sees them.”

The Band of Vices is located in the heart of what appears to be the new West Adams. Telford longs to be present in the neighborhood, but risks backlash from residents who see any renovation as a step toward alienation.

What happened to his work made him think about people’s fears. But it also made him angry.

Terrell Telford, right, owner of the Band of Vices Art Gallery, giving a lecture.

Terrell Telford, right, owner of Band of Vices Art Gallery, gives a talk on “C11H17NO3,” a large-scale group exhibition featuring the work of 26 contemporary artists.

(Ginaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

“People are afraid of what they don’t know and may not necessarily have the tools to answer their questions. What is this? Big pink building? “Yeah, if you’ve never been inside before, you don’t know. But once you get in, I hope you feel at home.”


The most ferocious protests recently began in Los Angeles over art galleries and gentrification about six years ago in Boyle Heights.

Activists protested 11 art galleries In that neighborhood, they view them as a kind of Trojan horse for a larger wave of change that could drive out working poor families. Activists insisted that what the neighborhood needed was affordable housing and services such as groceries and laundries. In one case, someone sprayed the words “white art” on a gallery door.

The protesters were as ruthless as they were hardened – and their tactics worked: galleries moved away or closed.

Eva Cimento was there.

Her venue, Chimento Contemporary, opened in Boyle Heights in 2015 and was one of the goals.

protesters Follow it to West AdamsWhere Chimento Contemporary Transfer in 2018, and didn’t stop until the gallery closed last year. In the end, the victim was not a struggling activist but from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the experience troubled her. It was painful,” Chimento said.

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After a lot of thinking about how to be in neighborhoods like West Adams responsibly, I made the decision to join the team at Band of Vices, becoming art gallery director.

“I have learned from the experiences I have had. I have also learned … what it means to work in the art world,” she said. “I’ve learned that community is very important and that’s why I’m here at Band of Vices, because it’s really for this community and for it.”

Telford grew up between his father’s home near 9th Avenue and Adams Boulevard and his mother’s on Washington Boulevard.

“I remember when Crips and Dams were fighting with the Harpies, a Mexican gang,” Telford said. I grew up in this neighborhood. I’ve seen the change.”

He left for UC Berkeley and then Rutgers University, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater.

Telford became an actor, and has appeared on a number of TV shows over the years, including “Days of Our Lives” “Soul Food” and “Single Ladies”. His success has allowed him to amass a large collection of contemporary and modern art.

“It just became a business,” Telford said. “I never prepared for that, but I wanted to help support visual artists in the same way that people support me as an actor.”

His first gallery, the Tilford Art Group, opened in 1999 in New York. It was closed in 2010 when it returned to Los Angeles. Telford renamed the operation the Band of Vices and set up shop first in the village of Picfair on the streets of Picot and Hauser in 2015. Gallery It moved next to a smaller space across the street from its current location in 2018.

“I like being off the beaten path and in a place where we, black and brown, can get to and where we feel comfortable,” he said.

The Band of Vices moved to their current location — a 4,800-square-foot building with 14-foot ceilings — earlier this year. Telford decided to paint the outer gum pink.

It was a stab against stereotypes.

“People of color are always seen as united and strong,” he said. “But we’re also kind, loving, and compassionate. That’s what I want this space to show.”

Terrell Telford, left, owner of Band of Vices Art Gallery

Terrell Telford, left, owner of Band of Vices Art Gallery, stands near Patrick Henry Johnson’s artwork “Black Girl Magic: Shani Hula Hooping on the Beach while Changing the Cosmos to Shrooms!” in West Adams.

(Ginaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

West Adams is home to a number of galleries. Band of Vices is one of two owned by a person of color – and the only one operated by someone from the neighborhood.

After the shock of vandalism wore off, Telford thought of a response.

“I wanted to paint the word ‘We Black’ over the letter, but that would only encourage conversation on our walls,” he said.

Instead, he simply painted over the graffiti. Since then, Telford has tried to dismiss what happened as a traffic light. But he gets nervous when he talks about it.

“I am a black person,” he said. “If there is anything, I do plastic surgery and I’m a grown-up. My existence is my activity. The black-owned art gallery in this neighborhood is my activity.”