As statues of oppressors toppled around L.A., Meztli Projects emerged to uplift Indigenous artists. The organization, funded by a large donor and run by grassroots staff, has opened a new space: The Meztli Factory.
A few months ago, the organization had an exciting opportunity to transform a long-abandoned factory downtown into a space for artist community. Meztli Projects offered to pay for $4,000 in architectural consulting and engineering to create a new space for artists. Over the next year, they would be mentored by a full team of staff, and then receive $9,000 in seed funding from the L.A. City Council to turn their ideas into reality. But the Meztli Factory was not only a space for artists, but also a space for culture.
The Meztli Factory space is situated one floor below a garage, under a long, skinny, white, unfinished wooden building. It was built in the 1950s, when L.A. was a manufacturing center, which provided work for thousands of people. Many people — like, say, a bunch of sculptor types — were not only unemployed, but also unemployed long-term.
The space wasn’t quite right for what the group was planning. Meztli Projects wanted to create the perfect space for a multi-disciplinary arts organization, and they wanted to do it with their own hands. They wanted to save their money, but not their lives. So they hired an architect to redesign the space. They hired consultants like, say, a structural engineer to put walls in place and a roof on top of a warehouse space already devoid of anything except the concrete floors and walls of the city. They hired a designer and a producer to make a space for artists.
The problem: the idea was that Meztli Projects would never be able to afford to pay for this kind