Meet Lead Artist Yaneli Delgado
South Central Rooted Artivist Banner Project
Yaneli Delgado, a proud Mexican American born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. Four years later she graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara with a double major in Sociology and Spanish. She moved back to South Central L.A. and wanted to be a resource to students in the community. While she continued to work at her former high school and Nava College Prep Academy, she was inspired to go back to school. Delgado found her interests in Printmaking. She has done some silkscreen and linocuts in the past three years. She is currently at CSU Long Beach where she will be receiving her Art Education Credentials by Fall 2020. Her prints are influenced by many African American, Chicana/o, Mexican, Latin American muralists, and printmakers. She believes a printing press can be a powerful tool to the artist as he or she can send a powerful message with a touch of ink.
What neighborhood are you from? How has your neighborhood shaped your identity?
I was born and raised in South Central and I stay on the East Side. Some people have divided South Central into the East Side and West Side. The East Side starts from Figueroa and goes to Long Beach Avenue and the West Side is the area between Figueroa and Crenshaw. I live 2 - 3 blocks away from my former school Jefferson High. I’m proud to say that I’m still in the community.
Another thing I’m proud to share about my community is that a lot of famous and impactful people like Etta James and Nobel Laureate Ralph Bunch graduated from Jefferson High. Another important highlight from our community’s history is that the LA Chapter of the Black Panther Party Headquarters was on Central Ave near Jefferson High.
At first, I didn’t know about the Dunbar Hotel which is a block away from the former Los Angeles Black Panther Party Headquarters. Then I found out that the hotel was started by two African American doctors who felt it was important for the community to have a hotel for the African American population.The hotel isn’t the same, but the fact that the original sign is still there is important. Those little things and historical landmarks in our community make it significant for me. That history is a part of my identity. I became more involved with social issues because of these landmarks.This history makes my neighborhood significant to me. I love seeing the Black and Brown communities uniting and sharing culture.
When did art become an integral part of your life?
It took me a while to embrace the term artist because I had an on and off relationship with art. I would paint or draw and then stop. I would go back to it months later and sometimes years later. It wasn’t until high school when I took Advanced Painting with my current mentor who was my art teacher at Jefferson. He made a big impact on my life as an artist. He incorporated ethnic studies into our art classes and that’s when I started getting more involved with art and social issues.
I would watch him paint in class while we were working on our projects and it inspired me to keep myself informed. Being able to share history and knowledge through art made me want to share that with other people. I started helping him with small murals here and there. I learned a lot from him. Then I started off drawing and painting again. Four years ago I got into printmaking and that’s my main medium. Printmaking is predominantly led by men. I think it’s important to have more female printmakers. The fact that most of my work reflects women and is done by a woman is empowering.
What are your favorite murals or public art installations in your neighborhood?
One of my favorite murals is on a lightbox (utility box) on the corner of Vernon Ave and Central Ave. It’s of two women, an African American woman with an afro and a Latina woman holding hands. It shows solidarity and the fact that they are women is important. Right now, in times like these we have to stick together.
Another mural I like is on 42nd Pl or 43rd Pl. and Central Ave. It’s across from the district office. It’s a small mural of Billie Holiday and famous jazz musicians.Central Avenue has a few murals here and there that reflect the history of what used to be South Central. It’s empowering to see that. I hope these murals make the youth and adults ask questions and stay informed about South Central history.
Yaneli is continuing her Arts Education at CSU Long Beach. She’s currently exhibiting in The Upright Revolution: or Why Humans Walk Upright at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center. Keep up with her on Instagram @omequiztli.