South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP) is a collective of artists, writers, urban planners, educators, scholars, farmers, ecologists, swap meet vendors, and youth dedicated to engaging with the South El Monte and El Monte community through the arts by rethinking our use of space and transforming how we inhabit it. Unlike most arts organization, we do not house SEMAP operations and projects in a building. This is an integral part of our community-building process as it ensures that all our projects are site-specific works of public art. When we exhibit in gallery spaces, we make sure to translate the public and often process-based nature of the projects for gallery audiences, often integrating interactive and participatory elements.
SEMAP believes that the nature and function of space is constructed by the imaginings of the people who take it upon themselves to shape it. Our mission is to shift the relationship between the bodies of SEM/EM residents and transients and the physical spaces they inhabit by using art to foster agency, ownership, and grassroots democracy. We seek to create a sense of ownership of community not based on proprietorship over buildings or land, but based on residents’ connection to place through personal and communal narratives. By building community across varied and diverse groups and interests in SEM/EM we seek to find points of intersection. In doing so, we create opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to imagine possibilities for positive change in their community. Through the arts, SEMAP strives to democratize access to both art practices and place making.
SEMAP seeks to establish relationships with other communities beyond the reach of centralized resources in Los Angeles that strive for their own cultural production. More so than a precise geographic location defined by specific parameters, “east of east” is a state of being that fully recognizes its marginal position in relation to Los Angeles proper and responds to it, and to itself with self-reflexive cultural production that maps out its unique narratives rooted to place.
To learn more about SEMAP, click on one of the images below.