The William Grant Still Art Center

JUNE17GrantThe William Grant Still Arts Center has been a cultural and artistic staple in the West Adams District for 40 years. Located at 2520 West View Street, the Center has afforded many generations of residents access to music and art instruction that otherwise may not have been available to them. 

The Center offers beginning to intermediate music and art classes to students of all ages in the tradition of “art music” embodied by its namesake, classical composer Dr. William Grant Still.  

Dr. William Grant Still, who made his home in the West Adams/Sugar Hill neighborhood in the 1940s, was well known as “the Dean” of African American composers. The beautiful mural featured on the side of the arts center is named after "Troubled Island," an operetta written by Dr. Still with a libretto (the text of the opera) in part contributed by Langston Hughes. The spectacular and impactful mural of the same name was created in 2003 by artists Noni Olabisi and Brother Boko.  The mural depicts the revolt and liberation of captive slaves in Haiti. Part of the mural includes a rendering of Dr. Still with his conductor baton uplifted. 

JUNE17Grant2According to Amitis Motevalli, Director of the William Grant Still Art Center, “Dr. Still considered and used music as a means to achieve cross-cultural understanding.” Dr. Still was the first African American composer to conduct a major American symphony orchestra and the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra.  He was trained in classical composition and was instrumental in reincorporating classical music’s original North African roots into his compositions.  Dr. Still wrote over 150 compositions, including operas, ballets, symphonies, chamber works and arrangements of folk themes (particularly spirituals). His collection includes a variety of instrumental, choral and solo works.   
The William Grant Still Arts Center was opened in 1977 under the supervision of then 10th District Councilperson David Cunningham and his deputy at that time, Maxine Waters (who currently represents California’s 43rd District in the United States House of Representatives). According to Motevalli, “the city felt that the immediate neighborhood had so much wealth in terms of creativity and culture and an art center could be the place to bring together and enrich the existing culture of the community."The art center is the site of the city's longest running annual exhibition titled “The Black Doll Show,” now in its 37th year.  “We were also the original home of the African Marketplace,” added Motevalli.  
Picture of William Grant with Paul Robeson

June17Grant3The William Grant Still Center is currently featuring the annual African American Composers series. This year, the Center has the unprecedented opportunity to exhibit and highlight the life and work of jazz pianist and vocalist Nellie Lutcher featured in our April/May issue. Local historian and community activist Billie Green rescued Lutcher's  discarded archives from Washington and Hobart.  Nellie Lutcher was also the first African American female board member of the Musicians Union Local 47 - American Federation of Musicians.  The exhibit runs from March 11th through June 10th.  
picture of Ms. Billie Green

The William Grant Still Arts Center is a cultural fixture in the West Adams district, offering a host of programs including summer camps, creative workshops, music and art classes for adults and youth, an exhibition space, concerts, and accommodations for community meetings and neighborhood events.  The spirit of Dr. Still's commitment to the arts and to cultural understanding has been maintained at the Center for the past 40 years. As Motevalli stated, “the programs at William Grant Still Arts Center are free, or as low-cost as possible, in order to welcome all in our community to the visual and performing arts.” With such a rich legacy, the Center is positioned to continue carrying out its mission for many years to come. 

Address: 2520 W View St, Los Angeles, CA 90016

Phone: (323) 734-1165

Hours:  Tuesday to Saturday, 12 - 5 pm

Facebook: The William Grant Still Arts Center




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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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