Tag Archives: press

Charmaine Jefferson of Wellington Square – Featured In LA Time Article


CHARMAINE JEFFERSON resigns from the museum in L.A. to focus on an arts consulting business.

Her legacy is lauded

Departing head of the California African American Museum built its attendance.


When Charmaine Jefferson stepped down last week as executive director of the California African American Museum, she left amid praise for having greatly improved her museum’s position as it tries to build audiences, mount compelling exhibitions on black culture and history, and, perhaps eventually, launch the kind of major construction project that the nearby California Science Center and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County have recently achieved.

“I walk away excited about what we’ve accomplished and that there’s still a future in front of me to test my wings on,” Jefferson said, who resigned after11years at the Exposition Park institution to focus on an arts consulting business.

Jefferson, 60, said the next step in her unusually varied career in arts, culture and entertainment will be to return to the private consulting work she’d done before being picked in 2003 to lead the state-owned African American Museum. She said that her consulting priorities will include helping cultural groups increase their audiences and advocating for more arts classes in the Los Angeles public schools.

Jefferson said that her achievements at the African American Museum included building its annual attendance to more than100,000.

Todd Hawkins, president of the African American Museum’s board, said, “We’re of course saddened, but we’re at a place we were not at 11 years ago when she arrived. We feel well-positioned for a future that can only expand on what she has done.”

Hawkins said the board, whose seven members all are gubernatorial appointees, will decide on an interim director, then begin a national search for Jefferson’s successor.

The African American Museum gets by on a budget of about $3.5 million a year. Admission is free. The state provides $2.5 million, augmented by funds from a private nonprofit museum foundation that in recent years has generated annual contributions and other revenues of $650,000 to $1.4 million.

Jefferson said one of her main objectives as museum director was to demonstrate that exhibitions focused on African American arts and history could be relevant to all races and ethnic groups. “I had an extraordinary opportunity to show how African Americans can be a voice for everybody,” she said.

Exhibitions included touring shows, such as the Smithsonian Institution’s retrospective on how the Apollo Theater in Harlem influenced the development of American entertainment, and solo exhibitions by Los Angeles artists Betye Saar and Mark Greenfield, whose show will open this fall.

Jefferson’s tenure included the preliminary planning for a major expansion and renovation of the museum, but the project has yet to gain a financial foothold and move forward.

“We have a plan in place, and it will happen,” Jefferson said. She also is confident that the museum’s annual allotment from the state eventually will improve with the California government’s brightening financial picture.

Hawkins credited Jefferson with raising the museum’s national profile by forging alliances with partners such as Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History, which sent a recently closed exhibition on the long-lasting marital and creative partnership of dancer-actors Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade .

One of Jefferson’s objectives as a consultant will be finding ways to restore arts education in Los Angeles public schools.

“I just believe the arts is part of our life every day,” Jefferson said.

“I want to fight for our children to have the same resources we had.”


Wellington Square – The Neighborhood News Online

A nice write-up of Wellington Square in the most recent edition of the Neighborhood News…


Category: Our History
Published on Friday, 02 August 2013 17:27
Written by Dawn Kirkpatrick


In 1913 a Los Angeles Times display ad claimed “Undoubtedly, considering location and openings per se, Wellington Square is the choicest offering along Washington and West Adams today.” A little over 100 years later, Wellington Square is still considered one of Los Angeles’ prime neighborhoods.


Bordered by West Blvd. on the west, Crenshaw Blvd. on the east, Washington Blvd. on the north and the Santa Monica Freeway on the south it was originally developed just before the start of World War I through the efforts of developer George L. Crenshaw, the Union Escrow and Realty Company, a syndicate led by Michael J. Nolan, the W.I. Hollingsworth Co. and realtor John A. Vaughan.

Today, Buckingham Road, Virginia Road, Wellington Road and Victoria Avenue comprise the Square. These four streets are filled with 209 gracious homes of various architectural styles, Spanish Colonial, Tudor and French Norman.


Some of the homes date back prior to World War I. Because Wellington Square was so popular back then “homeowners, and developers…literally picked up their graceful pre-War era homes from their original West Adams and Wilshire District plots and moved them to new plots in Wellington Square,” writes Laura Meyers, a founding member of the West Adams Historical Association (WAHA).

Wellington Square has gone through a number of changes since then, of course. With the help of the City Council in 1927, for example, the Wellington Square Improvement Association successfully arranged to keep heavy trucks out of the neighborhood. Later, “neighbors successfully petitioned to gate egress at West Boulevard and 23rd Street, slowing down traffic and bringing a quiet ambiance back to Wellington Square,” Meyers writes.


In the early 1960s, the California Department of Transportation (Caltran) built the Santa Monica Freeway and ran part of the it through Wellington Square. Today the Freeway makes up the neighborhood’s south border.

Wellington Square is an ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhood. Politicians, artists, actors and business people are and have been among its many residents. Once it was home to such notable residents as Dr. Vada Watson-Sommerville and her husband Dr. John A. Sommerville, for example. Among other notable accomplishments, Dr. Watson-Sommerville was the first African-American woman as well as the first woman in general to graduate from the USC School of Dentistry. Despite tremendous racial discrimination, Dr. John A. Sommerville became the first black or Jamaican-American to graduate from the dental school.


In addition to these professional accomplishments, the couple founded the Los Angeles Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, built a 26-unit apartment building for African Americans, which they named La Vada, and built a state-of-the art hotel called the Hotel Sommerville. The Hotel later became the Dunbar Hotel and subsequently hosted the first NAACP national convention on the West coast. It was also “the most popular Jazz and Blues scene in Los Angeles…frequented by guests such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie…Langston Hughes and W.B. Dubois,” according to WAHA’s A Stroll Through Wellington Square brochure.

Actress Dorothy Dandridge and her mother Ruby both once lived in Wellington Square as did Nick Stewart who played “Lightnin” on the Amos and Andy TV series and wasthe founder of the Ebony Showcase. The Showcase was later replaced by the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, current home of the Ebony Repertory Theatre.

Another notable current feature of Wellington Square is the Wellington Square Farmers Market. Established in 2010 and held every Sunday from 1-4 p.m., the popular Sunday Market provides a welcome addition to Wellington Square’s overall history. And the history of Wellington Square adds a welcome chapter to the history of Mid-City L.A.

Buckling Sidewalks Weighed vs. Saving Trees – Mid-City Press

We received a great write-up from the Mid-City Press concerning our neighborhood’s participation at the last MINC meeting!

Buckling Sidewalks Weighed vs. Saving Trees

By Caitlin M. Foyt, Press Contributing Writer

Extreme lifting and crumbling of Mid-City Neighborhood sidewalks has made some walkways dangerous for pedestrians, but local residents fear that repairs may endanger or kill the trees responsible.

Fourteen representatives from the area of Wellington Square attended last month’s Mid-City Neighborhood Council (MINC) meeting to speak on behalf of the trees that line sidewalks along Washington Blvd., Virginia Rd., Wellington Rd. and Victoria Ave.

“People have been falling,” said Michael Sonntag, a representative from Region Three. “The sidewalks, something definitely needs to be done about them, and yet, I think that most of the people that I talk to would love to find a way to do that that doesn’t endanger the trees.”

Vince Albrecht, also of Wellington Square, has conducted research on the trees and said they are a specific kind that qualifies for historic status.

“There’s a belief that these are “Heritage Trees” because of their length of time—they’ve been there probably since the turn of the century, 1900. Ten of the 13 trees are at least three feet in diameter, which supposedly is heritage-warranted and if they’re Heritage Trees, they’re protected from being cut down,” he said.

Months ago, Los Angeles city officials looked at some of the problem sidewalks and discovered that there weren’t many repair options available to them other than removing the trees.

The Urban Forestry Division of Street Services for the City of Los Angeles have tested the trees and found that they are stable and not diseased, according to Sylvia Lacy, North Central Senior Deputy for Council District 10.

“When we had looked at it before, there was no way to repair the sidewalk without destroying the trees. So the decision was made, don’t fix the sidewalk,” Lacy said.

The sidewalks’ condition has since worsened and locals have begun to recognize something must be done to improve conditions for pedestrians.

During the meeting, the general consensus was in opposition to cutting any tree’s roots. When larger roots are cut, trees can lose their stability and become more likely to cause harm by falling over, Sonntag explained.

Repair suggestions during the meeting included curving the sidewalk around larger root systems or putting black top or rubber sidewalk, made from recycled tires, in place.

Rubber sidewalks have been installed near historical trees in Santa Monica, Glendale and Pasadena, but Lacy said it was the local communities, not the City of Los Angeles, that installed them.

During the city’s initial assessment of the sidewalk repair problem, they had considered the option to detour the walkway around the roots of the trees, but determined that the areas in question are not wide enough to accommodate the needs of the disabled.

“When you talk about more narrow, we must have four-and-a-half feet to be ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act)-compliant, so they’re not going to make a three-foot sidewalk,” Lacy said.

“One of the thoughts was to remove all of the concrete and put a black top sidewalk over the roots and there’s more give to asphalt. I don’t know if they’ll do that, but that’s been another suggestion. I can pretty well assure you that the city has no intention of taking down those trees.”

Lacy said she is going to meet with Urban Forestry and Street Services in early September to further explore all possible repair options.

MINC President Allan DiCastro suggested creating a ranking system to prioritize problem sidewalks that need to be addressed within the community.  On a list of all problem sidewalks in Mid-City, different point values would be assigned to categories relating to the trees involved and how dangerous the sidewalk has become.

Those categories, such as “high height,” “low height” and “historical,” would help put problem sidewalks on a descending list of condition. The system will be offered to the city as a suggested way to handle the growing issue, in order to help the city prioritize whether a sidewalk needs to be repaired quickly.

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