After 45 years on the radar, the Woman’s Building is finally also on the map. On June 8, the L.A. Conservancy architectural preservation society formally announced that the L.A. City Council had approved the building’s Historic Cultural Monument designation. Besides protecting the building's 1914 Beaux Arts design against the future development going on all around it, this move also resoundingly acknowledges what generations of artists and feminists in L.A. and around the world have known for decades: The Woman's Building is one of the most significant cultural heritage sites of the last 50 years.
Founded by Judy Chicago, Sheila de Bretteville and Arlene Raven in 1973 (it moved to the Woman's Building in 1975), its educational programs included instruction and mentoring in visual arts, graphic design and printmaking, performance art, video and literature, structured to accommodate working women.
Technically the organization that renovated, occupied, enlivened and later championed the appreciation and preservation of the building was known as the Feminist Studio Workshop (FSW), the first independent art school for women. FSW operated there from 1975 until it ceased its programs in 1991, whereupon the board of directors redirected its efforts toward the preservation of its legacy.
Subsequently, the board has created an epic oral history and image archive, publishing several notable books and, in 2011, organizing the exhibition “Doin’ It in Public” at Otis College of Art and Design as part of the Getty’s first Pacific Standard Time initiative.
From December 2016 through March 2017, artist and philanthropist Lauren Bon of Metabolic Studio (whose own premises are located adjacent to the Woman's Building on North Spring Street), invited artists who participated in programs at the Woman’s Building to contribute materials and first-hand accounts to an even more expansive vision of the archives. Something of the spiritual heir to the FSW mission, Metabolic Studio is conceived as “a team of individuals who work together across a range of investigative platforms, transforming resources into energy, actions and outcomes.”
The three-story brick building was originally constructed for the Standard Oil Company, but when the FSW moved in, it needed a lot of work. Basically teaching themselves everything from construction to electrical wiring, they turned it into something more like the art school it was at heart. Today, 1727 N. Spring St. continues to offer an eclectic range of creative office and studio space, extending its legacy of empowered place-making.
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