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Folding fan public art project unveiled in Little Tokyo

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, October 08, 2012, at 10:41AM
Courtesy José Huizar's office

The Kokeshi Doll fan is one of the three images that were chosen to designate the Little Tokyo area.

The boundaries of Downtown's Little Tokyo are now further defined with the help of 40, powder-coated aluminum signs that decorate street poles on 1st, 2nd and 3rd streets as well as San Pedro, Los Angeles and Central Avenue.

“The medallions add color, vitality, and identity and contribute to the sense of place that defines the Little Tokyo community as a distinct district in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles," said area Councilman José Huizar in a statement.

The pieces were designed by Sonia Romero, an L.A. artist who in addition to her personal work has created public art pieces at a MacArthur Park Metro station and multiple public pools. Romero said for the Little Tokyo project she studied Mon, or Japanese family crests, and combined this with images based on Japanese traditional and popular culture. Each design includes a backdrop of the iconic folding fan.

“The images of the Maneki Neko, the Kokeshi doll, and the Daruma are wonderful icons for the Little Tokyo community, representing good fortune in business, the traditional arts, and perseverance,” said Huizar.

Maneki Neko aka the Lucky Cat, is often found in store entrances and is said to "bring prosperity and protect wealth," said Romero, while the Kokeshi doll is a "contemporary interpretation" of the traditional, wooden folk art piece. The Daruma, a round doll that comes from Zen Buddhism, has one eye left unpainted as "a reminder to reach an objective."

These art works are funded through the Art Program of the CRA/LA, which aims to "eliminate blight and revitalize Los Angeles" through redevelopment projects in specific Downtown districts.

Earlier this year this program helped fund a similar project in the Arts District, where 40 street signs designed either with a letter "A" or a picture of a historical DTLA citrus grove, were installed throughout the area.

Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Association, told Blogdowntown that the Arts District signs were an attempt to give the area a visual identity and clearly identify the neighborhood that's often mistakenly identified as the one that has Art Walk.

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