The new LA bookstore and performance space is devoted to work by women and POC.
by Ernest Hardy
Earlier this week, Air 11, a bookstore and performance space devoted to the work of women and people of color, opened its doors in midtown Los Angeles on Fairfax Avenue. Co-founded by Oakland native/current downtown LA resident Lauryn Pendergrass and LA native Peter Woods, who’s been at the forefront of the LA arts and music scene with his outfit Quality Collective for over a decade now, and Writ Large Press for the last few years, the spot will host readings and music performances. It will also feature rotating residencies by small, independent presses, and conduct literary workshops. It’s currently hosting Alpha, a show of visual art by almost two dozen artists. That show will be up for two months. On June 20th, Liz Kay reads and discusses her new novel Monsters: A Love Story. Ashaki Jackson and Jen Hofer will be guest readers, and Cave Canem Fellow F. Douglas Brown hosts. The event starts at 7:30 PM and is free.
After the opening party, Pendergrass and Woods answered a few questions for Crave.
What does the name Air 11 mean or signify?
Peter Woods: Air 11 is a nod to the Aquarian Book Shop, one of the nation’s oldest Black owned bookstores that opened in south Los Angeles in 1941 and became a hub of cultural activity – lectures, classes in Black history, small theatrical productions. Aquarian is an air sign and it’s the eleventh sign of the zodiac.
Lauryn Pendergrass: Also, Aquarian Books, which was located in South Central, closed in 1994, so we want to honor its legacy.
Do you have a mission statement, or stated vision for the place?
PW: We’re a cultural experiment, an autonomous space that will exhibit and support culture created by women and people of color. We want to be part of this cultural moment where artists from historically marginalized, disenfranchised communities are examining the world through their own innovative artistic lenses.
What do you think of the conversation around “diversity” taking place in Hollywood, the literary world, the art world right now?
PW: They’re all giving lip service to diversity right now because it’s a badge of coolness or enlightenment or whatever. We aren’t interested in diversity. We want full inclusion and participation, or else we should burn it all down. Not literally. [He laughs.]
LP: The conversation has always been part of the dialogue within minority communities. It’s important that what underserved communities have to say go beyond rumblings in our own communities, and that mainstream media is now taking notice as well. Air 11 hopes to further give a platform to those who were once silenced or caricatured, or what have you. Read Rest of Article Here.