Nancy Uyemura and Pranay Reddy (LA Artcore director) frame Uyemura’s “Spring Note — Haru no Tegami,” mixed media on wood panel, 1990; foregrounded by Liang Zhang’s ceramic food feast.

By MARY UYEMATSU KAO, Special to The Rafu

Oct. 23 marked the opening of the “Lydia Takeshita Legacy Exhibit Series: 1” at LA Artcore at Union Center for the Arts in Little Tokyo.

Takeshita (1926-2019), a professor of art at Cal State University Los Angeles, along with her students, helped create a downtown arts presence in the area now known as the Arts District. As the founder and director, Takeshita incorporated LA Artcore in 1979 as a nonprofit corporation. In 1998, after numerous exhibits and the establishment of its International Exchange Program for visiting artists, two gallery spaces anchored LA Artcore’s downtown presence — Union Center for the Arts and the Brewery Arts Colony.

Takeshita created an arts organization with three guiding principles: 1) the creation and discovery of art is an essential vehicle of the human spirit; 2) accessibility to art is a human right; and 3) exposure to the creative process leads to empowered and strengthened societies. Its mission is dedicated to “expanding interactions between artists and audience and to provide a platform to facilitate open dialogues.” (

Nancy Uyemura with “Night into Day,” mixed media on panel, 1990.

Takeshita’s passing in April 2019 is the basis for the current Legacy Series. Pranay Reddy, director of LA Artcore, says, “The Legacy Series is a significant step in giving continuity and breadth to its artist exhibit program. It honors Lydia Takeshita’s scheduled artists that extend into the summer of 2021 and invites previously unscheduled artists into its mix. Takeshita’s exhibits were largely one- and two-person exhibits. We have reconstituted them into larger group exhibits that highlight each artist’s current development while restoring a sense of community in the arts and Little Tokyo.”

Edem Elesh’s mixed-media works on the sustainability of civilization. Elesh’s world travels began with Takeshita’s 2008 Japan/LA Artcore Exchange Show.

When asked what it was like to curate this series during the pandemic, Reddy explains: “We navigated the early months of the pandemic by taking time to reflect, evaluate, and restructure our programs while also securing some needed funds. After 40 years of running continuously without pause or change, it was an opportune time to incubate and decide how best to go forward. It was important to both maintain Lydia’s legacy while also becoming more balanced in our offerings to the public.

“Nonetheless, there have been the added challenges of a loss of public life which has forced us to place emphasis on our growing digital presence. We are starting to navigate this period with our Create/Meditate Series, Guided Snack Hour Workshop, and our exhibit opening receptions. There were definitely learning curves!”

Ann Phong’s pictorializing of manmade objects within masses of earth.

The center of the exhibit is anchored by the works of Nancy Uyemura, who lived in the Arts District for 40 years before being displaced by gentrification from her 800 Traction loft. She is known for her “Folded Paintings,” reminding us of our origami heritage. Her works surround a ceramic Chinese food feast by Liang Zhang — commenting on “the implications of communal gatherings during the lockdown.”

This first exhibit in the Takeshita Legacy Series features 11 artists: Renèe Amitai, Michael Chang, Edem Elesh, Velda Ishizaki, Al Longo, Chiymoi Taneike Longo, Midge Lynn, Ann Phong, Mike Saijo, Nancy Uyemura, and Liang Zhang. The series of six exhibits will extend through the summer of 2021, celebrating the artistic output of the L.A. arts community during the current COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

The public is invited by appointment. Email to schedule a free visit. This first Legacy Series ends on Nov. 30.

Mixed-media work by Michael Chang tracing social histories and collective memories of revolutions in Taiwan and China.


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