I went to visit Mrs. Chris Calaba at her home in the countryside. I thought it was important to hear from somebody who spent half her life serving the AV community, and who witnessed its gradual transformation until her retirement a few years ago. She was the co-owner of Graphic Experience on Lancaster Blvd for more than twenty seven years, according to Mrs. Calaba, the oldest business in the heart of Lancaster.
I told her I wanted to interview her for this important project, #CountMeIn. She agreed with the condition that I join her and her husband, artist Dennis Calaba, for lunch, which I gladly accepted. While having lunch, we talked about her business relation with the old Lancaster Museum located near the Sierra Hwy. Her business basically framed most of the art work hanging at the museum for the juried shows and for the former Allied Arts Association, now MOAH-CEDAR. Her business also did business with City Hall and other important companies in the area.
I asked her if she remembered ever participating in the census. She said of course, it was really important back in the day where everybody wanted to be involved in the prosperity of our community, and the only way was to fill the forms. In those days it was important for our business to inform our customers about it every-time they stopped to see us. In addition, the local newspaper was our only source of information other than the radio, so we talked about this important issues all the time.
I mentioned to her that nowadays, according to Census data, the area around The Blvd. and several blocks in each direction is the most difficult to be counted. She replied that it is due to the many apartment complexes in the area and many people have to commute to other places to go to work. Also, the demographic has shifted; there are more Hispanics, Filipino and other ethnicities, and many do not trust the government entities.
I asked Mrs. Calaba what she thinks about artists participating in this program to bring awareness to the importance of the Census 2020. It is wonderful, she replied, people trust artists more than they do trust politicians. Artists are visible and they care about community growth; “artist make our lives richer and beautiful, I know, I am married to one”. She also said that having the MOAH supporting us is very important, because the museum is now the heart of this community. I am glad our little downtown has grown to be known beyond Los Angeles.
After lunch, we sat on her living room and she talked to me on camera inviting the community to participate and be counted.