the Studio for Southern California History
Boyle Heights History Studios is not your average museum and walking-tour company. We are a community based partnership founded by local activists in order to share and propagate the cultural, working-class history of the community of Boyle Heights...
and of greater Los Angeles.
For many years the history of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles was told by scholars and sociologists who were far removed from the realities of the community; by people for whom it was a study and not their own personal experience.
BHHS was founded to reclaim and retell the oral history of our working-class communities of Los Angeles; and to revive the multicultural heritage of our great city.
Welcome to Boyle Heights History Studios – co-op community and cultural center, history museum, music and film studios, meeting place for interfaith and inter-racial social justice alliances, and so much more!
In the Spring of 2019 we were proud to see our dream come to fruition of a community center and museum that would be open daily.
Over many years there had been many community leaders and collectives who have passionately made the case for the need of a dedicated historical museum and cultural center - which celebrates the amazing cultural history of this community which serves as a model as a diverse, immigrant, working-class community during the age of Jim Crow segregation in the first half of the 20th century; the home of Mexican-American, Japanese, Jewish, Russian Molokan, Italian, Serbian, Armenia, Greek, etc. This community was once one of the only communities in our city open to people of every ethnicity, and so just about every ethnicity did live here at some time. And so this neighborhood likewise became a seminal community for the civil rights history and cultural arts for these diverse communities; which we have long contended ought to be honored with permanent and rotating exhibits.
Beginning in April of 2019 our founder, notorious local historian and community organizer Shmuel Gonzales the Barrio Boychik, leased a 3,500-sq-foot property and began the renovation of this space.
First creating within in this space our community co-op cultural center and recording studios. Often partnering older Chicano artists with younger local bands today, to keep the heritage alive.
We also began to host cultural events and offering community resources in co-operation with local non-profit secular and faith culture groups alike, including: the Boyle Heights Historical Society, the Studio for Southern California History, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Weingardt YMCA, The Boyle Heights Chavurah, The Jews of Color Moishe House, Alan D. Leve Center of Jewish Studies at UCLA, USC Shoah Foundation, USC-Keck Medical Center School and General Hospital, Loyola Marymount University Jewish Life and Chicano Student Services Center, American Jewish University "Introduction to Judaism" and Adult Education Extension Program.
We began to host holiday and seasonal events for the unique and celebrated minority faith cultures of our neighborhood. As well as on a daily basis welcoming in diverse groups of students into this space for free historical lectures and guided-tours
In May of 2019 we officially welcomed into this space the Jewish holy day and Shabbat events of the Boyle Heights Chavurah – the grass-roots Jewish fellowship of East Los Angeles; creating regular Jewish religions services and meals for Shabbat on Festivals, welcoming everyone Jewish and not Jewish to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) That fall during the High Holy Day season we built the first community Sukkah (festival tent) and celebrated this holiday as a community for the first time in half-a-century; in the community that was once the largest Jewish community west of Chicago. We are reviving our local religious and cultural Jewish life in this place.
The Museum and Exhibits
In March of 2020 the year-long work on renovating our space was complete, with the installation of long-term history exhibits. Among these exhibits which we will be hosting long-term is “From Brooklyn Ave. to Cesar Chavez: Jewish Histories in Multiethnic Boyle Heights" provided by the Hinda and Jacob Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection of the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.
As well as hosting a rotating exhibit of Chicano art by local artists.
Our museum and cultural center is a grass-roots projected which is 100% locally funded by small donations given in the form of ticket sales to our notorious walking and bus history tours; we accept no government or NGO money, no grant or philanthropy, and no special-interest funding has ever been taken here.
Our founder, Shmuel Gonzales the Barrio Boychik bet on the idea that if he would just articulate the history of the community he is trying to preserve that people would be compelled to repeatedly return and contribute; today our tours are the #1 tour series in Los Angeles.
During this time of COVID-19 we are utilizing our skills in walking-tours and outdoor programming, as well as the resources of our in-house video and audio studios to record streaming material; keeping our museum actively in service of our community through both safe physical and virtual programming.
At this time I also want to give you hope and vision of our future:
Given that COVID has changed the way we operate museums and social programming; we are proud to announce that we are gearing up to launch our newest exhibit with the help of the UCLA Alan. D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies: we are going to be launching our Barrio Mobile History Studio, a newly updated and portable version of our exhibit “From Brooklyn Ave. to Cesar Chavez: Jewish Histories in Multiethnic Boyle Heights,” which will soon be deployable in various public spaces throughout the community, even outside. This is our most ambitious project to date!
Shmuel Gonzales ("The Barrio Boychik") is a community organizer and resident historian from the neighborhood of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles. His family settled here in this barrio in 1896, and has been connected to the eastside for six-generations.
He currently serves as a historian for The Studio for Southern California History, on the Board of Directors for the Boyle Heights Historical Society.
As a Latino-Jewish community leader, he also facilitates Jewish cultural and spiritual programming for the greater Los Angeles eastside. He is the founder and shliach tzibur (appointed ritual Jewish leader) of the Boyle Heights Chavurah - the grassroots Jewish fellowship of East Los Angeles; leading Shabbat and festival events for our diverse community of Jewish people, spiritual seekers, and interfaith families and allies.
Blog: Barrio Boychik