Second-to-nun: Los Angeles saves studio of Sister Corita Kent

5518 Franklin Avenue, Sister Corita Kent’s former studio. Courtesy Corita Art Center

The former Los Angeles studio of nun and artist Sister Mary Corita (also known as Corita Kent) is to be preserved. The building on Franklin Avenue was slated for demolition but campaigners argued it should be preserved in memorial to the so-called ‘Pop-art nun’.

The Catholic sister, who was part of a progressive teaching order, was head of art at the Immaculate Heart College and an anti-war activist. The low-rise block however, which is now designated a Historic-Cultural Monument, was where she did the majority of her own artmaking from 1960 to 1968, the walls plastered in dozens of silkscreen works. These would take reference from packaging, advertising and signs, while expressing her religious and social beliefs.

Until recently the property was occupied a dry cleaners but the owner wished to bulldoze the building and build new premises to house an organic deli.

One print, a list of ‘rules’ for artists, became her most iconic work, reproduced and tacked up in studios globally. While rule seven, ‘The only rule is work’, is the best known of these, rule one states ‘Find a place you trust then try trusting it for a while’.

As Corita Kent’s fame spread, her studio became much-visited, both by students learning silk screening and names such as Saul Bass, John Cage, Charles and Ray Eames, Buckminster Fuller and Alfred Hitchcock.

Ten Rules poster, Courtesy Corita Art Center

In a statement the Corita Art Center, which promotes Corita Kent’s legacy said ‘There remains a long road to walk together in preserving and promoting the legacies of significant women artists like Corita Kent. At the outset of this journey we learned that only 3% of HCMs in Los Angeles are associated with women’s heritage. Giving landmark status to Corita’s studio is one critical step in redressing this disparity. However, the work to uphold the legacies of women artists and cultural leaders is ongoing.’

‘Corita reminds us that hope is not just optimism; hope is hard work. Hope means showing up every day for others. As we turn the corner from this pandemic, we will need spaces like 5518 Franklin more than ever.’

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