Monuments and the Future of Memory: Remembering Willowbrook

Monuments and the Future of Memory: Remembering Willowbrook

2020 – 2022


This project, in its second year of Arts in Action support, builds on the ongoing collaboration with LA Commons and the Willowbrook Inclusion Network (WIN) aimed at developing a series of Willowbrook community monuments that challenge the traditional memorial as an inert monument dedicated to hegemonic and often oppressive narratives of the past. The original project sought to engage current debates on monuments and cultural memory, with the overall aim of bringing presence to places whose stories have been erased or overlooked. More specifically, it aimed to challenge the what and who is represented and the methodology (how) of developing memorials and public monuments as adaptable, accruing, and participatory community histories. In its first year, USC School of Architecture Professors Aroussiak Gabrielian and Alison Hirschhad USC students from the School of Architecture, Price School of Public Policy, and School of Cinematic Arts collaborate with LA Commons and WIN to develop strategies through which to gather, elevate and physicalize the stories residents of Willowbrook want to tell (culminating in a report “Remembering Willowbrook: A Five-Part Strategy). While the process started in excavating trauma experienced by the historically Black community, it has progressed to narratives of resistance, resilience, healing, liberation, and joy. In the second year, Gabrielian and Hirsch with LA Commons and WIN will work to realize the memorial strategies with Willowbrook youth and senior artists: the community archive, physical monuments, and AR experiences – all as means through which Willowbrook can tell its own story.


  • Provides participating community members with space and a storytelling process to express their experiences of resilience and trauma in the face of state violence
  • Provokes a more inclusive form of national “truth telling” by bringing presence to sites whose stories have been erased or overlooked
  • Community youth led story gathering strengthens intergenerational ties, fosters neighborhood conversations, deepens understanding, and a shared sense of belonging and identity
  • Increases the leadership capacity of local youth in civic affairs and the impact of local artists in contributing to community identity and positive change