Museum of Social Justice


La Plaza United Methodist Church opens its doors in 1925

Founded in 2012, the Los Angeles United Methodist Museum of Social Justice tells the untold story of the founding of Los Angeles. The museum and educational center is housed in the historic La Plaza United Methodist Church at the intersection of Los Angeles Plaza and Olvera Street.

The Museum hosts a diverse set of educational and social outreach programs in partnership with California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Otis College of Art and Design, and California State University, Northridge (CSUN) These programs continue La Plaza United Methodist Church’s 100 year-old legacy of bringing socio-economic and health related equality to all citizens of Los Angeles, through non-sectarian outreach services, knowledge, and empowerment.


Kid City students visit "Angels on the Plaza" exhibit

The inaugural exhibit “Angels on the Plaza,” opened in September 2013 with original images from the La Plaza collection that document the living conditions of the immigrant population in and around the Plaza from 1910-1927. In September, 2014; “Exodus,” a photographic exhibition of the work of Julian Cardona documented the forced modern-day exodus of people from Mexico to the US.

La Plaza  The current home of La Plaza United Methodist Church was built in 1926. When the state of California declared the La Plaza area a historic monument, the Cal-Pac United Methodist Conference was forced to give up the church and the adjoining conference center through threat of eminent domain. The Conference moved its offices to Pasadena, but the church remained, with a 50 year lease at a $1 per year.

The Urban Foundation’s role  In the 1990‘s, the city of Los Angeles took over the historic El Pueblo monument from the state, and negotiations for a new church lease in 2002 were unsuccessful. In 2010, the “La Plaza initiative,” a program of the Urban Foundation and the United Methodist Cal-Pac Conference, was founded and charged with negotiating a new lease. When the City of Los Angeles resisted negotiating in good faith, the La Plaza congregation, under the direction of founding museum director, Leonora Barron, led a series of protests and prayer services on the steps of City hall. After a year long struggle, a fair agreement was reached. The city agreed to lease the church to the congregation, and the La Plaza Initiative agreed to create a museum which would provide a sense of the church’s rich history of social justice work.


Bishop Minerva Carcaño and founding director Leonora Barron

Thanks to the leadership, insight and support of the Urban Foundation, the historic La Plaza congregation was not turned out of the church built by their forefathers, but instead today is thriving under the guidance of Reverend Phil Valdes, and houses the Museum of Social Justice under the leadership of director Domenica Castillo. The Urban Foundation continues to provide administrative support to the Museum.

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