Located in Downtown Los Angeles, NAVEL is a test site for collectivity and kinship where people from a range of backgrounds and skillsets feel welcomed and supported to imagine a more just, creative, and collaborative world.

We support cultural communities, organizations, and individuals through our free and low-cost public programming and events, our collaborative learning project called ASSEMBLIES, and through a number of space residencies, including our Collective Residency program.


Thank you to Collective Resident Nina Sarnelle for creating this beautiful video about what NAVEL is all about (and for using her own original music as the score). Thanks as well to everyone who was interviewed, and to all of the artists, participants, and organizers whose work appears and who make up the fabric of this vibrant community that has formed over the past two years.

Public Programming at NAVEL is an open invitation for all to experience our community’s emerging work, curated by our programming committee—a collectively-elected group charged with developing a Fall and Spring season of original programs and events. Additional projects are sourced from an Open Proposal submission process and ongoing collaborations with partner organizations.

ASSEMBLIES is where learning happens together through the exchange of ideas, traditions, and experience. An ASSEMBLY is simply a group that forms around a theme, practice or experiment, proposed by anyone in the community. For 3 months, we provide space, support, and resources towards the completion of a final project, be it a presentation, performance, publication, or object, which we then publish via our digital content channels.

Our Collective Residency is where we nurture and support people and ideas while they take root and begin to grow. For a period of one to two years, a diverse group of over 40 local and international residents, selected through a yearly open call, have access to our space, equipment, network, and support at no cost. In return, residents actively engage in furthering our mission and programs, diversifying the voices and perspectives represented at NAVEL.

While there are many event spaces, galleries, performance spaces, maker labs, production studios, and community centers in Los Angeles, many of which provide excellent services and programs for their constituents, NAVEL attempts to define new possibilities for all of these worlds to be in conversation with one another. We create open and equitable systems to ensure that we are listening to the needs of our community and moving in the direction we all wish to go. This flexibility and openness allows us to engage in intentional adaptation, morphing with ease into whatever the community needs, today.

Intent

The current state of the creative and intellectual class is precarious, unsustainable, and atomized. Under the conditions of late capitalism, the spectrum of options is slim between passive complacency, commercial compromise, or overwhelming hustle and insecure conditions. The current models of cultural institutions tend to provide mostly short-term visibility and support structures; many lack in opportunities for long-term engagement, care, and collaborative practice.

Art has the power to bring radical thought into meaningful forms and actions, which could lead to healthier and more just systems. However, critical and creative practices are vulnerable to instrumentalization, privatization, and subsumption into cultural capital. How can we maintain an autonomous position?

There is an immenent need for more intentional communities, collectives, and co-ownership models that act as protective layers, absorbing and distributing some of the financial and social pressures we face as individuals. This is what NAVEL is invested in exploring and actualizing. We believe the first steps towards more equitable cultural and socio-political systems requires a collaborative investigation and practice which:

  • Rethinks the topography of existing cultural establishments
  • Explores alternative governance and organizational structures
  • Favors process, collaboration, conversations, and re-negotiations
  • Builds long-term relationships and engagement
  • Uses technology, architecture, design and art as tools for rethinking and restructuring
  • Is accessible and culturally equitable
  • Redistributes resources
  • Makes kin

Community

In a city as sprawling as Los Angeles, where feelings of disconnection and loneliness often overwhelm us all, NAVEL serves as a centrally located space where all are welcome to connect with one another, in person, through culture.

We support a community of multidisciplinary cultural practicionners who engage with NAVEL at a variety of levels. Our most engaged and involved constituency is our Collective Residency, who have a direct influence over the organization and full access to our space and resources. There are currently 40 residents participating in the program, ranging from ages 23 to 43, and coming from various socio-economic backgrounds. Over 90% of the residents are based in Los Angeles County, and more than 70% identify as either queer, trans, or folks of color.

The other participants in NAVEL’s programs (including organizers and artists in our public programming, as well as our ASSEMBLY leaders) are mostly Los Angeles-based, with occasional visiting and international artists and guests. As the majority of the work that our community produces comes from emerging or early-career artists and creatives, the age range of participants skews younger, between 21-42 in 2018. Economically our participants tend to be from the precarious intellectual and creative classes, with many stitching together a hodgepodge of jobs and gigs to survive living in Los Angeles.

Why NAVEL?

The navel is a non-gendered body part. After birth, its function is purely aesthetic, though it was once the primary source of nourishment for all placental mammals. Our navels serve to remind us of this formerly physical connection to mothering and nurturance—the process by which the individual originates from the collective. It marks the location of the “second brain,” the enteric nervous system—an autonomous, less rational, and more intuitive determiner of the human experience. It has long been intuited (“trust your gut”), but it is also scientifically sound. For us, an awareness of the role and importance of a decentered “brain”— of a well-being concretely linked and influenced by the environment—has the potential for a less humancentric existence and more kinship.