L.A Cultural Exchange

My Los Angeles are a collection of stories that were collected by Flo-culture’s Creative Director in September 2013. The project was made possible with the kind support of the British Council and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

Cultural Exchange International

In early 2013 The British Council, in partnership with Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs invited UK based artists, arts or cultural managers to apply for a new grant. ‘Cultural Exchange International’ which was developed to support emerging cultural leaders / artists to address contemporary social issues through the lens of arts and culture. Applicants were required to identify host arts based organisations within the City of Los Angeles and jointly write a residency application that would demonstrate how their proposed residency would meet this aim.


I applied as both Creative Director for Flo-culture and as a contemporary photographic artist; with one area of my work feeding and supporting the development of the other. With the support of Los Angeles Public Library, operating as my host organisation, I very proud to be able to say that I was one of only 3 successful UK based applicants invited to take part in this pilot residency programme.

Finding a suitable cultural organisation within the City of Los Angeles, and making contact with them was the hardest task and  I’m so pleased to be able to say that Giovanna Mannino, Director of Central Library Services was willing to take a real leap of faith in agreeing to our joint application.

Los Angeles Public Library serves the residents of Los Angeles, with more than six million volumes, making it one of the largest publicly funded library systems in the world. But what attracted me most to LAPL was their vast photo collection. The archive is made up of three million images ranging from entire archive donations from the former Los Angeles Herald-Examiner newspaper photo morgue to the Security Pacific Bank collection and the ‘Turn of the century Los Angeles’ collection right through to a collection of 1940s LA images taken and donated by Ansel Adams. The central library has a small, but dedicated team, who are responsible for the digitisation of this catalog and who are carefully selecting images that best represent the history of the growth of Los Angeles and Southern California life.

Not unlike the public library system in the UK, US libraries had been subjected to various rounds of funding cuts, forcing them to make substantial changes to a well established system of public service, whilst at the same time  making important and progressive steps towards the integrations and innovation of its work through digital means.

The Cultural Exchange International offered Flo-culture a unique opportunity to both learn from their changes and advancements, as well as share our learning generated through recent uk based library / archive based programmes of work that centre around archive imagery and digital. Including –

Programme of activity

As a project manager and contemporary digital photographer I have a sustained interest in how archives can be used to benefit and improve engagement in the arts .

With that in mind my residency was developed with three main functions. Firstly, to share learning and skills developed around the production of digital stories developed for the Memory Box iPad and iPhone application. With an aim to upskill library and local authority staff with the skills required to support library users to record their own stories of local social heritage, run their own Memory Box workshops and share this growing collection of stories via the new Memory Box app and website. The aim for to connect communities and stories with a worldwide audience.

The second function of the residence was about learning from existing programmes of work happening within the library already, as well as meeting with other arts and cultural based organisations to learn from how creative approaches to digital are being integrated into their work as a means to increase social engagement with the arts. Organisations I visited and met with included –

And finally I was keen to spend time within the Library’s vast photographic archive, and spend time thinking and working towards creating new, digital  models of practice that raise awareness of this valuable resource.

The Residency and Digital stories

The Cultural Exchange International is such a wonderful learning opportunity and one which I would urge other Cultural managers to consider. Not because Los Angeles are paving the way in arts and social engagement, but simply because they are doing things differently.

The British Council have just opened another round of funding.You have until 27th January to apply –


You can also listen to the My Los Angeles stories on the Memory Box app or go to the website – www.memoryboxstories.com