Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
A Los Angeles blog
from Echo Park

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A good neighbor

Sunday I received an email from Mindy, who wanted to praise Peter Shire, the ceramicist and sculptor, for the way he opened his studio to neighborhood kids when Mindy was younger.

Mindy wrote:

I am the youngest of the Saenz family that lived in Echo Park. My brother Richard Saenz was the first known leader of the Echo Park gang, got 25 to life for killing the guy that killed our brother Fernando Saenz back in 1979 -- they found his body in Elysian Park. We still have a lot of family members who live in the neighborhood. I want you to know that a lot of us grew up in dysfunctional families, and I can remember when I was a little girl and Pete Shire first moved to our neighborhood. Pete Shire is a part of our neighborhood family. ... He loves Echo Park like we do. He was the best thing that happen to us kids back in '70s -- instead of hanging in the streets [we'd go to the ceramics studio on Echo Park Ave.]. He'd let us play with his clay and make things and take it home to show our parents. He's been an inspiration in a lot of peoples' lives. I can go on with things that he's done for all of us in the neighborhood. I just wanted you to know how loved Pete Shire is in this neighborhood. That's a good man!

In the past, I've heard from neighbors with Echo Park gang connections that Peter included their images in his plate-portraits series. They own Shire pottery. If a person can represent an intersection of the neighborhood, then Peter Shire -- raised in EP, whose mother was a well-known activist who suffered as a result of perceived affiliation with the Communist Party -- gets his own corner.

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