From the Library: Damn Everything But The Circus

Sister Corita Kent’s legacy lives on.


“Life is a succession of moments, to live each one is to succeed.” - Sister Corita Kent. Posthumously, moments are still kind of Sister Corita Kent’s thing. We at Commune were happy to hear that the Los Angeles city council recently granted historic-cultural monument status to her former studio.

Call her what you will – Educator, Activist, Pop Artist, Renegade Nun – Sister Corita Kent embodied a certain kind of spirit we love so much. For starters, she studied at the Chouinard Art Institute which is also having a posthumous moment right now. After completing her coursework at Chouinard she joined the art faculty at Immaculate Heart College where she enlisted some rather incredible figures to lecture: Alfred Hitchcock, Buckminster Fuller, and Charles and Ray Eames. It was this world, this culture that she identified with. Throughout the riotous 60’s she commanded attention with her growing studio practice, remixing Catholic tradition with the pop-culture, music, poetry, and leftwing politics of the day. No topics were off limits as she fought for peace and social justice through each new work. The attention drew the likes of Newsweek for a cover feature in 1967 as well as a firm rebuttal of her work and teachings from conservative Archbishop James Francis McIntyre. As tensions grew between the liberal Immaculate Heart College and the conservative Los Angeles archdiocese, Sister Corita Kent left the nunhood in 1968 for a secular life in Boston where she continued to make art under the name Corita Kent.

The historic-cultural monument status, granted to her humble concrete block structure at 5518 Franklin Avenue, is a rare and welcome designation for a female figure. This can certainly be credited to the Corita Art Center’s “Save Corita’s Studio” campaign and their rapid response to the studio’s slated demolition. We’re so thankful for their work and eager to hear what happens next. And in honor of the late Corita Kent we chose Damn Everything But The Circus for this month’s From the Library feature.

“...damn everything that is dim, dull, motionless, unrisking, inward turning, damn everything that won’t get into the circle, that won’t enjoy, that won’t throw its heart into the tension, surprise, fear and delight of the circus, the round world, the full existence...”

Corita, Immaculate Heart College Art Department, Los Angeles, 1957. Courtesy of the Corita Art Center.
Corita, Los Angeles, 1966. Courtesy of the Corita Art Center.
Corita, Los Angeles, 1965. Courtesy of the Corita Art Center.
Newsweek, December 25, 1967.
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