Neighborhood Treasures 

Monrovia, California  

Dylan Feik, ICMA-CM, City Manager

The Neighborhood Treasures Program is a collaboration among the city’s Monrovia Area Partnership (MAP), Art in Public Places Committee, local artists, historians, city council, and staff. The program celebrates diversity by recognizing historically and culturally significant local heroes through public art installations. The goals of the program are to educate and inspire, honor and showcase overlooked heroes, improve neighborhoods through public art, and engage residents in programs that elevate community pride.

The process begins with research on potential honorees as determined by MAP leaders, local historians, and city staff. Data about the individuals is confirmed based on the historical record and information from family members. The city distributes a “call for artists” that describes the program and provides information about the honoree. Submissions are reviewed by the Art in Public Places Committee, which makes a recommendation to the city council for approval. Staff finalize a contract with the selected artist on placement and design. The installations have a standardized design; artwork and a decorative, informational plaque mounted on a pole. Each Treasure costs $15,000—$12,000 for the artist and $3,000 for the pole and plaque fabricator. Location of the installation is chosen based on its connection to the individual(s) recognized.

After the art is complete, the community celebrates the Treasure with a block party. The party begins with a short program to celebrate the honoree and culminates with an art reveal. It includes city-hosted booths, free food, and games. Following are brief descriptions of Neighborhood Treasures honored in 2018 and 2019. 

Lt. Col. Allen Allensworth, born into slavery in Kentucky, escaped during the American Civil War and became a Union soldier, a Baptist minister, and an educator. He was a leader among the Buffalo Soldiers and the highest-ranking African American in the military at the time. His mission was to provide educational, economic, and political opportunities for African Americans in California—a mission that led him to build Allensworth, the only town in the state established, financed, and governed by African Americans. It is now a state historic park.

Kate Wright and her son, Marshall, moved to Monrovia in 1900. She was divinely inspired to devote her life to care for the sick and the poor. Using donated supplies and labor, she built small cottages on her property where she tended to tuberculosis patients who had no family or other resources. She served selflessly for more than 30 years.

Bettie Mae Scott was a member of the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) in World War II. An engineering test pilot, she was killed while flight testing a BT-13 Valiant aircraft. She was one of only thirty-eight World War II WASPs killed while serving her country, but she received no military honors, as WASPs were not “officially recognized” by the military at that time.

Monrovia’s Japanese pioneers were often overlooked for their significant contributions to the city. By 1900, Japanese-American families had come to Monrovia and worked endless hours to build businesses that supported Monrovia’s economy. Life there was hard for them, and they were permitted to live only in designated parts of town. After Pearl Harbor, many of them were sent to internment camps. After their release, many came home to Monrovia and resumed their lives and businesses. Three new Treasures are scheduled for summer/fall 2021, and since the program’s inception, the installations and block parties have had a growing impact on the city. An unexpected surprise has been that residents become involved in the program by performing research on potential honorees, providing donations, and serving as program cheerleaders.