Rita Cofield has joined the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) as associate project specialist to advance the Los Angeles African American Historic Places (LAAAHP) project, an ambitious effort announced in 2021 that identifies, protects and celebrates African American heritage across the City of Los Angeles.
LAAAHP is a collaborative effort of the GCI and Los Angeles City Planning’s Office of Historic Resources (OHR), which is responsible for the management of historic resources within the city.
Cofield will be based at the Getty Center but will also be working collaboratively with L.A. City Planning as a key addition to the OHR team. Among Cofield’s priorities will be to establish a local advisory committee and to create a community engagement strategy. Once those are underway, the team will begin to supplement and expand on OHR’s 2018 citywide historic context statement for African American history in the City of Los Angeles. This work will be followed by the preparation of Historic-Cultural Monument nominations for a number of significant resources associated with African American heritage, as well as neighborhood cultural preservation strategies.
“What excites me about this position is the impact that the combined work of the GCI and the OHR will have on equity and inclusion when it comes to identifying historic resources that go beyond architectural significance in Black neighborhoods,” said Cofield. “History has shown us that some communities have not had the opportunities afforded others when it comes to identifying or preserving their assets. This project will build on the previous work done by Survey LA, and unlike other endeavors that have led to implicit or explicit bias, will advance historic nominations that reflect the diversity of the city and offer communities an opportunity to celebrate their Black heritage unapologetically.”
Cofield received her B.A. in Architecture and Planning from Howard University and a Master’s degree in Heritage Conservation from the University of Southern California. Her graduate thesis explored the tangible and intangible resources of Oakwood, a neighborhood in Venice, CA, and one of three historic Black enclaves located along the Southern California coast.
As a cultural resource manager and public historian, Cofield is committed to guiding communities in protecting and maintaining the integrity of their historic resources and ensuring they remain accessible to the surrounding community. She volunteers with community leaders in Watts to help restore and revive historic resources that include the Watts Happening Cultural Center (also known as the Mafundi Building), a community gem that was once in danger of being demolished. She eventually became the first executive director of the advocacy organization Friends at Mafundi. In 2021 their work received a Docomomo US Modernism in America Awards special citation for a grassroots initiative.
Cofield currently serves on the executive board of the Howard University Alumni Club of Southern California. She is on the Board of Trustees of the California Preservation Foundation and serves on its Education Committee.