Marisa and Terell Johnson: Creating Space

By Julia Halprin Jackson

Marisa Johnson, ’09 Marketing, is the co-founder of La Create Sp_ce in Inglewood, Calif. Photo by Hieusz Tran.

Marisa, Terell and Halo Johnson, the family behind La Create Sp_ce. Photo courtesy of Marisa and Terell Johnson.

For Marisa Johnson, ’09 Marketing, and her husband Terell, creativity is an equal opportunity resource. The Johnsons met as undergraduates at San Jose State, where Marisa studied digital marketing and Terell cut his teeth as a video editor and engineer with SJSU Athletics, a skill he later translated as an editor for Facebook. When Terell’s job relocated to Los Angeles in 2017, they sought opportunities to create a go-to space for creatives in Inglewood, Calif.

“If you want to do production or creative work in Los Angeles, you have to drive to Hollywood or Burbank,” says Marisa. “It was important to use our background in tech to put something of quality in this urban area so people can have a professional event or meeting and create with quality equipment. I didn’t have that growing up, and I know my husband didn’t have that either. That’s why it’s so important to us to inspire people to create solid businesses and brands—especially for people of color.”

And then they discovered an abandoned building on Hillcrest Boulevard in downtown Inglewood. Eager to establish a place where creatives could work and access high-quality production equipment, they dedicated eight months to redesigning the 2,800-square foot space, creating conference rooms, co-working spaces and event rooms. They opened the doors to La Create Sp_ce in 2018.

Terell says although there are plenty of independently owned businesses and creative enterprises in Inglewood, entrepreneurs have limited access to equipment and space. He believes La Create Sp_ce’s facilities and professional development opportunities will help their neighbors take their ideas to the next level.

“L.A. is a very creative place—there are multibillion-dollar industries here,” says Terell. “And yet we don’t have the resources in our neighborhood to benefit from that. We have kids who need an artistic outlet so they don’t feel they have to join a gang. I have to put myself back in their shoes—what kind of space would I have needed to create? We have stories to tell. That’s what filmmaking, podcasts and entertainment are all about: showing our stories and letting people hear them.”

Marisa and Terell see how these stories ripple out into their neighborhood, school district, local government, Hollywood and beyond. Terell offers trainings on digital editing and podcast production in the space. Marisa launched She Is, a speaker series that offers interactive panels for woman leaders. Terell plans to partner with local school districts to create educational opportunities for kids and teenagers.

“A few people cried when they walked in,” Terell says. “They were so amazed that a place like this was here—not even that it was our space, but that this exists in their community, just down the street from liquor stores, barbershops and salons. Seeing their dreams become reality is definitely the most inspiring part of being here.”

 

Julia Halprin Jackson

Julia Halprin Jackson is an advancement writer on San Jose State University's Strategic Communications and Marketing team.

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