Greetings everyone. As you may or may not know, Black Book Sessions 18 will be hosted by the ArtExchange this Saturday, the 22nd of March. So what is the ArtExchange all about? Well keep reading, the wonderful Nicolassa Galvez breaks it all down.
Hello Niko. Could you tell us a little bit more about ArtExchange?
Founded in 2002, the ArtExchange is a unique place to experience art. We offer education, artist studios and support, exhibitions and special events. The mission of the ArtExchange is to support working artists and arts education through the development of a world-class visual arts center reflecting the rich culture of Long Beach.
What’s the core message behind ArtExchange?
One of our core values is the belief that students of all ages benefit from equal access to opportunities for participation in hands-on art classes and activities. The visual arts provide a unique and specific set of creative challenges and opportunities for expression, which broaden a student’s understanding of the work and themselves.
You’ve done a lot of collaborations and hosted many exhibitions – most recently with the Office of Restorative Justice; how did that come about?
As a community art center, collaboration and community engagement is part of our mission. My mom was a single mother, a house painter, and she is an artist. I was 12 years old when she got her first job with a regular salary and benefits; it was with the California prison system. She started there as a painter who painted grey institutions grey, over and over again. She then moved up to a vocational instructor teaching inmates how to paint houses, buildings, etc. She soon recognized their desires, their skills, and the healing impact art had on her students, so she incorporated art instruction into their vocational program. In addition to learning faux finishes and painting murals, she provided them with the time and materials to create their own artwork.
In a conversation we had last week about ArtExchange’s current exhibition, “The Art of the Incarcerated,” she told me that teaching inmates about art, reminded her about the power of simple teaching moments. She once had an inmate who was an excellent tattoo artist, but he had only worked with black ink. After teaching him the color wheel, his art was taken to a new level. A basic skill, like mixing colors, was a lesson many had never experienced yet once they learned this skill their art was transformed.
Back to the question about how ArtExchange’s partnership with the Office Restorative Justice came about! More than five years ago, my mom received a flier about their annual Faith and Hope Art Show. After she received permission from the warden, she encouraged her student inmates to submit pieces. Since my mom was unable to attend the exhibit, I attended on her behalf. I was so impressed with the organization that I kept up with their progress. Five years ago when I attended the show I was working in homeless services and now I am leading an art center. I had never heard of them showing the work in other venue but I was interested in partnering with them for a show in Long Beach. They not only responded but they remembered my mom and her students’ work. We met and five months later we opened the current exhibit!
You also offer classes and workshops; please tell us more, how can we participate?
We are a growing organization of mostly volunteers. We have a strategic plan that involves fundraising to hire more staff and purchase more art supplies so that we can fully realize our mission to elevate the profession of art, educate youth and adults about art, and engage the community in the process of art.
Currently, we host an art walk every Second Saturday from 6-9 p.m. that provides free family art activities, gallery openings, and artist studio previews. Every Third Thursday, our studio artists create space for adult artists of all levels to participate in the artistic process. We have free after-school art activities for school-age children on Mondays and Wednesdays at 4p.m., and on Thursdays at 2:30p.m. In addition to special events like Black Book Sessions, we have special classes for families, adults, and youth. Check out the calendar at ArtExchangeLB.org and follow us on Facebook.com/ArtExchangeLB to find out more!
Do you have any advice for young artists out there?
My mom worked as a housepainter, but she is truly an artist, and my dad was a mechanic, but his passion is music. I myself am not an artist, but I am a creative thinker. Despite the obstacles I faced growing up, I always had an internal drive to succeed and contribute to my community. I hear similar things from the artists I meet through the ArtExchange. Art is not just something they do; it is who they are. That is a cliché right? Perhaps. But it is also true. Several artists have told me about their own self-doubts in being an artist, not only growing up but also as an adult. As a child, they relay that at least one person telling them that their art was good enough, was enough to keep them pursuing their passion. Even if they tried other career paths because they were told artists can’t make a decent living, they always came back to their art. And in coming back they not only found they could make a living but they found satisfaction and happiness. There are still struggles but doing what you love, makes the struggles a little more manageable.
I am excited to have ArtExchange partner with Black Book Sessions. I think together we can address two obstacles young artists today are faced with. One, severe funding cuts have taken art out of schools and lowered the priority of art in city budgets, and two, young artists do not have enough exposure to successful adults who are making a living based on their artistic talents. Activities at Black Book Sessions like the youth art contest, free art activities, live painting and the opportunity to be exposed to successful artists, encourage emerging young artists These opportunities and events are things that our youth need to hear and see every day in school, at home, and in their community. We are all working on making art an everyday part of life, and the ArtExchange and Black Book Sessions are contributing to that vision. I want young artists to know that we recognize your talent, we are here to support that talent, and if you want a career as an artist, there are opportunities available to you.
Meet us this Saturday for Black Book Sessions 18 at the ArtExchange:
356 East 3rd Street, Long Beach, CA 90802
For more check out www.artexchangelb.org