Photo by Jan Edward Vogels. Copyright 2013. Used with permission.
Sander Roscoe Wolff, former Culture Agent at the Long Beach Post, is, among other things, an artist of too many talents. It’s hard to picture one man wearing such a wide array of hats. When you consider his outstanding and exhaustive resume of philanthropic work, added to his myriad and constantly evolving list of personal creative endeavors, one might sit back and ponder, “How? Just … how?”
As the recipient of the Arts Council for Long Beach’s James H. Ackerman Arts Philanthropy Award, Sander is a humbled and appreciative Long Beach resident. As an artist, he works with sound, music, photography, ceramic and kinetic sculpture and video. His work has been featured in local gallery exhibitions, in SoundWalk, and L.A. Siggraph's Photon Ballet and across the cities of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Santa Ana.
As a musician, he’s has been involved in music production since the early 80’s and has worked professionally as an audio engineer, live sound mixer and producer. He is one half of Toaster Music, an improvisational electronica duo, along with band mate Sumako. As a community journalist for nearly 25 years, he's covered locally, regionally and nationally-significant artists of all types. During his time at the Post alone, he wrote just over 550 articles. He also wrote for CSULB's Union Weekly.
As a philanthropist—although he, with a polite shrug, simply calls his activities “opportunities to do things that benefit the community”—Sander co-founded and served as Executive Director of LongBeachCulture.org, the city’s first arts calendar and registry, assisting more than 2,000 artists and promoting thousands of art-related events for a very productive ten years. He has served on the boards of the 2nd City Council Art Gallery + Performance Space and the East Village Arts District. He curated a 6-month gallery exhibition in the Long Beach World Trade Center. He also produced “Songs for Bethune,” a CD of original and traditional holiday songs by local artists to raise funds for the Arts Council’s Passport to the Arts program.
The Long Beach Post had a chance to sit down with Sander and ask some questions, seated most certainly in our amazement of his ability to nurture and promote our diverse community of artists and follow his own creative path at the same time. Here's what Sander said, in his own signature Q&A format.
Sander, you are involved in so many varying creative endeavors. You have Toaster Music, your own work as an artist, you're a writer… how do you find the time to contribute so effectively to the livelihood of Long Beach's art scene?
“For the six years that I wrote for the Long Beach Post and for sometime before that I was really dedicating myself to supporting arts and culture in Long Beach full time, but unfortunately because my circumstances changed in February, I had to bow out of all that and get a paying job. I was able to sustain this goal for a long time, for more than 10 years, while I’ve been doing this for more than 25 years…”
How do you envision Long Beach's art scene in five years? How has it progressed in the ten years you've been involved?
“It's hard to say, things are always in flux but there are certain fundamentals that don’t change. Long Beach continues to be a place where creative people choose to live because it remains affordable and there’s a lot of cultural institutions in place and the education system in Long Beach is supportive of arts and culture. Even though what people do may change, the fact that Long Beach has a thriving arts community...I really don’t see that changing.
"One of the reasons why I co-founded and ran longbeachculture.org, a free web-based, dynamic arts portal for the city for 10 years, is because I saw that different communities of artists were siloed, were isolated from each other, and I saw an opportunity to create tools to connect people and connect disparate scenes so the activities of one group could benefit and support the activities of everyone. So that was my vision, that is still my vision and I still think we have the opportunity as a community to support that vision.”
How does receiving this philanthropy award make you feel?
“To be honest I feel really humbled and overwhelmed that I would be acknowledged in this way. Truthfully, I just do things because I see opportunities to do things and hope that they benefit the community and the people that are doing good things in and for the community. Like I said, I've been doing this for a long time, almost 25 years, and I never thought about what other people thought about what I was doing. It certainly is heartwarming and humbling.”
What creative projects are you working on currently?
“I just completed something that I'm really super proud of. I did a soundtrack for a documentary film. The title is From the Heart of Brahma and the documentary is about Prumsodon Ok, a Cambodian-American dancer that lives in Long Beach. It's been really well received with just the initial under-the-radar releases. It’s been accepted into a number of film festivals. I’m very proud of the director for allowing Ok’s life and work to be held up to the light.
There’s also Toaster Music, which I work on with my band partner, Sumako. It’s ongoing and we are in the process, for the first time in 3 years, of working on a studio-recorded track. I’m really excited about that.”
(Editor's note: Congratulations, Sander! We miss you. - D & B)