Photos by Asia Morris.
The tiny storefront of 6021 Atlantic Avenue is nestled next to barber shops, beauty salons and a liquor store, inconspicuous as cars whiz by on the noisy North Long Beach artery during rush hour. A traditional Cambodian ceremony is taking place just inside to bless the space, which will be used for the summer by a new occupant, Long Beach artist Jason Keam.
Australia native-turned-Long Beach artist Angela Willcocks, who has run the tiny studio for nearly two years, offered a competitive and free two-month studio artist residency to applicants and gave the opportunity to Keam, a Long Beach-based animator and illustrator working toward becoming one of the city’s go-to artists for commercial creative work.
Keam has dubbed his temporary stay a “pop up fine art and animation creative studio called The People's Studio,” and has expertly branded the front windows with the message. He could have easily painted his name on the storefront, but instead aims to lend his time to the community, rather than focus solely on his own status as an artist.
The Otis College of Art & Design graduate aims to use his lively, high-energy and oftentimes character-based work, which tends to capture the excitement of people, animals and food, for projects with local businesses and organizations, including the Uptown Business Association. Keam says his artwork stands out not only because of its eccentricity, but its positive and joyful elements.
“Bright colors and unique textures really bring me joy and inspire me,” said Keam. “I love animation of all kinds and try to educate myself on what’s new and fresh in the art world and pop culture. As far as work I do for me, I really like drawing and painting different inspirational characters. It makes me happy and in turn I hope it makes others happy!”
More specifically, Keam wants the residency as a place where he can interact with passerby and those interested in checking out his work in person, with an emphasis on the “in person.” Instead of letting his work exist solely on the internet, it’s important to Keam to have a location where he can show his works in progress, as well as draw more attention to North Long Beach culture.
Image courtesy of Jason Keam.
“I really love North Long Beach,” said Keam, just days after he’d inhabited the small studio. “It has a rich culture and is often overlooked. My hope is that this residency will bring awareness to North Long Beach and let people know there is a thriving community up here that supports the arts wholeheartedly. I've been open for only two days so far and I've been welcomed and met tons of rad people.”
Keam has already begun working with the community on a number of projects. The 2015 Best of Long Beach winner created the poster and promotional pieces for a chili cook-off to take place on July 23 at De Forest Park, and is currently working with Long Beach Creamery and Shady Grove Food. He has also invited two local artists to show their work with him during exhibitions, self-taught artist Matisse Ibarra (also known as Punk Picasso) and painter/illustrator Bodeck Hernandez.
In its first five days of being open, The People’s Studio is shaping up to be quite a productive two-month experience.
The People’s Studio, located at 6021 Atlantic Avenue, is now open between 10:00AM and 5:00PM. Anyone can stop by between those hours until August 15 when the residency concludes.