Photos by Asia Morris.
Nearly 200 curious locals took to the EXPO Art Center yesterday evening for the POW! WOW! Long Beach 2016 Community Meeting, presented by the Arts Council for Long Beach and Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA), to learn more about the revered outdoor mural festival, set to take place in Long Beach for its second consecutive summer.
Attendees inquired as to whether the artists are paid, how the mural locations and artists are chosen, what the agreement between the building owners and POW! WOW! entails, how those interested can sign up to volunteer and whether POW! WOW! has a responsibility to consider diversity and local artists in their lineup.
POW! WOW! Long Beach Director John Hall fielded most of the questions. No, the artists are not paid to paint, although Hall said that if POW! WOW! could double its fundraising efforts, of course they would pay artists for their time and effort. While supplies are provided by obliging sponsors, artists are arguably paid through exposure, as festival organizers ensure extensive social media coverage before, during and after the week-long festival, not to the mention the hundreds of bloggers, news outlets and passersby covering the action in their own right.
Some argue that’s simply not enough, the artists should be paid, but there’s a reason most of the artists return, time and time again. It’s more of a social club than anything else, where like-minded, talented individuals choose to spend days doing what they love, painting, learning and connecting with other creatives, local arts advocates and their own die-hard fans and those just learning about their work.
“This is a community project, not a corporation,” was perhaps the statement of the night, said by Hall as he attempted to disavow the perception of the globally recognized festival being a more powerful, so to speak, and much more funded arts initiative than initially perceived by many.
“There are some that say, ‘Okay, it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that again,’ but there are others that are really fed from this,” said Ron Nelson, executive director of the Long Beach Museum of Art (LBMA), of which its upcoming exhibition, Vitality and Verve: In the Third Dimension features some of the artists participating in POW! WOW! this year.
It’s an exchange, where, yes, local, accomplished artists are considered for the invite-only festival, while arts advocates would also want to see those artists given the opportunity to venture to Taiwan or Japan or Hawaii, to name three of the festival’s locations. Compared to the sole Long Beach resident who was invited to participate in the inaugural POW! WOW! Long Beach last year, that number has increased to four local artists who will begin painting the town come Monday, July 11.
As far the locations are concerned, all 21 walls have officially been announced and are this time a little more spread throughout the entirety of the city, with one mural to be painted in North Long Beach by James Haunt at La Bodega Mexicana, two murals to be painted in Bixby Knolls, one in Cal Heights, and one just outside of the Zaferia District by Sket One, not quite reaching Belmont Shore. Most of the murals are located in downtown, near the waterfront, in the East Village Arts District, and also venture into Alamitos Beach and Bluff Heights.
After the successful first festival, Hall told attendees that building owners began reaching out to him to offer up a wall or several, while it was Hall’s job to choose diverse locations as well as a diverse range of artists, which was also based upon the building owners’ requests. Hall says one building owner specifically requested a Latino muralist, a request POW! WOW! happily fulfilled. And while POW! WOW! would prefer the murals are left up for at least a year after they’re painted, Hall explained that it’s ultimately up to the owner how long the mural is left up for viewers.
Two upcoming art talks to take place during POW! WOW! week were also announced, to be brought to Long Beach thanks to Imprint Labs and InterTrend Communications. The first on Tuesday, July 12 by Eugene Kan with Martha Cooper and Ernest Zacharevic of the launched-in-beta Maekan, “for those who are hungry for quality editorial and storytelling.” The second on Wednesday, July 13 with InterTrend’s Executive Creative Director Jeff Staple with artist HULA.
To end on a high note, the room certainly welled with Long Beach pride as Nelson mentioned a meeting he’d had with the LA County Arts Commission.
“I took them through the museum, we talked about the murals outside, but their last questions to me were, ‘How do we get this to LA?’” Nelson said. “‘You can’t get this to LA, this is Long Beach. This is Long Beach’s festival, it’s not going to LA.’ And they said, ‘Okay, well, we’ll see about that.’ Well, we’re still here!”
For locations, participating artists, festival events and more, visit the website here.