Photo by Ariana Gastelum.
Like many office spaces, AIM Living Services in Long Beach started out with white walls, leaving little to the imagination. After a successful call to artists, Gina Woodruff transformed her administrative office into the Gina M. Woodruff Gallery, filling the once empty walls with modern and pop art.
Woodruff’s office conversion is an example of a space that works as more than it was originally intended, and due to the increasing cost of space in Long Beach, artists are searching for more creative spaces to work in and display their art.
It is with that issue in mind, that the Arts Council for Long Beach hosted a public meeting about finding solutions toward obtaining creative spaces on Monday at Woodruff’s gallery. The meeting was led by Arts Council’s Executive Director Griselda Suarez and President of the Board Tasha Hunter.
Originally held in response to the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, which resulted in the death of more than three dozen people, the gathering turned into an opportunity for artists to air their grievances on issues such as lack of affordable space, artistic opportunities in the Village Arts District and communal effort.
Eric Almanza, an artist and fine arts instructor for the Los Angeles Unified School District, has been living in Long Beach since 2003. However, for three years, his studio was stationed in Los Angeles because he couldn’t find a space in Long Beach.
“I love saying that I’m a Long Beach artist, but it’s very difficult for a Long Beach artist to work in Long Beach,” Almanza said. “I think that whatever takes place moving forward has to be a grassroots effort collectively with artists, artists that are invested in Long Beach.”
The audience developed several potential strategies to aid these issues, such as utilizing low-income housing consultants, with the possibility of connecting with an agency that could help artists find affordable spaces. Another idea was to have a volunteer group engage with businesses to either allow artists to showcase their work or utilize some of their room as a studio.
There was also discussion about going beyond the Village Arts District scene and featuring more areas within the community where art is less prevalent such as North Long Beach.
Nicolassa Galvez, art director for Music Tastes Good, addressed the national threat to the arts, noting attempts by President Trump’s administration to cut cultural programs, which make up only .02 percent of the federal budget.
“We need to come together under one umbrella, one force, and be more of a political force,” Galvez said. “I don’t think that many people in the community understand how important art is, the history, the legacy, the impact that it can have on the community financially and just to build that soul in the community.”
Arts Council Board Member Jocelyn Pryor said that, due to these drastic cuts, people should be willing to support the arts now more than ever.
“I actually think, because of the national temperature right now, it’s prime,” Pryor told the Post after the meeting. “I think the ultimate goal of the committee is to translate the creative to the business. I think that’s where the breakdowns happen, and I think if we’re having the conversations, if we’re at the table with the developer, or they’re calling us about public art, we need to translate what we can do and what we can offer.”
The Arts Council will have another meeting to discuss public art on March 23 at Art Exchange.
For more information about Arts Council for Long Beach, visit the website here.