Compound, a community-focused hybrid art space and non-profit, is slated to open in Long Beach’s Zaferia district this fall, joining the cluster of businesses off Anaheim Street along Coronado Avenue—including Commodity Coffee, Analog Record Shop and Urban Americana—to offer contemporary art exhibitions, public programming and wellness workshops.
The art-meets-culture-meets-retail concept, comparable in physicality to Los Angeles-based Hauser & Wirth and inspired by spaces such as Underground Museum, has been in the making for the past five years. But with its original spring 2020 opening postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Compound leadership announced Thursday the details of its mission and an opening expected in late September.
“Our mission is to create a place that is affirming, inclusive, and open,” said founder and executive director Megan Tagliaferri. “At Compound, our hope is that all visitors will find community, healing, and a great sense of belonging. We believe that culture shifts consciousness, and all are welcome to join us in experiencing art and wellness.”
The 15,000-square-foot space, which includes two 1930s art deco buildings adaptively reused, an outdoor courtyard and sculpture garden, was designed by Tagliaferri in collaboration with Long Beach-based BOA Architects. Guests will be able to visit The Laboratory, a building dedicated to the creation of art and The Warehouse, a multipurpose venue.
The complex also includes a concept shop, where ceramics, jewelry, and limited edition pieces from local artists will be for sale, a bar, as well as Ellie’s, the popular Italian restaurant of local Chef Jason Witzl, who recently announced it would move from its original location in Alamitos Beach to its new home at Compound.
Compound’s inaugural exhibition, “Chaos to Cosmos,” will include works that have a transcendental quality, that offer a potentially tranquil, peaceful experience for viewers.
Rooted in the Light and Space movement of the ’60s and ’70s with artists approaching the concept of universality, the show features works by sculptor Fred Eversley with his minimal, cast resin cylinders and Helen Pashgian, whose artworks made of industrial materials bend light, alongside pieces by Billy Al Bengston, Gisela Colon, Seffa Klein, Eamon Ore-Giron, Fay Ray, Rachel Rose, and Gail Stoicheff.
Left: “Untitled (parabolic lens) 1969,” 2018 by Fred Eversley. Right: “Untitled,” 2019 by Helen Pashgian. Courtesy of Compound.
Compound’s art curator and artistic director, Lauri Firstenberg brings a wealth of experience to the complex’s contemporary art program, as the founder of one of the first nonprofit alternative art spaces in Los Angeles, LAXART, where she curated more than 500 exhibitions between 2005 and 2015.
Firstenberg also co-directed the 11-day Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival in conjunction with The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980 initiative, involving more than 60 cultural institutions across Southern California, is the co-founder and co-curator of MADE in LA, the first Los Angeles Biennial organized by the Hammer Museum, in collaboration with LAXART; and the artistic director and curator of the CaliforniaBiennial, “I Thought California Would Be Different” at OCMA.
Following “Chaos to Cosmos,” Firstenberg said an exhibition on radical empathy, art and activism is next on the docket. Her approach with Compound is “to strike a balance between getting to amplify voices between local, national and international practitioners.
I think it’s less about my vision and just building an incredible team of collaborators and partners together to create really exceptional programming that’s responding to some of the urgent and pressing issues of our current moment.”
Some of those collaborators include Long Beach local, artist and Cambodian refugee Sayon Syprasoeuth, program coordinator of Living Arts Long Beach with United Cambodian Community, Slanguage, Mario Ybarra’s and Karla Diaz’ artist collective based in Wilmington, Anna Sew Hoy of CSULB School of Art’s ceramics department, and Anita Ravi, founder of We the People High School in Long Beach.
Alongside regularly rotating shows, The Laboratory will serve as a space for selected artists to experiment and produce new works. Visitors in the fall will be able to experience one of the first of these Compound Commissions through artist Glenn Kaino’s “Tidepools,” a three-part installation composed of a cloud chamber, a sound bath and a wishing well, described by Tagliaferri as a “transformational experience.”
The interactive exhibition will take up the entirety of the space, and require reservations in advance to experience it.
Additional commissions include a giant neon artwork now on view, reading “You Belong Here” by artist Tavares Strachan affixed to Compound’s exterior, part of an ongoing body of work exploring “the power of language in observing our relationships to place and one another.”
Tagliaferri, born and raised Portland, moved to Long Beach 18 years ago where she now lives with her husband and two children. She started her career as a design and interiors professional, and later opened her own studio practice, FLO Design Studio, working on high-end hospitality and residential spaces.
She likens Compound to a vessel that “we are holding space for others to come in, to talk, or have a talk series, and what’s happening right now has just deepened our purpose of service for the community.”
Once open, free public programming will include yoga, healing workshops, youth art classes, bilingual Spanish/English poetry readings, performances by local musicians, film screenings, hands-on gardening, a “decolonize the palate” dinner series, and more.
“Art spaces can often feel inaccessible, and I’m offering my resources to create a new model that’s welcoming, and everyone can feel like they belong, and I think that’s important for youth, that’s important for everybody,” said Tagliaferri. “What we’re trying to do at Compound is to build healthy connections for the community, not only a better connection to yourself through attending some of our programming but connections to others so you will enter out back into the community thriving, hopefully.”
While Compound had to postpone opening its physical location—and is monitoring COVID-19 to adjust programming and event capacities accordingly for when it opens in September—digitally its launched Compound-ed, an online editorial platform with its first issue focused on the inaugural exhibition “Chaos to Cosmos,” as well as a weekly video partnership with Artist Relief on its Instagram, an emergency initiative offering artists impacted by COVID-19 financial and informational resources.
“We have to bring the community in, and learn and listen and adapt and grow with them,” said Tagliaferri. “I think that’s really part of Compound’s heart. We’re a place of service, a place that can bring people together, which we could use a lot more of right now.”
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.