Arboretum Hours

Image of Arboretum by Vincent Mattina, courtesy of Vincent Mattina.

The First Fridays Beach Streets Kick-Off will feature myriad activities, musical performances and fun things to see and do for both kids and adults. Here are three notable art-related events you shouldn’t miss as you stroll, skate or ride your bike down Atlantic Avenue the night before Long Beach’s first Open Streets event.

unfathomableA solo exhibition in the North Gallery of EXPO Arts Center will feature local artist Vincent Mattina’s steampunk-inspired digital art. It will also highlight the return of the locally-revered improvisational performance duo Toaster Music after a month-long hiatus, featuring Chapman Stick player, Art Valdez and Maha and Company as special guests.

Mattina’s impressively detailed works introduce an alternate, yet seemingly plausible reality that take the viewer on an otherworldly, thoughtful journey of the mind. Science, nature and spirituality come into play within the brooding, moody, fictional environments created with the artist’s most recent works in mind, entitled Sentinels.

“It started off being more of a commentary on the NSA and loss of privacy, and it also addressed coming technologies,” said Mattina. “It’s a bit of a mix of the two, but more about privacy, the loss of it. I was actually watching a couple documentaries on Edward Snowden and of what he’d exposed and thinking about everything that I send through email or what I post or things I have on my Facebook page, or information about me or what can get out there.”

Viewers are encouraged to get lost in these worlds and contemplate the idea that “the guards that were created to watch over us may not have our best interests in mind.”

Alongside his work from Sentinels, Mattina will be constructing an installation two hours before the gallery opens.

“I just have a couple hours to do it so it’s going to be pretty spontaneous,” he said. “Which is fine. I like stream-of-consciousness. The theme I was going toward is kind of dedicated to my mother who passed away last year and it’ll be about loss.”

allery1An equally exciting highlight of this First Fridays will include the completion of Dave Van Patten’s mural on the north side of The Allery on Burlinghall and Atlantic Avenue. The grand opening of the alley-turned-community-gathering-space was celebrated last month.

Tokotah Ashcraft of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association who lent a major hand in bringing the year-long project to fruition, said that during last month’s First Fridays “probably a couple thousand people walked through that alley just to take a look at what was going on.”

“Last Friday was such a winner,” she said.

The four interchangeable panels on the south side of the alley now display artwork by Christian Hernandez, while the panels will be rotated every couple of months to feature different work from different artists.

Van Patten’s mural, however, will be a lasting facet of this community-oriented project.

“The Allery is a cool little art nook now,” he said. “Before at First Fridays art walk, you had to either have an exhibit in the EXPO, or have a booth somewhere randomly on the sidewalk, but now it’s more centralized. It almost feels like a secret backdoor party. Soon people will know to come there to buy good art, hear a good DJ, and see good street art.”

11327839 1507157212857107 418726274 nThe mural’s train image weaves fluidly in and out of the building’s windows, while a cyclist appears as a representation of the neighborhood bike shop. Van Patten added readers, giant shoes and a “good amount of beer” to showcase the nearby businesses, including his favorite craft beer bottle shop, Stateside. Other images were chosen by the artist to evoke imagination.

“It’s hard to be entirely proud of the mural at this point because my detail work always happens literally the last day,” Van Patten told the Post. “So until that day, everything looks fairly blank, which is kinda humbling when people who know nothing about my process are able to walk by and judge it at its unfinished stage.”

The artist said he hopes those who view the finished mural on Friday and beyond will understand his point to not take themselves too seriously. He hopes people will be reminded that their childlike imaginations still exist.

“It’s a rainbow-colored toy train with an elementary school kind of look to it,” he said. “I love injecting childlike images with hints of disturbing realism though, but not too much because the intended feeling of this mural is to be inviting to the community rather than alienating.”

If you missed the first preview of BREAKING THROUGH, Lighting the Way at February’s First Fridays art walk, now’s your chance to take another look at the collection of historical profiles paying tribute to the “first and second black women to hold positions of employment that had once excluded African Americans,” at the First Fridays tabletop exhibit at the Historical Society of Long Beach.

Carolyn Smith Watts, co-curator of BREAKING THROUGH, Lighting the Way with photojournalist and author, Sunny Nash, said she hopes viewers will connect with the women’s stories, whether it be with their educational journeys, personal stories or career progression.

11080254 598898556892043 8846213266913533543 oWomen featured in the exhibit include Patricia Lofland, the first black member of the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees, Evelyn Night who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery and Vera Mulkey, the city’s first black Chief of Staff.

“I think they should take away that if they can do it anybody can do it,” she said. “And also being able to say, ‘Wow, someone else had a similar journey.’ Some of the stories are going to be very familiar with other people, or they will have heard the stories or there will be some connection. They’ll be a lot more connected with these women than they thought.”

Of the featured women, Watts said they “made their mark here and they’re so unassuming, they’re almost like unsung heroes.”

The full BREAKING THROUGH, Lighting the Way Exhibition, sponsored by Leadership Long Beach, will open Tuesday, September 29 at the Atrium Center & Theater in the Long Beach Public Library’s main branch in downtown.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].