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Photos by Asia Morris.

During the last two weeks, MADE in Long Beach has quickly become much more than a thriving boutique and informal event space. However, this article isn’t necessarily about MADE; it’s about seven local artists that together have become an “art leviathan,” as artist Jorge Mujica would describe the group, that have started a wave that may just crest as a more solidified downtown art scene that residents and visitors could consider taking seriously.

Mujica is one of the four artists who left the ArtExchange (ArtX), located in the East Village Arts District, when the future of their stay became tentative due to the nonprofit’s looming renovations. Studio artists were asked to reapply in early November of last year, but not guaranteed the spot they’d upheld for the past one or two years. So in an effort to hang on to the community originally fostered at ArtX, local artists Mujica, J. Renee Tanner, Kenny McBride and Christine Fuchs decided to take matters into their own hands.

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Largely spearheaded by Tanner, the artists agreed to pool their resources, including their connections in the Long Beach community, to figure out a way to stay together, to continue working in a space that would allow the continuance of their productivity and their connection with local fans and passerby. MADE happened to have that space, and the two entities struck a six-month deal. One of the requirements for the artists is that they would be able to use the backroom as their collective studio includes hosting an exhibit every other month, according to Localism’s Executive Director, DW Ferrell, who runs MADE.

In short, MADE frequenters and downtowners should be seeing a lot more fine art for sale and for show on Pine Avenue for at least the first half of the new year. The studios are open to MADE shoppers during open hours, as well, so customers can chat with the artists and view their works-in-progress.

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Several creatives still remain at ArtX, upholding various studio hours, while the gallery and classroom are closed during the renovations. ArtX CEO Nicolassa Galvez says ArtX plans to release a call for new artists within the next few months, although “It is bittersweet to see how they have come together to create a solution during the changes planned and underway for the building at Third and Elm,” Galvez told the Post. “No one loses with more places for artists and their work in Long Beach.”

“[MADE] is an extension of my goals at ArtX,” said painter Kenny McBride. “It’s interfacing with the public while simultaneously having a spot to put all my stuff. I’m looking forward to, with MADE specifically, learning how to better merchandise my art. I’d like to learn from MADE and work together with them to establish what type of things sell best for me.”

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Along with the former ArtX clan, Anna Schoendorfer, Dave Van Patten and Sydney Walters were also brought into the mix, some of which have never worked in a studio space other than their own homes. While the artists have just desiganated their allotted spaces (and are still working on moving in), Walters told the Post she has high hopes for her time at MADE.

“I didn’t have [a studio], it was called my home,” Walters laughed. “So far it’s been great. There’s a bunch of creative energy poppin’ around; even when everyone is absent it’s constantly being occupied by energy and creativity and I want to feed off of that, plus just have making-room. And being a painter and a sculptor, I get to designate appropriate spaces for that.”

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This will also be Schoendorfer’s first official studio space, while her jewelry and ceramics pieces are already sold in MADE’s front store. She spoke to the artists praising them for bringing their art to MADE in Long Beach.

“I think it’s great that you guys are bringing an art element to MADE in Long Beach because that has been something that’s kinda been…there hasn’t been a focus for something like that yet,” she said. “There’s been art events, people have had a display of some paintings in the back of the room, but I’m excited to see this grow to be a gallery and a place where I know a lot of artists in Long Beach are looking for that kind of catalyst to make it a serious place for people to buy art.”

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Several of the artists lamented the hundreds of creatives living and working in Long Beach that have no tangible visual art “scene” to call their own. A great example of said scene might include Los Angeles’ downtown art walk, which boasts more than 20 participating art galleries and hundreds of monthly attendees. Aside from events and programming put on by the city’s three major museums, The Long Beach Museum of Art, The Museum of Latin American Art and the University Art Museum, and the monthly “art walks” dispersed throughout the city, there seems to lack a notable art nucleus.

“[We wanted] something that just functions better for the artists,” said Tanner. “We need a place to work and we sure would love a place to show, but just being able to make our work is going to better set us up to get to LA. And we can invite people down from LA and we can legitimize ourselves in another way and still be in Long Beach.”

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Albeit a temporary situation, the Studio Artists at MADE in Long Beach may be onto something. Tanner, looking smartly toward the near future, noted the increasing number of residential units in the downtown area, including those of the The Current and The Edison, who have both opened the leasing for their high-end apartments. As density increases so too should the demand for a viable art scene. And whether or not the artist’s residency at MADE can help make this happen, at the least it’s a feasible start to the dream that may spur other downtown establishments to open their doors to contemporary art.

“I think there’s going to be more need for furniture, more need for art, more of a desire for an art ambiance,” she said. “Here we are. They’ll want their neighborhood to be cool and this is a cool place.”

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The situation is in such a nascent phase, it’s difficult to tell what will happen from here, but there’s no shortage of opportunity or excitement among the group. McBride said to come back in a month to see how the group was doing because “every day, every hour, a new question is brought up and we’re like, ‘Okay, we’ll adjust.'”

McBride said none of the artists were very clear on how the space will be used yet. “We’ve just navigated our personal spaces and it’s going to be really exciting,” she said.

The Studio Artists at MADE in Long Beach will host their first show, Introduction, to open today Friday, January 15. You can stop by to see the art today until 6:00PM. While no opening reception will take place, visitors can attend the closing reception on Saturday, February 13 at 6:00PM. The show is viewable at MADE on Mondays through Saturdays from 10:00AM to 6:00PM and on Sundays from noon to 6:00PM. For more information about the show, click here.

MADE in Long Beach is located at 240 Pine Avenue.

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].