The Arts Council for Long Beach announced in January that, thanks to the City of Long Beach's generous allocation for the arts, five artists and 20 arts organizations were selected to receive Operating Grants, Professional Artist Fellowships and Community Project Grants for the 2014-2015 period. All grantees were selected by an independent review panel consisting of arts professionals and members of the community.
“We are so pleased that this year our grants not only showcase the diversity of the arts in our city, but reach all 9 council districts," Arts Council for Long Beach Executive Director Victoria Bryan said in a statement "Our grants programs are one of the many ways that the Arts Council supports art and artists in our city. We look forward to continuing to promote these artists, organizations, and opportunities for the whole community to participate in the arts.”
And what is more indicative of the Long Beach art scene than the individual working artist, spending long hours in her studio, working hard to tell her story through film making, like recipient Pamela K. Johnson, or through building tactile, spontaneous installations, like Olga Lah's and her 2011 project entitled "Burst." What is more important to our City's growth and vibrancy than a woman, like recipient Sunny Nash, who worked to preserve the history of 12 African American women whose influence on the City of Long Beach remains pivotal today.
What is more eye-opening than Carole Frances Lung's art-driven activism, that playfully and gently brings the worldwide textile industry's conditions into the limelight, and what is a greater catalyst to the gathering of community, to spurring people in Long Beach to take a moment out of their hectic lives, than listening to a story told by Yulya Dukhovny with her Microscope Toy Theater productions.
Of the 25 recipients, the five working artists who were chosen to receive the Professional Artist Fellowship this year will be the Arts Council's first class composed entirely of women. The grant honors local artists who "live, work or actively create in Long Beach and demonstrate an active exhibition and/or production record of at least three years."
The Post was given the opportunity to step into and experience the studios of two of these renowned creatives, Yulya Dukhovny and Carole Frances Lung.
Photos by Asia Morris.
Yulya Dukhovny's studio is her home. When you enter her apartment a long dining table-turned-workspace presents itself; laying on top are a number of open books she's using to research her upcoming characters, sitting amongst several painted works of abstract art, that she'll later turn into backgrounds for her model stages. If you walk slightly farther in toward the kitchen, a small nook to your right houses the model stage for her upcoming show about a tsunami, while the walls are crowded with her love of all things tiny. Little faces, figurines, drawings and beautiful tiny objects decorate the small studio space.
Dukhovny, who was born in Russia and started her creative life as a classic pianist, lived and worked in Tel Aviv for 16 years as a composer and stage director. Working for New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv enabled her to also lead studio programs, including a model theater workshop for children and adults. It was then that she began to consider giving model theaters a life of their own as a form of performing art. Having accomplished nearly 40 European and American opera productions, Dukhovny found that after a time, simply building models for the sake of turning them into larger stage sets no longer held the same appeal.
"I was always fascinated with how the model of production looked so theatrical and perfect at the scale of the model," she said nostalgically. "Every new production begins at the scale of modeling. But, sometimes when you see a version of the little model in a real space, sometimes it's not the same look at all. Some of the magic is gone."
She began creating and performing toy (model) theater in 2011, which she calls Microscope Toy Theater. Her first experience performing The Real Elephant in France and Germany, where toy theater is already popular among adults, seemed like part of a wonderful dream.
"It's popular among adults because it's an interesting kind of atmosphere you experience. It's theater where only 30 people can see the performance, it's really intimate. Adults love it because everybody sits around a little stage, something real happens on that stage and everybody wants to see closer so they sit closer to each other, they huddle, sometimes having wine," she laughs. "Everything becomes so friendly and the performer evolves throughout this kind of show. It's a pretty amazing experience for both the performer and audience."
Dukhovny has performed, it seems, everywhere except Long Beach, her current place of residence. She brought Fisherman's Dream, an adaptation of A. Pushkin's 1835 fairy tale, a performance played out on a 14"x20" wooden stage, intermingled with a “silent movie” stylized video projection, to the 10th Great Small Works Festival in New York and the "On Edge" Festival of Contemporary Performance Art in Santa Barbara. A Real Elephant has charmed audiences in Epernay, France, in Germany and New York, NY, while her other shows have been given the floor at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, Automata Arts in Los Angeles, Santa Monica Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute Museum of Art among other venues.
"I have performed a few times in Long Beach," she explained, "but I usually perform in Los Angeles, many people know me there."
"Many of my proposals got lost in Long Beach," she continued. "I don't know why. It's really kind of new, it's both old and new. It's difficult to go through this unknown zone for many organizations. They don't really understand the medium. They think it's puppetry, but it's not only puppetry, it's more like visual storytelling using miniature sets and flat paper characters. Great environments for me are museums and libraries because they always have a dark room and they always have a community interested in books and different types of visuals."
Dukhovny wants to bring Microscope Toy Theater to Long Beach more often, and to find a way to perform her work at a garage or another venue where she can present her repertoire of shows and even host workshops, she says. She wants to encourage more people to attend these family-friendly shows, for the sake of creating a space and a reason to gather, for the sake of teaching and growing with her audience.
Her next project, a dramatic tale about tsunamis in Japan called “Into the Rice Fields,” inspired by the many famous works of writer Lafcadio Hearn and the art of kamishibai or "paper drama," a Japanese form of storytelling, will ideally be performed in schools. Always the sole composer of her shows, this time Dukhovny will use fragments of Tōru Takemitsu's (1930-1996) music, a renowned Japanese composer known for his unique and experimental sound. Dukhovny predicts the show will be ready to perform this April.
"I hope to bring the show to schools and festivals, to not only raise awareness of global warming and disasters like this, but to also bring knowledge of a completely different culture," she explained.
Dukhovny will use the grant money from Arts Council for Long Beach to buy a mixer for her mini stage lighting system, which now consists of several lamps out of sync.
"My lighting is very complicated. I have a lot of lamps, but they should be connected so a person can sit and operate the lights during the show. It's really expensive stuff and it will help me so much," she concluded.
For more information about the artist and her work, visit the Microscope Toy Theater website here or visit the Long Beach Artist Registry here. Keep up to date with upcoming shows on the Facebook Page here.
Upon entering Carole Frances Lung's studio at 322 Elm Ave. you’ll notice a cleanliness that just doesn’t seem right. The studio, which sits caddy corner to the Art Exchange, is also known as the Institute for Labor Generosity Workers & Uniforms (ILGWU), and houses the work of Lung’s alter ego, Frau Fiber, “a textile worker, activist and symbol of the lost generation of East German workers,” as well as The Sewing Rebellion’s weekly meetings.
The space is not only a showcase of Frau Fiber’s “soft-guerrilla warfare,” as Lung would describe it, and a gallery for artists whose work has some relationship to textiles and labor, but the room is also set up for production. Suddenly it’s not the cleanliness that doesn’t feel right, it’s the emptiness that makes the room feel strange. The space still echoes with the energy of perhaps the most recent sewing rebellion, the sound of the sewing machines’ grating hums, the sound of a group of people working for what they wholeheartedly believe in. It’s strange without them here.
“It's also an experimental factory. Frau is kind of working out her vision of factory in here, philosophizing and experimenting with systems of work and production as it relates to the textile and garment industry worldwide,” Lung explained.
“The idea is that the art is not just on the walls, it’s immersive.” she continued. “You walk into it when you walk through the doors, the space is set up for production. When sewing rebellions happen, if Frau is working on a project then she is here producing in the windows so everyone can see.”
One of Lung’s recent projects that was on the display in the studio earlier this year was called the Free Zone Regime Pop Up Shop, an exhibition inspired by her trip to Ghana where she studied and explored the Ghanaian textile industry. The uniforms that were showcased in the front window above the Elm Ave. studio door were Frau’s colorful Textile Tourism uniforms, which she made out of every kind of textile that can be produced or bought in Ghana.
“So they represent Batik, Adinkra, the Chinese imports, the traditional Dutch wax print, then the textile called Fugu that’s the traditional fabric of the north,” she explained. “Then the right window has [cloth made by] a weaver named Grace. She has a place in the far far northwest called the Praise Jesus Weaving Center and then the one that’s not on display right now is the Kente.”
Every year for the last two years, starting with her time at the Art Exchange in Long Beach, Lung has created a micro collection of sellable garments. This year’s collection consisted of Pocket Smock Dresses, which Lung had produced by weavers, dyers, tailors and seamstresses, were inspired by the street vendors, the Ghanaian women who would carry food and other goods on their head, who would wear smock-like dresses with huge pockets to store their earnings for the day.
Also as part of Free Zone Regime, Lung created a blog about the Ghanaian textile industry as a way to comment and augment news articles from Frau’s perspective, whose goal is to prompt a discussion with anybody willing to engage with her. Frau’s performance art, a kind of playful cultural criticism, along with her presence on the web, is “not so much about saying, ‘This is bad,’ it's more like saying, ‘Did you know?’ and then it's up to the person to decide for themselves what they think of it,” Lung explained.
She continued, “My goal was to meet people who do textile production in Ghana and see what the possibilities are. My kind of personal goals I think as an artist are, you know, it's an opportunity to have an experience and then to reflect on it and then to put back into the culture in a way.”
Currently on display at the ILGWU is an exhibition by the Future Force Geo Speculators, a feminist collective founded in 2013 by Lung and artists Ellen Rothenberg and Christine Tarkowski, to recreate the “future factory through the fabrication of collaborative textiles, architectural objects and performative wearable goods.” Artworks that were shown at Remote Central at the Audible Gallery at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago last year, can now be seen at the Elm Ave. studio as Remote West, and include digitally printed textiles such as flags, aprons and tabloids that are commonly known as “cultural carriers.”
“This [Artist] Fellowship is awesome because it’s just like a ‘here ya go,’” said a grateful Lung, who mentioned that her next projects will use and mention the support of Arts Council for Long Beach.
Lung worked in the garment industry for 14 years before becoming a community artist in Lancaster, PA during the late 90s. She earned her MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007 and moved to Long Beach in 2010. She is now an Assistant Art Professor in the Department of Art, Fashion and Textile at California State University Los Angeles.
Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts and Industry residency.
In addition to the grantees mentioned above, Operating Grants were awarded to the following organizations: Arts and Services for Disabled, International City Theatre, Khmer Arts Academy, Long Beach Opera, Long Beach Playhouse, Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Latin American Art, and Musical Theatre West. The Community Project Grants were awarded to Cambodia Town Culture Festival, Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Garage Theatre, Hmong Association of Long Beach, Homeland Cultural Center, Jazz Angels, Khmer Girls in Action, Long Beach Camerata Singers, Long Beach Community Band, South Coast Dance Arts Alliance and University Art Museum. The Arts Education Enrichment Grants, through the support of Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, were awarded to the following LBUSD schools: Emerson Parkside Academy, Gompers K-8, Grant Elementary, Twain Elementary, Tincher Preparatory, Powell Academy, Marshall Academy of the Arts (2 awards), Millikan High School, Lakewood High School, and McBride High School.