For more images, scroll through the gallery above. Photos by Sean Laughlin For The Arts Council Long Beach.
While there were many great things at this year’s State of the Arts—a wonderful setting at the Museum of Latin American Art Museum, the plethora of talent being honored and recognized for the role they serve as ambassadors for the arts, the new board members being welcomed to the Arts Council…—there was a particularly stand-out moment.
The Mobile ArtSpace.
At initial glance, the Mobile ArtSpace proves mostly uninteresting. It’s a black box that can be dropped in any lot; little more, little less. But when night falls upon us and the box illuminates, the magic happens. This box becomes a full-fledged stage. First, the helium balloon dubbed “The Beacon” arises to alert passersby, the neighborhood, and anyone who looks up that, hey, we got something going on. After that, you have a stage deploy out of the sides of the boxes, complete with a “cloud canopy” that can host lighting and backdrops for whatever performance is going on.
This impressive innovation—and what the Arts Council calls unprecedented in its design and delivery—will be used by performing groups that were otherwise inaccessible in certain communities. We’re talking Long Beach Opera possibly next to Robert Earl BBQ in North Long Beach. We’re talking the possibility of Garage Theatre doing performances outside of its DTLB home theatre and inside the boundaries of Central Long Beach. We’re talking the Jazz Angels, who happened to be on hand at the State of the Arts event, popping up practically anywhere they want—no equipment needed.
“The real genius of the project is the Arts Council’s initial concept: that you don’t have to go to an opera house or gallery to see art. Instead, the Mobile ArtSpace will bring the arts into a more direct dialogue with communities that don’t have the same access to the arts,” Wil Carson, design principal at 64North, said. “This kind of access to the arts will take vacant lots that are void or negative within the city fabric and make those an asset.”
It largely reflects what Arts Council Executive Director Victoria Bryan has been trying to do since taking over the organization following John Glaza: to shift the focus of their efforts away from programming and educational efforts and toward providing promotion and work for existing artists.
Even more? It can bring the City (with a Capital C) to the people in a way otherwise impossible: town halls on small streets, speeches in front of homes, engagements in unreached spaces—and not just in Long Beach, but in surrounding cities like Compton, Wilmington, East Los Angeles and areas like the Inland Empire or Orange County.
The capital campaign was launched on October 9 while the Mobile ArtSpace performances themselves are expected to being within the coming years.
“It’s undeniable that art is an essential component to any great city,” Mayor Garcia said. “Public institutions have a responsibility to fund the arts.”
This year’s James H. Ackerman Arts Philanthropist award went to Dr. Ronald and Sylvia Hartman for their major gifts to several art institutions; Danny Flores was named Arts Educator for his work to keep youth out of gangs; and Victor Ladd was awarded Arts Volunteer for his leadership at the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach and its Shoreline Village gallery. Two new awards were created this year: the Arts Innovator award, which went to MADE in Long Beach for its creative business model to support local artisans and create community; and the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association took home the Economic Development Arts Trailblazer award for the sustainable economic impact its monthly First Fridays event has on the business district.
The Arts Council made several other announcements as well, including a new $5,000 Risk and Innovation grant to encourage risk-taking and innovation in the arts, the Mobile ArtSpace project and capital campaign and nine new board members: Daniel Alvarado, Loara Cadavona, Tasha Hunter, Cyrus Parker-Jeanette, Jessica Quintana, Darick Simpson, Gordon Snead, Griselda Suarez and Sayon Syprasoeuth.
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