From Long Beach Walls to Art Renzei, Creative Class Collective is an organization behind numerous art initiatives in Long Beach.
While the organization formalized around 2018 or 2019, these initiatives have been ongoing for decades, explained director Cassandra Leeman.
Originally conceptualized through the multicultural marketing agency interTrend Communications, Creative Class Collective became an organization to specifically house its community programming, Leeman said.
All of the nonprofit’s programs foster and support creativity within Long Beach—whether it’s through community engagement or assisting those working in creative industries.
Perhaps one of the organization’s most notable programs is Long Beach Walls, which since 2010 has brought murals to public spaces in cities like Honolulu, Seoul, Washington D.C., Taipei and Tokyo as part of the globally recognized World Wide Walls series of street art events.
While introducing Long Beach Walls was a large endeavor for the city, Leeman said, the annual event, apart from its artistic contribution to Long Beach, provides a bridge between the community and the muralists. Throughout the process, community members are able to engage with the artists and learn the stories behind each mural, Leeman said.
While Long Beach Walls murals are hopefully meant to be forever (although this is not always the case, Leeman said), its accompanying event, Art Renzei, brings a temporary sculpture and multimedia installation to the Long Beach community.
Apart from this, Creative Class Collective programming includes Unexpected Connections, a conference and dinner series where visionaries from different industries come together to inspire and uplift, as well as discuss the creative economy, which Leeman expects will return this October in conjunction with the Long Beach Economic Partnership.
The Port City Creative Guild, meanwhile, is an art exchange program that was developed during the pandemic, which partners professional artists with the Long Beach Unified School District. Initially, 10 artists were given a stipend to create a large-scale artwork, which was intended to be displayed in Community Hospital, but when this plan fell through, the Port City Creative Guild then shifted to its second phase, which included selecting artists to create small-scale artwork to trade with students from six-to-eight middle school and high schools.
Inspired by the 1960s mail art movement, when artists would create small-scale work on envelopes and post cards, the Port City Creative Guild encourages the idea that art doesn’t need to be only found on a canvas, Leeman said.
With the help of art kits created by Creative Class Collective, about 400 students participated in the program, Leeman said.
Of the 100 students who ended up submitting art to be potentially traded, about 60 pieces ended up being selected by professional artists, Leeman said.
“Artists didn’t have to pick anybody, so it was really instilled that if you were chosen, it was because the artists saw value in your work and appreciated what you did,” Leeman said.
In a city like Long Beach that is home to so many creatives, providing the various Creative Class Collective programs creates both an outlet for artists while supporting economic development, Leeman said.
Initiatives such as Long Beach Walls can even help sustain businesses—creating a focal point that people will return to again and again, Leeman said.
People remember the moment they met the artist or learned about the background or the hidden image behind the mural, Leeman said. “It’s just like something really meaningful … to hopefully inspire you to do whatever you’re passionate about,” Leeman said. “I think that’s needed everywhere.”
Right now, one goal for the Creative Class Collective is to create more permanent, large-scale installations throughout the city, and to truly uplift Long Beach, which has the potential to become a global destination for art, Leeman said.
Back in 2021, the organization placed temporary stained-glass art installations along the beach, an initiative that Leeman said she would love to see on a more permanent scale.
Specifically, Leeman would love to see a sculpture park created in Victory Park right off of Ocean Boulevard. As of now, the area doesn’t really look like a public space due to its proximity to high rise buildings and hotels, but through creating a sculpture park, it has the potential to integrate the beach more to Downtown, which currently seems disconnected, Leeman said.
“I would love to create a reason for people to explore how beautiful our space is,” Leeman said.
“Everybody knows Long Beach has wonderful local artists—everybody within Long Beach, but I don’t know if everybody outside of Long Beach knows how creative we are as a city and community,” Leeman said. “So I would like to make it more known and just really uplift us as this fine art, creative space.”