On Friday, October 12th, the Arts Council of Long Beach will present their annual State of the Art event, where they discuss how the arts are moving or changing in our city.
Full disclosure: I have never attended one of these events, and I am unfortunately unable to attend this year’s event, but we are sending a contingent to report back on what is shared.
Here’s the thing though—I can’t imagine anything they are going to share at this event will be mind-blowing beyond what I assume will be some bold statements made about the potential future of the arts in LBC.
If you’ve watched any “State of the [insert focus area here]” then you know the speakers commonly throw out some really high expectations and goals to shoot for, but rarely can fully realize in the timeline they propose.
It’s OK though, because any forward movement with the arts in this town is a good direction, but the problem is that the Arts Council’s focus tends to lean more into theater, music, and dance, and puts visual arts in last place. Yes, we’re all moving forward together, but visual artists are still riding in the 3rd-row seats trying to look through everyone else to see what’s coming ahead.
Between the other two founders of this site and me, we have had a few conversations over some of Long Beach’s finest craft brews, discussing art in this city, and the following is what we believe is the true state of visual arts in Long Beach.
Accept Support Without Expecting It
Yes, having the city more invested in the arts is a fantastic idea, and we hope they make huge leaps forward in that regard, but if time has taught us anything, we cannot depend on them to build anything substantial in regards to visual arts.
Allowing groups like Pow Wow to come in and integrate art into more areas of the city is fantastic, and we are better for having them here, but Pow Wow is in town for two weeks each July, and then gone, including half the artists they brought with them. Let’s be honest; why would any of these outsider artists stick around when they know there’s not much of an art scene left once Pow Wow leaves.
If the city had an effective plan to bring in more gallery wall space, we would support that, but we aren’t holding our breath. Instead, we would rather find ways to bring attention to local artists, and see if we can’t start a movement ourselves.
Not Waiting for Permission
A lot of artists spend much of their time waiting for galleries and museums to make space for their work, or worse, waiting for the collectors and curators from Los Angeles to come to Long Beach to seek out the untapped potential. For most of us, that is an unrealistic scenario.
What if instead, we made the space ourselves by finding unused spaces and turning them into temporary pop-ups for art? Or if we encouraged more local businesses to beautify their establishments with artists from the city?
What if we hold regular events specifically to get artists together to do nothing more than meet, greet, and commiserate on the artist’s struggle?
What if we started a collaborative of artists so deep and talented that it would be impossible for locals and out-of-towners alike to ignore the noise we were making?
What if we started a website that focused solely on the visual arts of the town, sharing artists, their stories, the local events, and anything else that helps bring attention to the talent here?
Doing It for Ourselves
The small cluster of museums and galleries in town are not big enough to be a scene, but if we gathered enough creative people together, perhaps we could make a scene.
If we wait for salvation from the city or other entities, then we will be waiting for a long, long time. If instead, we all come together to help move visual arts forward, the others won’t have any choice but to pay attention.
That, in a long-winded nutshell, is the mission of Art Clout; to raise the beacons around the city so that the rest of the world will start paying attention.
As much as we appreciate the Arts Council of Long Beach efforts to make this town more creative and culturally driven, we aren’t waiting for them to help us. We’re doing this for ourselves, and we want to bring all the other local artists with us.
If you’re with us, then stick around. We are just starting to get our hands dirty in this work, but very soon there will be bigger things happening.
We also soon have an email list you can join to get updates, and a Facebook group where everyone can share their work, their experiences, pose questions or bring insight. Those are in the works, but coming soon.
Of course, you can always interact with us here in the comments of any post. If you need to contact us directly, hit us up in the DMs of Instagram or Facebook for the fastest results.
We have a new Facebook group for Art Clout Members where we are discussing Long Beach visual arts in real time, if you want to come hang out.