IN THE TRENCHES WITH CULVER ARTS
February 10, 2022
“Creativity takes courage.” ~ Henri Matisse
The chaos resulting from the continuing battle with COVID has certainly confirmed that. And the Culver City Arts Foundation (“Culver Arts”) has again stepped up through its Arts Resiliency Fund campaign to aid those in the arts who are struggling to survive.
Several months ago the first 11 grants totaling just under $10,000 were awarded. A second round of grants totaling $11,000 has been awarded to 13 recipients who represent a diverse and intriguing slate of creativity and have had to cope with severe economic challenges.
The awardees include four who are affiliated with a dance studio, a filmmaker, a violinist, and seven artists.
“I have co-owned On The Edge Dance Studio (www.otedance.com), offering 42 classes a week to the community for six years; taught ongoing dance classes at the elementary, middle and high school levels; and our youth dance company has performed at the elementary festivals and the Fiesta La Ballona for five years. My youth company has had our concert at the Kirk Douglas Theater.” After COVID hit and the studio closed for four months, “we purchased a permit to offer classes in the park for the community. I also started a Harmony Day festival at El Marino Park to celebrate the diversity within our dance companies and community. We celebrated and honored our connections through dance, art, food, and by creating a community mural.
“We moved some of our classes online via Zoom, teaching and performing in parks.” Although the studio reopened, they recently had to close again and return to the park “but if the schools stay open we are going back into the studio. We did free community classes for a few months but are no longer offering them. We will do more in the future. We did one show at Lula Washington Dance Studio and are hoping to do one in early June if all works out.
““I wasn't able to get the Paycheck Protection Program loan after applying three times. My teachers are independent contractors, so we didn't get any funding at all.” Regarding the grant, “we were all very lucky to be selected, and it helped us continue to do what we do for our students. Being a dance maker, I feel that the purpose of my art is moving together -- physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
A textile artist and literary artist who teaches workshops in person and on YouTube, she “had to pause my workshops, which affected my income directly. I have seen artists, including myself, move to online platforms to connect with the community through YouTube and Zoom.” She believes that “the purpose of art is to cultivate taste,” and is looking forward to her upcoming macramé events in Culver City’s Tellefson Park (see https://macramepartys.eventbrite.com to RSVP).
A filmmaker, he has been collaborating with several artists in Culver City in the music and film industries. However, “since COVID hit the world, I lost a lot of the clients, and it has been almost impossible to find a job. Things aren't the same, and that has impacted my living situation as I can barely afford to pay rent and my bills. It's been really hard for all artists I know as things move very slowly.”
“I am a parent within CCUSD, and have participated in the annual Walk and Roll Festival.” His work includes painting, drawing, and linocut. As a result of COVID, he notes that there are “less art shows, less exposure, less people spending for art.”
Originally from Paris but now residing in Culver City, he is a composer/producer who has always used painting and drawing as a complementary medium to music. His research and taste for abstraction have led him to create a strong graphic and pictorial language to give substance to his favorite subjects such as “depopulated landscapes, whether urban or natural, the surrealism of dreams and reverie, loneliness, musicality of colors, pop art and urban paintings.”
His portraits are “not so much about revealing the characters’ expression or feelings as revealing an identity, structured and emphasized by graphic rhythm and vivid colors. The enigmatic characters question the place of the human in nature, whether raw or transformed.”
An assemblage artist (www.markbroyard.com) who has lived and shown in Culver City for the past 23 years, his work has appeared at “the Mamie Clayton center on Overland Avenue, West Los Angeles College, where I graduated in 1981, and other galleries from Oakland to Brooklyn. Two of my pieces were recently selected for the permanent collection at California African American Museum.”
When the galleries closed there were no shows and no sales. “Many of my fellow artists and I talk and commiserate often. The consensus is this fallow period is a time to focus and work and prepare for the season of plenty which, hopefully, is right around the corner.”
Co-owner of On The Edge Dance Studio, she has been teaching “almost every day without pay for the entire pandemic, teaching classes out in two of the Culver City parks for kids ages four to seventeen since August of 2020 for free so the studio can survive, but also for our community kids to be able to dance and move outdoors. With so many of them struggling with school, trying to learn through Zoom, many parents have said how important it is for the children's emotional as well as mental health that we have continued to offer classes, which has been the biggest therapy and joy for their kids as well as their family.
“We had also offered some free Zoom classes at the beginning of COVID when we all were on lockdown and not able to be out in the parks. It was challenging, but our students and even their parents continued to express how thankful they were, and that they were so surprised as well as impressed with my ability to continue such a warm and great connection with my students, even on Zoom.”
She emphasized the importance of “coming together to do what we do best – supporting each other emotionally, physically and spiritually by creating art, expressing ourselves through movement, music, or spoken word and sharing them with everyone. I'm a firm believer that art not only inspires, educates and stimulates the senses, but also heals!”
She does mixed media resin and acrylic art as well as functional art, but “I’ve been unable to work and really want to be creative again and participate in community events. My Instagram account is flowartacrylic.
“I’m inspired a lot from nature, especially oceanscapes, and love to incorporate crystals, glass, wood, and other materials in some of my work. I look forward to participating in community art events, am available for commissions, and am currently working on a website.”
She was thrilled to receive the Culver Arts grant, as “it really helped and felt great to be acknowledged by the community. I actually suffered an arm injury and was left in the midst of recovery, then COVID hit. I turned back to art. Art to me is therapy and feeds the soul. Art provides a universal interactive way to express yourself and allows others, no matter where they are from or what language they speak, to connect and enjoy or interact with how it affects them.”
She serves as the Studio Manager at On the Edge Dance Studio and does all the PR and marketing, in addition to assisting with a non-profit, The Artist Collective, in development of its Arts Education Program ("Do U Dance") to bring dance programs to local Culver City schools.
Although the dance studio was unable to pay for a period of time due to closure, “I was committed to helping the studio survive COVID and offered my services.” She subsequently took a large pay cut, and notes that “many large organization benefited from federal, state and local funds, but unfortunately many smaller local businesses were left out. It really showcases the challenges that many local small businesses have to deal with on a regular basis.”
Not only did the dance studio have to face COVID but in June 2020 it was robbed, losing sound equipment and other items, and recently was vandalized, with one of the large front windows being broken. “Talk about resiliency . . . but we are still dancing and are committed to bring arts and dance education to the kids and families in Culver City.”
She makes realistic artworks on paper using watercolor, colored pencil, and charcoal (https://byannieb.com/). “The art studio I'll be teaching and working in later this year is called These Hands Collective. Denise, the owner, is currently finalizing everything, but it'll be officially opening in Culver City sometime this spring!”
At the beginning of the pandemic “I was offering virtual art classes so that we all could have a creative outlet in what was a crazy time. It was on a pay-what-you-can basis so that anyone could join, regardless of employment and income. My other main form of income was commissioned artworks. In 2020 I experienced a sharp decline in purchases of commissioned or original artworks, and then at the beginning of 2021 I noticed a sharp decline in class sign-ups. Since then I’ve had to adapt and diversify my business to include more smaller-scale artworks and more products like stickers and puzzles that feature my art. I’ve been making my art accessible in a different way.
“Being an artist is a constant state of baring yourself and hoping for the best. We show our innermost thoughts and feelings and hope that, in our vulnerability, someone else feels the same way. It’s both lonely and uniting, exciting and scary. Add a global pandemic and a civil rights movement on top of that and it starts to feel like choosing to be an artist is an act of resilience in itself. The arts got us through quarantine by giving us something to do and by giving us something to connect over. And even in the face of so much difficulty, arts organizations and artists continue to rise to the occasion by creating new ways to support their communities. It’s really been so cool to see.”
Formerly an art instructor, this artist (painting, sculpture, video, and printmaking) currently lives and works in Culver City with plans to attend the UCLA MFA program.
The pandemic “has limited my ability to network and connect with other artists and curators, as well as limited the amount of shows and markets I have been able to showcase at.” On the bright side, “I have seen artist and arts organizations coming together and being innovative to help keep art alive. One art foundation I follow enlisted several local artists to design a card deck based on their city. They then sold and divided the proceeds among the artists.”
She teaches dance and acrobatics at On The Edge Dance Studio, and also teaches dance, visual art, and acrobatics in the Culver City school district through The Artist Collective. “I have been performing with the dance studio for the past eight years and have painted several murals in their space. I grew up training at a circus arts school in Culver City and at local Culver City dance studios. I would not be the artist I am today without being a student in the Culver City arts community and now an educator and performer in the community.”
During COVID she was without income from the dance studio and the Culver City schools and was forced to go on unemployment, receiving very little. The grant helped in “paying my car expenses which are essential to my job as an arts teacher, for I carry acrobatic mats, music speakers, and arts supplies to my teaching jobs.
“I have seen artists find creative nontraditional ways of continuing their craft. The artists I work for and surround myself with have been rehearsing in parks and parking lots despite having to pirouette, tumble, leap, and perform floor work on grass and asphalt. I have performed on both cement and grass. I had to execute all the steps to the same quality as I would on a Marley dance floor. I am passionate about continuing to teach, perform, and create art in the face of any obstacle during this hard time.”
“I'm a fine artist living and working in Culver City, with art sales and commissions through MoDMaN ink (www.modmanink.com). I support myself through sales of art (painting, found imagery, collage) and documentary film-making gigs to fill in gaps and was on track to full income through original art sales, but the pandemic ground everything to a halt. The side gigs ended completely, but fortunately a commission kept me afloat. This year I'm working on a large project (10'x20') about 9/11. Think Guernica for the 21st century. Because this is a non-commissioned work, personal budgets are stretched thin, especially healthcare costs are a concern. I can’t say enough about the Arts Resiliency Fund grant; it will make a difference for me.
“Of course, everything re sales and openings all moved online, which is depressing because fine art is mostly a solitary endeavor until you get to show the work to the public. There is no replacement for seeing art firsthand. As artists we've come together over social channels / text / FaceTime / Zoom / phone calls, and are generally being more supportive of each other than usual. We're spending more time documenting our work on video, which is kind of a nice twist but also time-consuming. We've created a few renegade shows with social distancing and safety protocols in place, as events have been slowly moving back to in-person. It feels like everyone has been productive and moving forward, so I think the future will be bright. Hopefully, we all make it there together.”
He believes "the purpose of art is to uncover the truth we didn’t know we were hiding. It’s nice if it also compliments the sofa and drapery.”
“It's important to support artists so that we can continue to have a voice in our community through our art. I've seen artists perform outdoors or in spaces to create awareness for out-of-work artists by sharing their art with community wherever it is safe to do so. During quarantine myself and another violinist performed in a grocery store video that went viral online and did interviews promoting awareness for support towards the arts during this difficult time.
“I believe the purpose of art is to create a greater insight into the world around us and unite communities. Throughout the last year it has been important for me to continue to create innovative concert ideas and write music to remind others that we can get through difficult times when we reflect and create together.”
Culver Arts emphatically concurs.
"We need to support our artists and art organizations just like we've supported our restaurants, hair and nail salons, and other essential services because we know how vital they are to our economy," said Sehnita Joshua Mattison, Vice Chair of Culver Arts. "While restaurants stayed open, the doors of our wonderful Kirk Douglas Theater with their iconic Culver Tower, along with other museums and galleries, remained closed. This pandemic has been very challenging for our smaller art organizations.” Accordingly, Culver Arts is expanding the third round of its Arts Resiliency Fund to focus on non-profit art organizations with grants of up to $5,000, and is hoping the third round can launch in the spring.
Visit https://culverarts.org/donate/ to support and keep the Arts Resiliency Fund going and help local artists and arts organizations thrive in Culver City. Donations can be made online, or a check payable to Culver City Arts Foundation can be sent to Culver City Arts Foundation, P.O. Box 4521, Culver City, CA 90231. Anyone who donates at least $20 will receive a #CulverCityResilient lawn/window sign.
Imagine the barren landscape of life without the arts. Since survival of the arts depends not only on determination, innovation and adaptation but also on assistance, kudos to our artists for creatively hanging in and to Culver Arts for recognizing their value to the community because, as its website proclaims, “art changes everything.”