Archive for April, 2009

April 30, 2009

Public art is not always pretty


From Michele Chapin's Door Project Exhibition. "Public Art Is Not Always Pretty," by John White (Sylvia White Gallery).

From Grant Ensminger's hip, impromptu exhibit at ArtWalk. He also created Rey Fresco's album artwork.

From Grant Ensminger's hip, impromptu exhibit at ArtWalk. He also created Rey Fresco's album artwork.

April 30, 2009

Luis Perez’s Retablo


One of my favorite moments at last weekend’s Spring ArtWalk was hanging out at the new Vita-Art space with co-owner Luis Perez. Perez has a warmth and authenticity about him that made me not want to leave, which turned out well as my lingering allowed me to meet artist Wil Shephard who has a provocative, exhibit of 3-dimensional art made from found objects.

While perusing the gallery a particular painting caught my eye and Perez explained to me that it was a retablo that was made for him by a Mexican artist.  As it turns out, retablos are fairly rare (Perez has a personal collection in his home), made mainly in Latin America and devotional in nature–an aspect that resonates deeply with me.

Retablos are  expressions of gratitude for answered prayers.  They are very personal and few artists make them. Perez’s retablo (pictured) depicts an environment for teaching children to create art and includes an image of a saint that corresponds with the subject or event, a traditional practice for retablo painting.  The Vita-Art Center is a manifestation of Perez and his wife’s dream, for which they are of course grateful. This attitude is reflected in the retablo and throughout the gallery/learning space.

If you didn’t make it to ArtWalk (or even if you did) Vita-Art at the Bell Arts Factory will be open on Friday, May 1 for the First Friday gallery crawl, an event put on solely by local artists.

April 24, 2009

Follow me: ArtWalk

These are my picks for ArtWalk. I plan to go on Saturday, and make Sunday my cleaning day (sigh) but there are some noteworthy events on Sunday so please visit the ArtWalk Web site for details. My general order of visitation is west to east but that could change. Plus, I’m not sure what time I will begin the journey. I will try to tweet but I’m still trying to figure out how to set up my phone.

643 A Project Space (cool contemporary art here but they’re rarely open)

Bell Arts Factory/Vita Art Center (never disappointing, always refreshing, eclectic and fun)

Stoneworks Studios (go for the art and entertainment, stay for the homemade hospitality)

Architexture (the best live music happens here and this time will be no exception)

Spa by Diane Loring (VCReporter managing editor/artist, Michael Sullivan‘s inaugural event)

Artist’s Union Gallery (needs no introduction)

Erle Stanley Gardner Building (CSUCI Capstone exhibit: foretells an expansion into Ventura)

Buenaventura Art Association (friendly people, friendly art)

Sea Breeze Gallery (an authentic collective that gets overlooked sometimes, well worth a look)

Sylvia White Gallery (large scale, upscale and inspiring)

Other possibilities:

1 p.m. Sea Lions (live music) at Buffalo Records

3 p.m. Kiley Ki (live music) California St. stage

6 p.m. Delaney Gibson (VCReporter musical artist to watch) California St. stage

April 23, 2009

Buying into the New Art City: Take my challenge


In my article today about the business of ArtWalk, I quoted Focus on the Masters‘ Donna Granata regarding the importance of not only attending ArtWalk but also purchasing art.

While the city of Ventura has long been a destination for its diverse ecology, clean air and gorgeous landscape, about a decade ago, as the need to redevelop our historic downtown came into focus, we rather auspiciously began exploring cultural tourism as an economic driver.cover_s1

Today, we are the “New Art City,” not to be confused with the old Art City which remains closed to the public for “code violations” or something. The New Art City is a place where artists live (but can barely afford to do so) and work and create alongside everyone else. There are no numbers to support it, but I’d venture to guess the New Art City has a fairly dense population of creative types compared to other cities of its size. The majority of them live in the downtown cultural district/Avenue area.

Having a city full of artists and a city council that embraces them means we are surrounded by art (though there could certainly be more and better) and the arts. It also means that if we are to lean on the artists for our branding identity, it’s crucial that we support them in the only way that really matters: buy their work.

Many people don’t even consider art and objects d’art to be within wallet’s reach but barring large scale works, original art can be surprisingly affordable.

In Ventura and surrounding cities, we’re blessed to have a multitude of visual artists creating the full spectrum of possibilities. From breezy Plein Aire paintings, to handmade jewelry, small sculpture and contemporary multimedia works, there literally (and i don’t use that word liberally) is something for everyone.

I commit to buying at least one piece of art (and I owe a crapload of money for parking tickets at the moment) at this weekend’s ArtWalk to show in the best way I can, my support of the arts community and the city’s arts-driven business strategies. I will post a pic and blurb on Sunday or Monday.

When you buy something at ArtWalk, send me a pic and a sentence or two about it, and I’ll post it here or on the VCReporter Web site and you will be entered to win a $25 certificate to My Florist Cafe. Do it!

April 16, 2009

For the record

I like my iPod as much as anyone, but it will never replace my need for packaged product, much as the Internet (my lover for many years now) will never do me better than a juicy issue of Mojo, Paste or Vanity Fair.

I remember my first record the way I remember my first crush. It was Help! by the Beatles and I gazed lovingly at every inch of the sleeve as the 12″ lp spun round and round on my record player.  I was maybe five years old and despite being raised in a non-musical home, my obsession with music was already taking root.

Just last night Aerosmith’s Rocks–a remnant of my original collection which, sadly, was mostly lost in the wake of a punk rock lifestyle in the ’80s–took a spin on the turntable while I attempted to exercise.

Records and CDs are a big part of my life, and I’m happy to say, my 14-year-old son has the bug too. An afternoon at the record store is one well spent for both of us. There is much to be culled from such, and more to relish. The sights the sounds, the smells. The impromptu conversations, recommendations and conversations with patrons and staff.

Unlike other retail environments (save for the comic book store), the record store is unique in its stature as a cultural centerpoint where consumption of music and popular culture to some extent, is experienced communally.

Saturday, is national Record Store Day. Locally, Salzer’s Records and Buffalo Records will host a variety of free events and great deals on music with live entertainment by Army of Freshmen, the 88, Dirty Words, Franklin for Short, Delaney Gibson and others.

Plan to be there.

April 9, 2009


I hate to say it but the continuing failure of the newspaper industry is almost, almost justifiable when its figureheads show their ignorance of new media technologies, publicly no less. Google’s CEO Eric E. Schmidt spoke at a newspaper convention recently, and was forced to answer uninformed questions from newspaper executives about Google’s news snippets and headlines.

Google is a search engine, people. It drives traffic TO your publication online. It is not your competitor. Think outside column width. Google is your friend, duh.

April 9, 2009

… Seattle, Austin, Portland . . . Ventura?


VCReporter’s Local Music Issue is on the stands so pick it up and drink deep.  This last six months working as arts editor for the paper has given me tangible evidence for what I already knew intuitively: there is a music scene.

Beyond that, the level of talent here is getting ridiculously high.  A while back, I was challenged by someone here to find something like 20 good local music recordings.  At this point I’m challenged to make room for everything that’s worthy of coverage.

I’m not alone in thinking that Ventura County’s music scene is positioned for national attention. Seattle, Austin, Portland . . . Ventura? It’s not outside the realm of possibility. That said, it occurs to me how much money is funneled into highbrow ventures like the Ventura Music Festival (rightfully so) but homegrown local rock-oriented music is sort of dismissed despite its ability to generate significant revenue for the city.  Not to mention what we could do event-wise with all the venues downtown.

It’s my hope that next year we can pull out all the stops and create a live music event to happen in tandem with our annual music issue (which, in my scheme of things, would be a pull-out resource). A girl can dream, right?

April 2, 2009

Ventura arts and inclusivity

It’s been an emotional few weeks in Ventura’s arts scene with discussion of substantial cuts to the city’s arts budget on everyone’s lips. Many of the city’s most prominent arts figures stormed the podium at the last two city council meetings to dissuade the council from nixing a handful of “public art” projects and cutting nearly 46 percent from the overall arts budget.

In the midst of his impassioned plea, Joe Cardella (Art Life Magazine)–whom I have great respect for, made reference to the “New Bar City” he feels downtown Ventura is in danger of becoming, vs. the “New Art City” we are attempting to become.

While perhaps we don’t want to trade our identity as an arts-driven community for one of a bar scene, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater: within that “bar scene” is a vibrant music culture. For the first time in more than a decade, live music in Ventura is not only being made, it’s being attended in almost record numbers.

I heard a lot of talk about the arts being an economic engine for the city and I would venture to guess a fair amount of revenue is generated via alcohol and food sales from venues that are thriving because of the musicians who perform there (for ridiculously outdated wages).

I know artists of all forms of expression to be an inclusive people and I would caution our visual artists to take care when making statements about the “bar scene” that inadvertently show disrespect to a key component of this city’s cultural landscape.

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