Gettin' off the Ground: Contemporary Stories from an American Community
In her book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston writes: "There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought." (Hurston,p.23). It is in the "gulf of formless feelings", where layers of consciousness move from fantastical to real and from sensory to literary, that communities create fables, parables, myths and folktales to connect with each other and understand the super/natural elements that exist in our world. These stories, told and retold, shape our perceptions regarding ourselves in relationship to identity, culture, place and fellowship. Collectively, these perceptions shape how we exchange ideas and engage with each other, in addition to defining our communities' beliefs and moral systems.
As dynamic social media platforms continue to emerge, our ability to share stories has also changed. Suddenly, notions of community and "coming together" have shifted as people turn to the nebulous territory of the Internet to exchange personal information with friends and strangers (i.e. Facebook, Vine, and YouTube). On these sites we tell stories that often blend reality and fiction. We learn intimate details about strangers and loved ones that occasionally challenge us and sometimes reinforce unconscious bias we already hold.
For the next few years, Angels Gate Cultural Center's (AGCC) gallery invites the community to share their stories with us. We are interested in how these stories shape the collective consciousness in San Pedro and the South Bay area. AGCC is partnering with local organizations to produce short-term artist residencies that reflect stories of different people in the community. The residencies culminate in year-long exhibitions in the Main Gallery I. This gallery serves as an anchor in supporting the other rotating gallery shows that delve into issues such as loss, migration, love, family, identity, immigration, location, and port culture through participatory art making stations. Curated roundtable style conversations in Main Gallery II features artwork by emerging and mid career artists primarily from the Los Angeles area; solicited community-based shows; and a film reel featuring interviews with people sharing their story. Throughout the exhibitions visitors are asked to consider their lives, the lives of younger and older generations, and how a healthy community's well-being is sustained through the quality of relationships individuals form in their community (Block, p.5).
Angels Gate Cultural Center hopes that by participating in the conversation, people in the community can create artwork in the gallery, submit artwork to be displayed in the galleries and return again to discover something new. As the community 'gets off the ground' and visits the galleries we hope they experience a slice of Americana that is unique within our nation and particular to Los Angeles.
Hurston, Zora Neale, and Henry Louis Gates. Jonah's Gourd Vine ; Mules and Men ; Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Quality Paperback Books, 1990. Print.
Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publ.,
Isabelle Lutterodt, MA, MFA
Director of Visual Arts