HBAC aims to keep gallery open
by Ryan McDonald
For dozens of South Bay artists, the Hermosa Beach Artist Collective has been a place to work, a place to show, and a place to collaborate. With a major fundraiser set for this Saturday night, they are addressing a more basic need: keeping a roof over their head.
The collective is a group of artists who create, promote and support art in the South Bay, and also includes a substantial focus on cultivating younger artists in the community. The fundraiser will take place at Resin Gallery, a Cypress Street building that has for the past two years served as a base of operations for the collective. Since opening, it has hosted a dozen major shows and featured more than 120 artists. But last month, the collective found out that they would face a rent increase at the building that would threaten their operations.
Collective co-founder Rafael McMaster said that he does not begrudge landlord Steve Reneker the rising rates. Reneker let the collective in two years ago at a reduced rate, and McMaster calls the new price “totally reasonable.” Instead, he said that the nonprofit group is viewing the fundraiser as an opportunity to solidify its short-term financial structure.
“We’re looking to raise $15,000. That will keep us flush through 2019. And already, based on the immediate feedback I’ve gotten, I’m confident that we’re not going to lose this gallery. We’re going to do this fundraiser, and I feel confident we can keep it open through 2019,” McMaster said.
And although this weekend’s fundraiser — for which artists donated paintings, and all proceeds will go back to the gallery — is expected to rally the community around the cause, McMaster and the collective’s board are thinking about the long-term financial picture of the organization. This will involve donations and grants from organizations at both the local and national levels, and an effort to communicate the collective’s ambitious mission.
Wendy Stillman is a Manhattan Beach resident whose art focuses on ocean themes using a variety of mediums. She joined the collective after the call for artists for Water and Wood, one of its first shows at Resin. She often works in a studio attached to her house, but for larger, messier projects she said that it’s helpful to be able to use the space at Resin. Even more importantly, she said the space provides a place for fellow artists to gather. The periodic meetings with other artists creates opportunities for feedback, and also pushes her to do more.
“We’re constantly promoting each other. If Resin were to close, I would lose a lot exposure and a lot of local followers,” Stillman said.
Torrance resident Kevin Gilligan is a photographer and member of the collective who has shown at Resin. He quickly became a devotee of the benefits that the collective structure offers, and wrote a blog post about it for Skip Cohen University, a website devoted to helping aspiring professional photographers. While many of the benefits are practical, such as having more people to help you promote your art, others reside on an emotional level.
“It’s a central meeting place: you can come see exhibitions, but you can also meet other artists. It gives you a sense of home. Artists’ work can be solitary and lonely sometimes,” Gilligan said.
The South Bay has long nurtured a community of artists, but until recently the lack of venues for viewing and displaying art prevented the scene from growing. This has changed dramatically in the last two years. Along with Resin, ShockBoxx gallery opened just to the north on Cypress, and Pacific Coast Gallery, focused on photography, opened on Pier Avenue.
McMaster said he is happy that there are more walls on which to hang paintings, but he remains convinced that the collective has other things to offer, especially art instruction, the lack of which in local schools he said comes as a constant surprise to residents.
McMaster is full of compliments about Young at Art, the volunteer-run program that provides periodic art instruction in local primary schools: he is a docent, and Resin hosts a preview show Young at Art works that are later auctioned to raise funds for the Hermosa Beach Education Foundation. But he thinks that it is an inadequate substitute for more frequent arts education. As a result, the collective has come to host a variety of programs aimed at local kids. Some pair younger students with talented artists in local high schools, and in turn provide the high school students with opportunities to learn from professionals.
In talking about the youth offerings, McMaster begins to sound like a person making an elevator speech to philanthropists, and the collective’s long-term survival will depend on securing commitments from local donors, but also large foundations, like Annenberg and Ford. As a result, McMaster eagerly makes the evidence-based case for the impacts art can have beyond pretty pictures. He points to neurological research showing the benefits of making art, and how it can help acclimate minds to reduce future stress. McMaster said he has seen an increase in people’s willingness to accept these ideas over the last two years. And in his mind, the collective is just tapping into a way of making art happen that is really centuries old.
“Leonardo da Vinci had his wealthy patrons. There’s a universal of model of those who have more than they can ever spend understanding the value of art,” he said.
The Save Our Gallery show runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday at 618 Cypress Ave. To purchase paintings or make a donation, go to https://funddeed.com/projects/save-our-gallery/.