Hermosa Beach Artist Collective hosts show, searches for a home
by Ryan McDonald
Fresh from a successful local art show at Harmony Yoga last year, Hermosa Beach artists Mike Collins and Rafael McMaster planned a follow-up a bit farther afield, in Lomita. It was not exactly the beginning of a hot streak.
“We had maybe 200 people show up the Harmony show. The only people who showed up there [in Lomita] were the artists’ immediate family members. It was so embarrassing,” Collins recalled with a laugh.
But rather than get discouraged, the pair redoubled their efforts, forming the Hermosa Beach Artists Collective. The organization is hosting another show at Harmony Yoga on Pacific Coast Highway this Saturday, with a renewed dedication to boosting the local arts scene.
The Lomita experience illustrated the importance of making art easily accessible.
“It made us realize a lot things. Among them, Wow we really want to build something right here in Hermosa,” McMaster said. “Art can happen anywhere, but Hermosa really needs it right now.”
Collins and McMaster are quick to point out that the collective makes no claim to creating the arts scene in Hermosa. The collective, they say, has practical aims that unite all artists: finding a permanent place for artists to both create their art and show it.
Laura Schuler is a Hermosa resident who will be showing at Harmony on Saturday. The mixed-media artist works out of her garage, and said that it can be hard making art in the same place you make a home. She makes it work with rolls of canvas, stretcher bars and large easels. But getting the work done is only half the battle: she also has to find places to store it in between shows.
“It gets pretty hairy when I have a show coming up,” Schuler said. “I’m calling friends, asking ‘Can I put this in your home for a little while?’”
In addition to workspaces, one-night only shows are less than ideal, because they make repeat visits impossible. Last year, Collins said, many people showed up at the Harmony event without a good understanding of what it entailed, and were disappointed to learn that the show would end after that night.
“People would come up to us and say, ‘Ah, I wish this was going to be here for a while, I’d like to bring my girlfriend,’” he said.
McMaster compares the collective’s efforts to “the Bat Signal,” hoping that it will both energize and bring together disparate elements.
“It’s all out there. But in this moment the dots aren’t actively connected as an ecosystem,” McMaster said.
It’s a theme that has long resonated with local artists. Daniel Inez is a founder of Hey Turkey Day, a pop-up art event showcasing indigenous art that takes place every year on the day before Thanksgiving. His clothing and design company M1SK draws on the South Bay’s surf, skate and punk-rock roots, and he frequently uses his work to needle the area’s changing demographics, which he said seem more interested in “new restaurants and bars” than outsider art. Having something local, Inez said, would make a huge difference.
“The South Bay is definitely lacking in a venue for both visual artists, as well as musical artists” Inez said.
Collins said he recognizes how the changing face of Hermosa, particularly skyrocketing rents, complicates the goal of finding a home for local art. They have looked into places with cheaper real estate, including a vast warehouse on the border of Gardena and West Rancho Dominguez. But past experiences like the Lomita show make them skeptical about the number of local people who are willing to venture very far to take in art. Their hope, he said, is to find a benefactor in the real estate world who can help them affordably secure something local.
The goal is ambitious but not unrealistic, they say. McMaster pointed out how downtown Los Angeles’ monthly “Art Walks” helped define the neighborhood. He said that success will ultimately be about convincing Hermosans that having a thriving art scene is something worth working for.
“We have a choice, as a culture, as a community: Do we want to be able to say we have a really awesome art scene?” McMaster said.
The Harmony Show will take place this Saturday at Harmony Yoga, 901 N. PCH in Redondo Beach, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.