Thea Saks, “Franklinstein,” oil on canvas.
It’s been three months since my last posting about how work is going on the art show Daniel and I are doing for October. Now it has a name: “Enlightenment.” It’s about the Age of Enlightenment, which was roughly mid-1600s to late 1700s in Europe and the American colonies.
The NoHo Senior Arts Colony: An Up-and-Coming Place for Experienced Artists and Performers to Share Their Skills
Urban photography by Dan Meylor and Tyrone Polk at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony’s current exhibit.
When I went to the NoHo Senior Arts Colony last week to cover the current photography show, I wasn’t all that psyched to go. The show was open to photographers of all ages, and I expected a community free-for-all. I ended up not only admiring the dynamic photography and the professional way it was presented, but also getting interested in everything that’s happening at this place.
One series of photographs depicts a graffiti artist at work on a building—cooler than I expected for a show at a senior center (shame on me—but it’s the truth). It turns out that the photographer, Tyrone Polk, is himself a senior in residence at the colony. And the more I talked to Amanda Talbot, the program manager for the colony, and Maureen Kellen-Taylor, chief operating officer of EngAGE (more about EngAGE below), the better I understood that many of the residents are professionals of great reputation in the arts who are still hard at work in their fields of expertise and happen to be 62 or older (that’s a requisite for living at the colony). I didn’t know what to expect when I came to the colony; but if you come to this complex expecting to see retirees who take art classes just to fill up time when they aren’t playing bingo, you’re in for a surprise. What happens in this place is the work of dedicated, experienced artists and performers who share their talents and creative passions with one another and with visitors to the colony.
Samantha Wendell with her portrait of Johnny Winter (one of many rock artists she has painted) at the colony’s first art exhibit, “Reimagining Life.”
The gallery space is in the main hallway of the ground floor. After we looked at the photography, Ms. Talbot showed me some rooms off the main hallway. I saw a spacious art studio, with easels and paints and an instructor’s notes about “the art of seeing” written on one wall. I saw a beautiful new theater that mainly houses productions of the Roads Theater Company but is open to use by theatrical residents of the colony when the house is dark; currently the company is showing “Cooperstown,” a play by Brian Golden. I got a peek at the professionally designed set of a 1950s Cooperstown coffee shop. The shows are open to the public, and a box office on the premises sells tickets. In another room there was a bulletin board with flyers advertising various arts and fitness programs, all of which are free of charge for the colony’s residents. I saw that poetry readings are held weekly for residents by Morgan Gibson, an award-winning poet who has published numerous books and taught his craft in the U.S. and abroad. One flyer advertised the “Diggerly Do’s,” a show open to the public, which looks like great fun; it’s a musical written and performed by Kent Minault, who takes his audience back to the Haight-Ashbury district in 1965 San Francisco to see an actual community-action task force at work. (Mr. Minault was a member of the task force himself.) The Diggerly Do’s provided free food and other amenities to those in the Haight who needed them, but also had some tense encounters with the local law. It’s a very hip theme for a musical, and one that would speak to audience members of any age. It’s also a reminder that today’s seniors have been contributors to many cutting-edge creative movements that today’s young people revere and wish they had been part of. (Annie Liebovitz, Peter Max, and members of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead are in the right age group to live at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony…although it sounds like the apartments are going fast, so they should apply soon if they want one.)
Alice Asmar, who had a solo show at the colony this past spring, in front of one of her paintings with Samantha Wendell.
During my visit I was introduced to a gracious gentleman by the name of Clarence Johnston, who happened to be passing by. Mr. Johnston, as it happens, is a jazz drummer with a career that’s stretched many decades; he’s played with greats such as Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, and John Coltrane. Currently he conducts drum circles at the colony and at other locations all over LA. These sessions are popular and attract enthusiastic junior and senior community members alike who want to beat drums and dance to the infectious rhythm.
Back to the gallery space, which is what I originally set out to write about (except that all these other things going on at the colony were too cool not to discuss). In February the gallery hosted its first group exhibition of fine art, “Reimagining Life,” which included portrait painter Samantha Wendell, watercolorist Jodet Shuquem, painter and writer Charlene McDonald, and painter and illustrator Walter Hurlburt. The second show (held this past March 29-May 5) was a mini-retrospective of the work of Alice Asmar, winner of a Woolley Fellowship to study at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, who currently has work in hundreds of public and private collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian. Her work focuses on Southwestern and Native American themes. She currently has an 800-square-foot studio in Burbank.
Jodet Shuquem with one of his paintings at “Reimagining Life.”
The plan is for the colony to host an art or photography show every six to eight weeks. A solo show of hand-colored photographs by Cynthia Friedlob, an artist who is also a writer, editor, and public radio host, is coming a few weeks from now. And here’s one great thing about a gallery run by a nonprofit organization: the artists who sell work shown in the gallery do so privately, communicating directly with their buyers, and get to keep all the money from the sales.
The classes and other programs at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony are organized by EngAGE, a nonprofit group that, according to the statement on their Web site, “takes a whole-person approach to creative and healthy aging by providing arts, wellness, lifelong learning, community building and intergenerational programs to thousands of seniors.” The group provides programs for 32 active aging apartment complexes in LA, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Orange Counties, with more to open soon. All of the complexes have arts programs and three of them are senior arts colonies. There is another EngAGE senior arts colony nearby in Burbank, and the residents of that one and the NoHo one often visit back and forth to get involved with the programs at each other’s buildings.
The colony was established in November 2012, so it’s just getting started. To keep an eye on what’s happening there, visit the colony’s Web site at http://www.nohoseniorartscolony.com.
Gallery shows, theater performances, and some other programs are open to the public. To find out more about what EngAGE does, visit http://www.engagedaging.org.
The Gallery999 Show at Bats Day, May 4, Anaheim
When I was in college and grad school, research was for papers, and papers had to be carefully defended. I had to read all or part of several books and/or articles for each paper and provide a bibliography.
Don’t products that are “handmade” or “made by artists” sound like people should pay more for them? But, too often, people don’t. In fact, a lot of the time the pricing bar for artists is set dangerously low…by artists. It’s one thing for an artist to make something lower-priced than an oil painting, so that more people can afford it. It’s another to sell it at a bargain price. Let me tell you about what I’ve been seeing lately.
After a haitus of a couple of weeks to prepare for two gallery shows, I’m very happy to be back here to write about those shows (which just opened in North Hollywood, CA, and Detroit, MI) and also about a third exciting show in Burbank that opened at the same time.
I had a two-week bout of the flu and two trade shows that kept me from concentrating on this blog the way I normally do. I apologize for my haitus and for writing so late about this particular show, because I really think people should go see it while there’s still time!
Riot LA was a comedy festival in downtown LA September 21-23. “The Lot” at Riot LA, set up in a parking lot at 253 South Main Street, was open that Saturday and Sunday.
On July 28 and 29 I saw the work of two artists who make three-dimensional pieces with particular loving care and connect to meaningful personal histories with their art. The first, Matjames Metson, is a self-proclaimed “survival artist” who makes art as a way to cope with his own past; the second, Bob Baker, is a marionette maker and performer with 80 years of professional history to celebrate.
Dedication, what does this mean? If you are listening to the radio at the lovers' hour, then it means someone is playing your favorite song and the DJ has just announced your name over the airwaves and your lover is smiling and you are blushing, cause he/or she remembered you loved it.