The Arts Council for Long Beach presented the Faces of Long Beach Artists in celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month in October. The campaign, aimed at underlining the city’s cultural richness, used photos and quotes of Long Beach artists which included a number of CSULB faculty and alumni emblazoned on eight-foot high, three-foot wide street banners in high-visibility locations including Pine and Atlantic avenues, Shoreline Drive, Broadway and 7th Street.
Looking out at the city were the faces of such CSULB faculty as Design’s Dorothy Ottolia, Art’s Domenic Cretara and Craig Stone, Music’s Carolyn Bremer and Christine Helferich, Film and Electronic Art’s Jose Sanchez-H. and late Theatre Arts alumna Laura Marchant.
Proclaimed by Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster in conjunction with hundreds of other cities nationwide, “October is Arts Month” sought to bring attention to the study and appreciation of the arts as a unifying force in society and as a vehicle for individual expression.
“The Faces of Long Beach Artists showcase the diversity of artistic disciplines, cultures, ages and reasons for being artists and loving it in Long Beach,” said Karen Gee, director of marketing for the Arts Council. “What I love about the whole idea is that it features artists who usually show their work, not their faces.”
Feedback has been very positive. “It’s been fun for the artists to be recognized by their faces and not just their work,” Gee said. “Many of the artists have been driving around having their photos taken in front of their banners, which were located in an effort to hit as many districts as possible.”
Design’s Dorothy Ottolia, who joined the university in 1999, was a featured artist whose portrait bore her quote, “Art exists to intensify our perceptions.”
“I feel honored to represent our university, to be part of such an interesting group of artists and because architects are rarely recognized as artists,” she said. “When I leave a fine art exhibition, look into a photograph, or walk out of a built space, I always reflect. I believe art does not set out to change us in any way. It just does. The best art will continuously intensify our perceptions.”
She sees the program as a chance to bridge town and gown.
“The College of the Arts at CSULB has a diverse and talented group of artists with many different areas of focus,” she added. “I think Long Beach as a city is filled with so much history and culture that we should collaborate continually.”
One of the program’s campus organizers, College of the Arts’ Director of Public Relations and Marketing Bethany Price, applauded the program.
“We have the highest concentration of working artists in Long Beach clustered here on campus,” she said. “We want to remind our artists here as well as those in the community of how vibrant an arts scene we have at CSULB.
“This is more effective than simply listing statistics like the large number of artists living in Long Beach. Instead, this is a way of really showing the humanity of the arts,” she continued. “We’re showcasing the people behind the art. The Long Beach arts community has continued to grow in the last decade. The banners and promotions illustrate how much a part of our community that the arts really are.”
Art’s Domenic Cretara, a member of the university since 1987, smiles out at Long Beach from a banner bearing the quote “Art is structure given to the passions.”
It’s an odd feeling for Cretara to see himself.
“I must admit that it is an odd experience to see one’s face larger than life on a poster in such a public space,” he said. “I also feel very honored to be among such a diverse and accomplished company of creative artists.”
Leon Battista Alberti talked about art as ‘una piu grassa Minerva,’ meaning a capacity to reason sensually and I can’t think of a better definition of what I do as an artist.
Cretara explains that his words on passion refer to more than strong feelings. “We often talk about intellectual passions. It is in this larger sense of passion, such as a passion for truth or a passion for justice as well as passion in the sense of powerfully, intensely, even violently felt emotions that I was referring to,” he said. “Artists perhaps don’t distinguish between emotions and ideas to the same degree that ordinary language does. I know that I don’t, at any rate. The Renaissance theoretician and architect, Leon Battista Alberti talked about art as ‘una piu grassa Minerva,’ meaning a capacity to reason sensually and I can’t think of a better definition of what I do as an artist.”
The Arts Council for Long Beach was established in 1976 by the city of Long Beach to respond to the needs of the growing local arts community and to develop cultural resources. The council supports neighborhood and educational programs, professional development, grants, marketing services for artists and cultural organizations and public art. The council’s grants program supports more than 125 local arts and cultural organizations and more than 1,000 area artists. Since its beginning, the Arts Council’s grants program has awarded more than $4.5 million. In 2005-06, $300,000 in grants was awarded to individual artists and arts organizations through a yearlong process-driven program. Additional grants and contracts of $50,000 were awarded through the Arts Learning program.
“Every great city has great artists,” said Gee. “The arts breathe life into the soul of a city and shape generations, neighborhoods, souls and minds. As the unifying organization for the arts in Long Beach, the Arts Council provides leadership in arts and cultural services and creates opportunities for every citizen and visitor to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. The arts affect everything from tourism to the crime rate to student performance. The arts improve the quality of life in all cities. Can anyone imagine a city without art? It is easy to take it for granted. But what if the arts were gone? The Faces of Long Beach Artists program is a way for Long Beach, the most culturally diverse city of its size in the nation, to join cities all over the country to remind ourselves of the power of the arts.”