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The collective mind
The idea for the Downtown Community Art Collective has always been swirling around inside Stephanie Pearl's head.
But like most of our best ideas, it was plagued by logistics — the where and how much of things. The business side of art.
That the studio/gallery space is open and offering twice-monthly art workshops is proof to the power of friends — and friends of friends.
It was a friend, after all, who gave the collective its original home, a spot in what used to be the Cadillac Club. While it was free and a great place to start, it was far from perfect, Pearl says. It was run down, and missing some crucial elements — electricity, for instance.
“We were there for three months with flashlights,” she says.
But when the building was sold, that same friend put Pearl in touch with Will Dyck, a local developer (and reality game show star), who had a building across the railroad tracks on P Street. He gave them a deal, a graduated lease that allowed them to get into the space with little up front capital.
“It was charitable on his part,” Pearl says.
But it got the ball rolling, and allowed her to call on some other friends, people she thought would be interested in doing art in a totally collaborative environment. The only stipulation being, they would have to donate time to work with youth in the area. Pearl watched as art and music and drama programs dropped like flies, and wanted this new endeavor to address those issues.
But again there were question of logistics. Where would these kids come from?
Turns out, from another friend, Carol Dela Torre, who founded Genisis Family Center, an organization that works with foster children and those in group homes. The collective partnered with the group and started offering twice monthly workshops in July, covering everything from painting and photography, to film and even music.
The first workshop had 15 students. Since then, they've quadrupled that number, Pearl says.
The space still serves as a studio for the six resident artists, and the front will be used as a gallery — this month it features art from the collective partners. But you can see student art as well. A series of splatter-paint pictures hang in the entranceway.
Eventually, the partners will bring in out-of-town artists. Pearl hopes to teach the students about the business side of things and have them serves as gallery curators and docents.
And continue the collaboration. The collective is already working with Leadership Fresno on a project that would have the students producing art to be displayed on FAX buses. They're also hoping to work with the city's Park and Recreation Department and with Planned Parenthood on a mother/baby art class.
“It's not rocket science for us,” says Brian Conway, Genisis' director of program development. They can see the changes in these kids, from their interactions in other aspects of their lives — with their foster families, in the group homes, in court.
The collective exposes them to the art world and creates a means of self expression, says Lisa Vincent, a musician and partner in the collective. She while she teaches guitar classes, she's not interested in the perfect C chord. She wants them to create something from within, and have it happen in a nurturing, nonjudemental environment.
“There is no right or wrong way to create art.”
Downtown Community Art Collective
Open by appointment, on ArtHop, or 10:30 to noon, every other Saturday
754 P St., downtown