AVPA Artists and CTG Residency
By Samantha Koyama
Culver City – December 4, 2015: This Fall, 16 visual art students from The Academy of Visual and Performing Arts were selected to participate in an 11-week artist-in-residency program sponsored by Front and Center in association with Center Theatre Group. Artist and CTG set designer, Janne Larsen, has returned for the 6th year to work alongside AVPA artists to create portraits based the script Emma & The Suzies by contemporary playwright Anthony Aguilar. AVPA Art students were given the opportunity to immerse themselves into the deep culture that lives within Boyle Heights, and see the artwork that is part of the history of the city.
Before touring Boyle Heights, where the play Emma and the Suzies takes place, AVPA art students were given the chance to visit Center Theatre Group’s costume and prop shop located in Boyle Heights near downtown Los Angeles. Outstanding would be an understatement to describe the type of dedication and passion seen in the employees and the masterpieces they create. Shown around their work area, the students were able to see several artists creating props and costumes for upcoming projects, and to their amazement, they were able to see all of the costumes used in a recent CTG production, Chavez Ravine. Emily Shin, an 11th grade AVPA artist, explains, “I thought it was very interesting to see the shop because of all the behind-the-scenes work that doesn't get shown in the actual play. It was such a unique place and we were very lucky to see these professionals working.” Several prop shops have to call in deliveries or drive to their costume warehouses, but CTG is fortunate enough to have theirs just across the street. Furniture, ranging from 50’s bar stools to 20’s armchairs, lined the rooms wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Led into the next room, the students were dumbfounded when faced with seemingly never ending rows of costumes. Every piece of clothing one could imagine would be found somewhere within the plethora of costumes. Walking down the aisles, one could find attire from every era and every culture--all in every color and pattern imaginable. Freshman AVPA artist, Vanessa Harding, says, “Center Theatre Group is allowing art students from AVPA to see what goes into the making of a play. We not only get to understand the writing process and have discussions with the playwright, but also see the steps taken for making costumes, props, and sets. I think this program is an amazing way to see different aspects of the art world and theatre, while portraying and relating it back to ourselves and our own art which, eventually, will be made into a public art piece”. Though the students would’ve been more than happy to get lost within the realm of costume design, they left for the streets of Boyle Heights to view murals that would tie into their project.
Sidewalks made narrow from the gathering of friends of family, the sense of community was remarkable. The first stop on the tour was across the street from Evergreen Cemetery to see Rescate, an 8’x15’ acrylic mural painted by John Zender Estrada in 1994. Recently restored to its vibrant colors, the mural is illustrated “to educate the community of the cultural significance of Cesar Chavez” (Zender). With three more acrylic murals left to see, Janne led her students over to see The Greatest Love by Paul Botello in 1992, which is a 13’x50’ religious mural. Upon closer look the students were able to notice the intricate brush strokes and attention to detail; however, when the students went across the street, they were able to see the different components that incorporated science, religion, and human life. Only a crosswalk away, the students were able to see a 17’x80’mural by the East Los Streetscapers, a group of artists that included Botello, called Corrido De Boyle Heights. Corrido meaning a Mexican ballad against oppression, the gigantic mural encompassed several aspects of Mexican culture and how it’s either changed or remained the same over the years. The mural showed images of people in different circumstances such as a newlywed couple dancing to music, a family playing soccer in front of a house, a man and woman feasting around a table, and paintings of money and cars. Jubilant and bright, the people in the mural are depicted in ways that portray a sense of triumph and celebration against the injustice that they and their ancestors experienced. Wrapping up the fieldtrip, Janne leads her students to their last mural of the day, Resurrection of the Green Planet by Ernesto de la Loza. Though the painting consisted mostly of nature, it includes several people including what could be assumed to be an elder passing on her information and knowledge to a boy or girl younger than she. Painted in rich colors, the mural ties together gushing water, blooming flowers, setting skies, and beaming rays of sunlight. The mural emphasizes the significance and beauty that can come from taking care of the Earth.
Walking around and seeing the murals in person allowed AVPA art students to reach a much deeper understanding of the type of community that exists in Boyle Heights. It also helps us engage and connect more to the play Emma & The Suzies. With the newfound information and ideas, the art students are eager to begin their project with Janne as they continue to learn more about themselves and their artistic creativity.
AVPA Artists at CTG’s Costume and Prop Shop
Visiting CTG’s Costume Shop
Boyle Heights Mural, “The Greatest Love” by Paul Botello