California is in the deep sink hole of a budget crisis. Cities are feeling the sting, being forced to make cuts and eliminate services. The Huntington Beach Art Center, where I recently finished an Artist In Residence project, is in jeopardy. The following is a short speech I gave in hopes of keeping the center open. It is posted here by request of several artists and organizations.
April 18, 2011
Good evening. My name is Gina Genis and I am here on behalf of the Huntington Beach Art Center.
Thank you for the opportunity to be an Artist In Residence at the Huntington Beach Art Center. It was a great experience that allowed me to work on a grand scale and involve the public.
My project, Economy Portraits, ended up being much more than an art project. What I didn’t foresee was the cathartic effect it had upon the community. Briefly described, Economy Portraits consisted of my taking a portrait of the visitors entering the HBAC. I asked them one question “how has the collapse of the economy affected your life?” The answer was layered onto the portrait and printed, then hung in rows throughout the gallery. When enough portraits were printed, they built an American flag on the wall that ended up being 11’ high by 18 1/2’ long.
I thought I would have trouble getting people to open up about a personal matter, but quite the opposite occurred. When I asked the question, their eyebrows raised, they took a deep breath, and released it. They were releasing not only their breath, but a burden. The answers were compelling.
Economy Portraits is an example of the beneficial effects an Art Center can have. The project engaged the community to create a work of art as a collaboration, and was also a non-judgmental platform for their thoughts and experiences.
The HBAC brings commerce to HB. During my residency, I had lunch or dinner at Thai Wave, Java City, El Ranchito, Jan’s Health Bar, and the Beachfront. I shopped for groceries at Trader Joe’s. I bought clothes at the Gap, and Old Navy. I bought art supplies from Staples. My car was filled with gas a several of the stations in HB. Commerce was brought into HB from San Diego, Pasadena, Idyllwild, Los Angeles, and many other cities as my friends and students visited the HBAC to take part in the project. All of them had lunch or dinner and went shopping while in HB.
Community Art Centers also have a large part in shaping the future of a community. Children find an outlet for their energy and emotions through art. This leads to teens who are focused and goal-oriented. It gives them a sense of purpose and a place to go after school instead of hanging out with nothing to do. Art Centers are the sports arenas for kids who are creative instead of athletic. Let’s keep the graffiti on canvas instead of the walls.
Art is more than a painting on the wall. In it’s highest power, art leaves a legacy of the society we live in for future generations. Mount Rushmore, the The Great Gatsby, and the Star-Spangled Banner are examples. Artists are responsible for things we use in our daily lives. The car you drive, the shoes you wear, your iPhone, the greeting cards you buy, and the pen you use to write in them were designed by someone. That’s art. The music you listen to, the TV shows and movies you watch were written by someone. That’s art. Artists start somewhere. Community Art Centers are often the spring that waters creativity.
In conclusion, when questioning art’s importance in our world, ask yourself this: why is it that the first thing an invading country does is steal or destroy the art of the country they are invading?
Thank you for your time.
Fine Art Photographer/Artist
“If there is no art, there is no beauty”, Betty Goldwater, 88-year-old dementia patient, as she picked up a Kleenex box with a beautiful floral design on it.
Speech is copyrighted © 2011 Gina Genis. Use freely with permission.
To see the Economy Portraits project as it progressed, click on this link.