As director of in Highland Park, Kathy Gallegos has curated hundreds of art shows in her career. Few of them have been as challenging to bring together as the one that will open at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Village in Boyle Heights on Friday, June 29.
Local Color, which features images of the Eastside created by local artists, was assembled for a very special audience--children and elders who are currently going through the medical center's Violence Intervention and Community-based Assessment and Treatment Center (VIP).
Gallegos explained that many of the young people who are going through the program have been the victims of abuse, oftentimes by those who are closest to them.
For Gallegos--who was enlisted to curate the show by VIP Director Dr. Astrid Heger--the challenge of assembling Local Color was in finding pieces that would evoke broad, positive emotions while avoiding images and themes that would remind them of their painful past.
Heger said the Violence Intervention Program recently moved into its current building after years of having its various facilities scattered about the LAC-USC campus.
In moving into the new building--formerly the hospital's outpatient clinic--Heger said her goal was to make the facility more user friendly.
It's a goal Gallegos has helped her achieved "beyond expectations."
"I think it's phenomenal," she said. "Just gorgeous."
Sitting inside Avenue 50 Studio's Annex on a recent afternoon, surrounded by participating artists Margaret Garcia, Stuart Rappaport and Raoul De la Sota, Gallegos remembered having to say 'no' to almost at least one piece by everyone who contributed to the lobby's transformation.
Images of mothers would remind the children in the program of what they've lost, Gallegos said, and a painting of man with his hand raised could recall an abusive father or uncle.
"It was difficult for me, because I'm all about pain," Gallegos said. "Art is therapy."
Instead, the collected images come together to provide the children with a sense of place. There's an image of a a palm tree rising above a graffitied wall and lush green hills. In another other painting, flowers bloom in saturated tones.
One prominently featured image is that of a young girl playing guitar--her face focused in concentration.
For De la Sota, who said he rarely thinks about his audience when painting, the Local Color exhibition has caused him to think about the life of his work after it leaves his studio.
"This is the first show I've been where the purpose has been something other than simply creating something that is visually appealing," he said. "I'm really glad to be a part of this show, because how people respond to the pieces really matter."
For Garcia, who is adamant about the importance of accentuating the positive in her own work, finding an appropriate piece for the exhibit wasn't difficult.
A survivor of an abusive relationship herself, Garcia said the positive tone in her work reflects a conscious decision to move beyond the painful events in her past.
"You go through pain, you let it go, then you have to pick it back up sometimes. You have to be reminded of the positive stuff. If you only focus on the poisonous stuff, you'll never move past it. You can't keep doing the victim stuff," she said. "What I hope my work manifests is that there's life beyond victimization, and that's hopefully what art helps them find."
The Local Color Artist Reception will be held on Friday, June 29, 2012, 6-8 pm at the LAC+USC—The Medical Village at 2010 Zonal Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033.