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Meet Elena Jacobson of Gabba Gallery in Historic Filipinotown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elena Jacobson.

Elena, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in New York City. My parents are creative people. My father is an artist and art teacher. My mother and step-father run a performing arts center in a converted old church. They raised me and my two brothers to value creativity and always championed our artistic pursuits.

Although I have the heart of an artist, my brain works more analytically. Making lists gives me a dopamine rush—you know, one of those people. But I am happiest when my inner artist and my inner robot get to work together.

As an undergraduate at Harvard, I majored in English Literature and got involved with theater, first producing musicals and later planning special events for the Hasty Pudding Theatricals. After graduation, I got a job as the director’s assistant on a movie that was shooting in Boston. When the post-production team moved to Los Angeles, so did I. I planned to stay for a few months until the movie was complete and then move back to NYC, but I fell in love with LA and never left.

I worked in the film business for the next eleven years. I started at Working Title Films, where I read mountains of scripts and learned the ins-and-outs of feature film development. I met writer/director/producer Scott Z. Burns and eventually went to work for his production company on many movies, including The Bourne UltimatumThe Informant!Contagion, and An Inconvenient Truth. In addition to development, I began to get more involved on the producing side. I spent five months on location in Romania as Associate Producer on an HBO film, PU-239, and was a Co-Producer on Side Effects, a psychological thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh.

When my son, Nico, was born in 2011, I decided to take some time off. Motherhood exercised my creative and organizational muscles in satisfying new ways. Several years later, when I wanted to return to work, the entertainment business seemed less enticing. I was ready for something new, but I wasn’t sure what.

That’s when I found my way to Gabba Gallery. I had known about the gallery since its inception. Gabba’s owner, Jason Ostro, is a dear friend whom I have known since my earliest days in LA. I watched him boldly turn his lifelong dream of opening a gallery into a reality. I attended his openings and began collecting art from his walls.

In 2016, I heard that Jason was struggling to prepare for an upcoming show after an employee had quit unexpectedly. I offered to fill in for a few weeks to help promote the show. I enjoyed it—a lot. Jason and I worked well together and he invited me to stay on as Gallery Manager / Assistant Curator.

I love my job. The blend of creativity and planning is perfect for me. Jason and I have wonderfully complementary skillsets. He hustles more than anyone I have ever met and knows how to close a deal. My exacting nature helps keep all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. I love working with artists and their art. When a fresh new batch of work comes in I unwrap it like a kid at Christmas, then happily brood for days over how best to arrange it on the gallery walls.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I am extremely fortunate. I have been blessed with countless advantages in life including excellent health which I try hard not to take for granted. My family and friends have always been wonderfully supportive. So far at least, I have encountered few external obstacles. My struggles have mostly come from within: fear, self-doubt, complacency, indecisiveness, and paralyzing perfectionism, to name a few.

Gabba Gallery – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Gabba Gallery exhibits many different kinds of contemporary art: pop, street, surreal, painting, mixed media, sculpture, photography, and much more. Some artists are local, some international. Some are well established and others are exhibiting their work in a gallery for the very first time. Much of our art is figurative but we love abstract too. We are especially drawn to bright colors and art with an upbeat feel.

Our openings take place on Saturday nights about once a month. They are free and open to everyone. Each show stays up for two to three weeks.

I am most proud of Gabba’s welcoming vibe. People often note how surprisingly comfortable they feel in our gallery. The art world can be an intimidating and mysterious place. We work hard to be accessible and open. We work with good people. We post the price of each artwork on the wall, no need to ask for a list. We believe art is for everyone and are honored to share our shows not just with collectors but with anyone who happens to wander through our doors.

We are immensely grateful for our neighbors in Historic Filipinotown who have welcomed us to their community. We celebrate them through our Gabba Alley Project which since 2014 has adorned our neighborhood’s residential alleys with hundreds of colorful murals painted by our artists using donated paint.

We are especially well known for our annual affordable art show, Wishlist. It opens mid-November and runs through Christmas. More than 100 artists participate with prices capped at $1000. It’s “cash and carry,” which means that the buyer gets to take their art home right away and we hang something new in its place. First time collectors appreciate the accessible prices and immediate gratification. Seasoned veterans know there are great deals to be had, and arrive early to get first dibs. It is always a fun night, my favorite of the year.

Our next show, Remix: The Art of Music, opens Saturday, August 10. More than 60 artists created visual artworks inspired by music. A portion of every sale will be donated to Adopt the Arts, a non-profit which helps fund arts programs in local elementary schools.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I feel successful because I get to work with interesting people doing something that I love. I believe a piece of art is successful if it inspires someone to think or feel or dream something new.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Photography by Jeffrey Sklan, Erin Penner, Jaq Frost, Zina Zaflow, Dixon Corsbie. Art by Essi Zimm, Alex Achaval, Val Kilmer, Keith Dugas, and many more

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