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Meet Haley Fonfa of Artfonfa in Downtown Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Haley Fonfa.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Haley. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Never in my life did I imagine calling myself an artist. This thought changed completely about four years ago, during my freshman year of college. I was undeclared and unsure as to who I really was, who I wanted to be and why I was here. During my free time outside of class, I painted my roommates, as well as different underground musical artists I supported. Their constant support and encouragement made me rethink how I was spending my time and what I was really working towards. I decided I could no longer waste any time being afraid or worrying about the future and should just live for today. I changed my major to fine arts, began to take myself and my art more seriously, and actually consider my career to be an artist.

I believe every day, every second really, we are changing and evolving. The art I was making when I first started is so different from the art I am creating today. When I first started creating I used it as an outlet for creative expression, healing and fun of course. As time went by, art became a huge part of me and who I am as a person. This undying newfound passion had me painting 12 hours at a time, not even getting up to eat or go to the bathroom. I get chills thinking about my first days realizing art was my passion because it really helped me see my life more clearly and gave me reason and purpose. I think it’s difficult to realize your purpose in life and believe you can influence or make a difference but I believe art truly gave me that power. Being an artist made me also realize the influence of collaboration and connecting with other artists.

At the beginning of 2018, I hosted my first art exhibition, “Creations & Libations: A Womxn’s Art Exhibition.” I started curating exhibitions because I wanted to offer a bigger platform to womxn artists, artists of color, artists of the LGBTQ+ community, and really all marginalized artists who deserve to have their voices heard. My mission as a curator is to offer a safe, welcoming space to all artists as well as bring together different communities to appreciate and celebrate art. Social justice while giving back to the community is really close to my heart and the reason why all of my shows donate to a non-profit organization.

One of my biggest supporters for both my art and my shows was my older brother, Brett. He passed away March 2018 really suddenly and unexpectedly. He was the coolest person; a creative writer, musician, artist, and collector who always encouraged everyone around him to follow their dreams and live life with meaning. I am still in shock and coping with his death however he really inspires and motivates everything I do; my shows and work will forever be in honor of him.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As a womxn, in general, you are looked at and valued different. Womxn have never received the recognition and platforms they deserve, specifically womxn of color as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community. I think its especially difficult for a womxn to establish themselves as an artist or businessperson because their looks, beliefs, and actions are always taken into account. It’s evident that womxn have to look and act a certain way to be accepted in society. This thinking needs to change and WE are currently changing it. With more and more successful businesswomxn out there thriving and taking leadership roles, these old views will have to change with the immense growth that is happening simultaneously.

I believe as womxn we are connected and must support, uplift, and empower one another. However you identify yourself, you deserve a place where you feel safe, seen and heard. There were many instances when I first started showcasing where I really felt out of place. Many shows where I was one of the only womxn showcasing, I specifically remember attendees thinking it was my brother who made all the art and were completely surprised to find out a womxn made it. There were other times when collaborators, people I wanted to work with and actually looked up to, would try to take advantage, just because I was a young womxn; the list goes on. This was a huge reason why I started curating shows.

Prior to curating shows, I formed an all womxn’s art collective called Bellatrix Collective (bellatrix meaning female warrior not the character from Harry Potter lol). I began connecting with different womxn around the world who supported the same ideas of empowering womxn artists everywhere. Working with other empowering womxn has really helped me believe all my dreams and goals can be accomplished. I believe the more womxn working together, the stronger the influence and outcome will be in the end. In the wise words of Beyonce, Who runs the world? Girls.

Artfonfa – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from others?
As an artist, I have really enjoyed working with different mediums like chalk pastels, oil, watercolor and acrylic paint, resin, and more. I’ve found my favorite to be acrylic painting. I also love to experiment on many surfaces like skateboards, shoes, clothing, and of course canvases. When I first began creating I was inspired by various underground music artists. The support I was getting from the underground community was really dope. I was not only connecting directly with the artists but also connecting with their supporters. After I started to establish my style, I began creating more pieces straight from my head and really was able to tap into my creative imagination. My style now is inspired by pop culture, nostalgia, bright colors, and movement. One of my closest friends I have known since high school and fellow artist, @slimkatyy, recommended pausing movies and music videos for inspiration. In my latest pieces, I have used this method and really found to love it.

As a curator, I have produced ten shows since 2018. I am extremely proud of the growth and support the shows have gotten over the past year and a half. I think what really makes the shows special is the people who participate and come to support. I feel so honored to be able to create a safe and welcoming space where you could show up by yourself and leave with a ton of friends and are inspired to create too. The shows started with showcasing around 15 artists with approximately 200 RSVPS. The most recent exhibition, All That 90s, incorporated over 60 artists, dozens of live performances showcasing performers with follower counts ranging from 1k-100k, and reached approximately 20,000 RSVPS. The next exhibition, ArtScare Before Christmas inspired by the legendary Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, will be held on December 7th in Los Angeles. This special show will be a magical night filled with spooky holiday joy and THE place to purchase all the perfect handmade holiday gifts you could ever imagine. Learn more and RSVP for free at artscarebeforechristmas.eventbrite.com.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I feel blessed for the opportunities that have come my way, although I’m not sure if luck really exists or not. I do believe that hard works pays off in the end. I think about this when it comes to both creating and curating and how nothing happens overnight. When it came to creating art and establishing my style, it took hours and hours and days and years of practicing and dedicating time to perfecting the craft. As an artist, my style is still constantly changing and evolving. I believe practice and hard work is really what will make you successful, not luck.

I believe this goes for curating shows as well. When I first began curating I was up until 4am every night searching and looking for artists who would agree to be in the shows, organizing and diagraming, marketing and establishing a whole other business and more. Even with this last exhibition, All That 90s, I was absolutely thrilled and shocked by the amount of love and support it received. Various large platforms like DoLA, LA Art Party, and more were sharing and promoting the event. These extra marketing pushes helped tremendously, however I truly believe the continuous loyalty from the artists coming back each show and promoting, along with the immense amount of organization and dedication that is put into the shows, has played a huge role in its success.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal photo by Resilient Photography; The Grand Life LV, Alondra Mendez, Artfonfa, King Creeze, Filmdotorg

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