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Meet Paul Loya of Long Beach Museum of Art

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paul Loya.

Paul, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 2001 on a fall evening I visited LACMA with a couple of friends to see the “Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons” exhibit. At this time in my life, I was beginning my art education at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, taking basic painting, drawing and art history courses. I was very heavily influenced by the Impressionists, Van Gogh’s work and I think I had just gotten into Lucian Freud. We visited the various galleries of the museum, passing by Koons’ vacuum, a Johns’ target painting and even saw “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”. I wandered off by myself and entered into this small 3 walled gallery.

As I turned the corner to enter, I was hit with this explosion of color and vibrant energy that leaped off these three canvases by Jean Michel-Basquiat. This was my first encounter with his work and was floored by the composition and the intentional naiveness and attention to detail which went into every mark across the painting. I had no idea paintings like this existed and it changed the way I perceived art. The fire that once burnt inside of me was now an uncontrollable blaze that engulfed every part of my being. I couldn’t describe what I felt in that moment, sitting in front of “Skull”, 1981, but I knew walking out of the museum that night that I wanted to share that feeling with everyone in the world.

I wanted to curate exhibitions so that everyone could experience the power of art. I even think the next weekend one of my friend’s parents went out of town and we proceeded to take down all their artwork in the house and put our own up and have an art show. I moved to New York in 2005 and began work at Max Protetch Gallery while attending NYCAMS, (New York City for Arts Media Studies) through Bethal University. After experiencing the New York art scene and taste of the art market, I knew this was the area of the arts I wanted to be in.

I moved back to Los Angeles, to finish my B.F.A at Biola University and continued my career at Mark Moore Gallery. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I was taking the bus and train to Santa Monica every day from Long Beach. Mark was gracious enough to give me a ride home on some nights and it was a unique opportunity to talk about his 30 years experience running a gallery and stories of early days starting the gallery. I moved on to Peter Fetterman Gallery in 2007 and worked my way up to a directorship there. in 2010 I began to collect more work by emerging artists I was following and seeing around the country.

While working for the gallery, we did around 10 art fairs a year, so this allowed me to travel quite a bit and see everything that was going on. At this time I put a deadline for myself to open my own gallery and put together a rough skeleton of a program. 3 years of studio visits, business planning and real estate searching, I found a place in Culver City on La Cienega Blvd… My wife, family and friends transformed a run-down flower shop into a new home for Paul Loya Gallery. In April 2013 we opened our doors with our inaugural show, “Hit the Lights” showcasing our diverse stable of 14 artists. It was an amazing dream come true in that space and provide a platform to showcase a wonderful group of talented artists that became family to me.

We were also able to provide a space for the community to gather, hosting artist lectures, dinner parties, movie screenings as well as concerts in our courtyard. I had an amazing team of assistants who helped keep the gallery’s program and branding current and ahead of the curve, and allowed me to focus on working with our clients. After 5 years in that space, I began to notice a shift in the way collectors were buying art, a change in the neighborhood and rising rents. The brick and mortar for our program were becoming less relevant and more of an anchor that was holding us back. I decided to close the 2677 S. La Cienega Blvd. location in July 0f 2017 and was difficult to say goodbye to a place that housed so many amazing events and memories.

I took the gallery inventory online and found a location in Silverlake to house our exhibition pop-ups. We Kicked off our first pop up in September 2017 to a great response. While I was in the midst of developing this new platform, I saw an opening at the Long Beach Museum of Art. I thought it couldn’t hurt to apply as I had always wanted to work at this museum and I was working mainly from home. After many rounds of interviews and portfolio reviews, I became the Associate Curator at LBMA in April 2018. This truly has been a dream come true as It has come full circle from what I set out to do step out of LACMA that Fall evening in 2001.

Has it been a smooth road?
There has always been bumps along the way, especially with owning a business. There is a real reality check when that first month’s rent is due on your own building and the concept of creating a paycheck versus collecting a paycheck becomes very relevant. But you make it thru by putting your nose to the grindstone and work as hard as you can to make it work. Your lively hood is always in flux, but its electric to live that close to the flame.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Long Beach Museum of Art – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Now working for Long Beach Museum of Art, I am in here to help Ron Nelson, the director, on programming for the museum. We have been focusing on showcasing works from mid-career to emerging artists, to artist’s retrospectives as well as our permanent collection, which is 3,200 works from 300 years of American and European art in all media. It has been fantastic to work side by side with someone who shares a similar vision and has the communities interest at heart.

2 aspects that I feel sets us apart from other museum’s is our attention to supporting local established artists in the Long Beach and South Bay area as well as emerging artists thru our education department, which is the 2nd. Our educational department runs so deep with programming and is amazing with its outreach. I love coming to work every day and see bus loads of kids entering the museum and doing activities on the lawn.

Our education department does an extraordinary job with creating content and leading tours for the kids and the community. I still remember my first trip to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the impact it had on my life. The fact that these kids are also having the opportunity to have the same experience with the exhibitions, I am helping to create is what my job is all about.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love how diverse Los Angeles is and how each part has its own vibrant personality. I have spent the majority of my career commuting from Long Beach to Santa Monica and taken almost every which way to get there to try and avoid traffic. Driving thru the neighborhoods and appreciating the architecture and history of the houses around each corner is really a unique attribute of LA.

Even though the city is always advancing and developing, you can still see the age of the city thru its small neighborhoods and you can just imagine what this street or house looked like 50 + years ago. I feel like I am always discovering something new here and it never feels old, just feels like home.

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