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Meet SoLA Contemporary in the Crenshaw District

Today we’d like to introduce you to SoLA Contemporary.

Please share your story with us. How did SoLA Contemporary get to where you are today?
SoLA (South LA) Contemporary is an artist-run, nonprofit art organization that originated in 2013 in San Pedro, Calif., as South Bay Contemporary. The gallery was located inside The Loft studios, a huge warehouse art space with a vintage elevator, beautiful hardwood floors, high ceilings and skylights. We had some great shows there, but the final show we hosted, “Beach Goth,” featured young South Bay artists and punk bands, and hundreds of young people attended. It made quite the ruckus upsetting the neighbors, and as a result, we received a notice to move out. At this point, one of our supporters, artist and art educator, Linda Jo Russell, maintained a belief in our mission and stepped forward. She was ready to invest in a building to serve as her art studio and gallery. Together, we set out to research buildings and found one that served both our needs.

In March 2017, South Bay Contemporary opened its doors in its brand new location on 3718 West Slauson Avenue in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles with its first exhibition. This new location is inside a smaller, yet beautifully minimalist building with lots of natural lighting and high, wooden beam ceilings, and we only had to redesign a few walls to create a spacious front gallery, Russell’s art studio and a few smaller gallery spaces. The location is also perfect! We wanted to be closer to LA, as we found the South Bay to be slow to respond to our interpretation of art. We are so pleased and amazed at how responsive the South LA community has been. There is an enthusiasm and energy for art here and for our involvement that we never experienced in the South Bay.

The gallery sits halfway between the 405 and 110, and about a 30 min drive from the South Bay. We adjusted our mission to bridge the South Bay and LA with the intent to pull together a mix of both cultures and to inspire, enrich and lessen the perceived gap between the two communities. In 2019, we officially changed our name to South LA, or SoLA, Contemporary to reflect our new home and the future of the gallery.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Since moving to our new location and transitioning to SoLA Contemporary, one of our biggest challenges has been to develop a brand new South LA audience while still including our South Bay audience – two very different geographies, demographics and cultures! It’s been rewarding, however, to see the organization grow and make its mark as a must-see gallery in LA that is continually evolving within the fast-paced LA art environment. At the same time, we are hyper aware that we are the “new kid on the block” in a neighborhood that is on the cusp of gentrification, and evolving our space in a way where giving back and being an active contributor to and participant of the South LA community is a huge priority for us. Sometimes art galleries can be intimidating, we totally understand that. We want to refresh that perspective and be an art space that is inviting, welcoming to all, warm, buzzing with activities like free artist-led workshops, and is reflective of the faces and voices of our neighborhood, all through the universal language of contemporary art.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about SoLA Contemporary – what should we know?
SoLA Contemporary is an art space founded by artist Peggy Sivert and is proudly located in LA’s Crenshaw district on historic Slauson Avenue. We aim to serve both our local community and greater Los Angeles communities through contemporary art with an active rotation of museum-quality exhibitions reflecting our diverse culture and today’s most pressing issues.

We are supporters of advanced explorations in contemporary art and thrive on expanding art knowledge to our community with an Art Education Outreach program designed to foster creative thinking and engagement. We accomplish this through several programming initiatives designed to foster a welcoming community environment, including artist portfolio reviews, free artist-led workshops, lessons in art-making for South LA homeless individuals in transition, a monthly open mic nite, and an innovative artist critique membership program. SoLA is also devoted to community building on a global level, offering bi-annual, month-long residencies and exhibitions for international artists.

Our current exhibition is a figurative realism show entitled, “Women by Women: Depictions and Interpretations by Greater Los Angeles Women,” curated by Sharon Allicotti and is on view through March 7, 2020. For the most up-to-date information about our exhibits, events, workshops, etc. please give us a follow on Instagram at @solacontemporary.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Diversity! And along with that, inclusivity, and a genuine approach to community building.

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Image Credit:

Tatum Hawkins, Bryan Frank

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