Thursday, July 18, 2024

GUEST COLUMN: When the walls (almost) came tumbling down in Long Beach

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Julia Huang reflects on the recent challenges and surprises encountered to organize Long Beach’s ninth annual urban art festival, Long Beach Walls.

Nobody said putting together a city-wide mural art festival was going to be easy. But now with nine editions of Long Beach Walls (previously Pow! Wow!) under our belt, we see there is much writing on those walls. There are lessons learned about the impact a simple idea—bringing art to the streets of Long Beach—could and would have on the city. We’ve learned that the event’s 150+ murals took much more than artists and spray paint to happen, and how it took an entire community of art enthusiasts, of urban developers, city planners and businesses, appreciative media, and city legislators, to make those incredible designs come to life over the years.

And we saw that when faced with unexpected challenges, the vibrant arts and culture community is a force to be reckoned with.

Two days before the opening ceremony, the Long Beach Walls and Art Renzei organizing team at Creative Class Collective was thrown a debilitating curveball. Overnight, half of the previously handpicked, vetted, prepped and approved spaces for artwork were stripped away. These spaces were for incredible international and Long Beach-based artists like A.L. Grime, Lula Goce, Christian Garcia, and more.

“We just heard the most unbelievable thing: We lost half of our walls. It was unprecedented—and we couldn’t believe it,” said Creative Class Collective Executive Director Cassandra Leeman.

All of a sudden, we had no place for the artists, who willingly came to our city to donate their artistic talent and traveled from all corners of the globe, to do their work. And while I did not want to believe it, I could. After 35-plus years in the creative industry, I know things happen. Sometimes, the path to making a positive impact in any city is challenged by administrative hurdles.

And so we trudged ahead.

In a matter of hours—roughly 12 to be exact—help came pouring in from L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Mayor Rex Richardson, Vice Mayor Cindy Allen, Councilwoman Megan Kerr, Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Steve Goodling, and from real estate developer Mosaic who found brand new spaces for our artists. The festival was back on, all thanks to the abundant community support needed to quickly—overnight—replace the mural locations and enable us to successfully execute the event.

I share this because I learned something valuable from this experience: You are going to have to bite the bullet and ask for some favors now and again. But if you have shown that you stand for the things your community cares for and deeply cherishes, and they know your values are aligned, then good people tend to bring out the better sides in each other. Feelings of communal pride are fostered, and we all grow as a result.

As a big city with a small community heart, Long Beach does this well. Our community knows the benefits of public art extend beyond the aesthetic, and understands that it can foster a sense of identity, belonging, collaboration and pride among its residents. American sculptor Janet Echelman once said public art is a team sport. “The outcome is only possible with the interaction of all the players.”

Next year, we’ll celebrate our 10th anniversary. And thanks to those curveballs, we’re a stronger team than ever.

Game on.

Julia Huang
Julia Huanghttp://www.intertrend.com
Julia Y.C. Huang, founder and CEO of Intertrend Communications, brings over 35 years of experience as a leading voice in Asian culture, both as the leader of her own creative agency, as the founder of numerous entrepreneurial ventures, as the promoter of cultural and artistic events and initiatives, as a speaker and recognized voice in the communication industry, and as a committed contributor to numerous non-profit associations. While an expert creative agency leader, Julia’s path toward becoming CEO of the multimillion-dollar agency was circuitous – she lived and studied in three countries and never worked a day at an advertising agency before starting her own.

1 COMMENT

  1. Were you planning on sharing Names that were accountibile for the amout of spaces being Stripped Away?? Did someone fail to sign something like the Big Bang on the Bay case? Facts.

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