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Local Motion

By Matt Katz, Editor

 

hen Ventura County is bursting with established galleries and talented local artists, what’s a relative newcomer from L.A. doing on our cover? It’s an inevitable question—and the answer is simple: Because we believe the Sylvia White Gallery means more to local artists as a whole than any individual or other recent development on the local artscape.

Having the work of internationally acclaimed artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Vija Celmins, and Ed Ruscha, to name just a few, exhibited in Ventura—in Midtown Ventura—will open the eyes of some heavy hitting art aficionados to our local arts scene. It means more respect for Ventura as a true “Art City,” and that means more respect for local artists. (And hopefully, higher prices and more sales of their work.)

For the rest of us, the Sylvia White Gallery is simply a refreshing place to see art, a sophisticated space with none of the urban pretentiousness that haunts a lot of big city galleries. During our roundtable discussion (p. 35), a local artist with a studio nearby meandered in to check it out. We exchanged pleasantries and, with a stunned look on his face, he made a comment that pretty much summed things up: “Wow, a real gallery. Right here.”

My wife and I were driving along Poli Street during the recent Kevin Costner concert (p. 10) in Downtown Ventura, and I couldn’t help but reflect on that comment, or more accurately, the surprised tone. Like the artist, I was stunned at what I was seeing: Here is California Street exploding with energy and music, and families are spread out on blankets and fold-up chairs, and the Pacific is a soft, windless blue, not a whitecap in sight. I drive this route frequently, past City Hall to and from the Ventana office, and it’s always beautiful. But this buoyant scene was something else. It wasn’t just the crowd or the music; it was the overall sense of a place finally coming into its own.

Most California cities, particularly those along the coast, have been in decline for decades, overrun by irresponsible development and corporate chain stores. Homogeny has all but snuffed out the independent character that once defined these places. I suppose what I find most surprising is that we’ve somehow managed to avoid the cookie cutter this long. Ventura in 2008 is better than ever, in spite of a bleak economy. When that shifts, hang on.

Sitting down to write these Notes is a mixed bag. Sometimes the words flow—other times, with deadlines looming and a flashing roadblock standing in my mental path, it’s not so easy. Pardon the ramble, and thanks for paying attention.

08-01-08

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