Occupy Wall Space

Nestled in the creatively cool Cypress Avenue area, Hermosa Beach Artist Collective offers members a place to both develop and display their work.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Eliza Krpoyan
  • Photographed by
    Monica Orozco
  • Pictured above
    Michael Harrington

In the mornings, the scent of resin drifts through Hermosa Beach’s historic surfboard manufacturing district. “Next door to us are dozens of surfboard shapers,” says Hermosa Beach Artist Collective’s cofounder Rafael McMaster. “[Resin] was such a punchy and poignant word and name, and ultimately a lot of our artists here use art resin—so it felt very spot-on.” Situated on Cypress Avenue at a onetime furniture showroom, Resin Gallery now houses the works of Hermosa Beach Artist Collective (HBAC).

“How do we make an experience where everyone feels welcome?” Rafael recalls musing. When a gallery is highbrow, it disconnects the viewer from the art, he shares. To bridge the gap, he wanted to create a more accessible gallery construct.

Traditionally when an artist sells their work, the gallery can take a sizeable commission. “In that moment when an artist has the opportunity to feel triumphant because they’ve sold a piece, they’re instead feeling
less than and self-examining: ‘Why am I doing this? Does this make sense?’”

At Resin Gallery, the first thing Rafael did was liberate the artist of a commission. “The artists keeps 100% [of their sales],” he says. “This is unheard of, and the few people I’ve told in the art industry kind of just laugh and say I’m crazy. I’m at peace with it. The artists are welcome to make a 10% donation to the nonprofit, which they always do and are always happy about. By doing this we keep the prices low for our patrons, and it creates relatability that’s so important to us.”

Right: Rafael McMaster

With the sun beaming down on us on the second-floor balcony of the industrial gallery space, Rafael adds, “There’s a certain magic to be able to come into a local gallery and actually be able to afford something for your home made by a local artist.”

Currently there are 30 South Bay artists who comprise the collective, including HBAC cofounder Amy Friedberg, Sabrina Armitage and Paul Roustan.

“Healthy communities promote art and expression and have places where you can walk and see and come upon things,” says Amy, who is a New York City transplant. Her goal—and Rafael’s goal—is “to foster that seed to have a place where people can go to see art, where artists can show their work and where they can develop new work.”

Amy, whose artwork is visual interpretations of the human experience, adds, “The community was fractured. I lived here for three years. I knew there were tons of artists around, but I only knew them running into them in other scenarios.”

When Rafael began this journey a year ago, he says that there were no galleries in Hermosa Beach. Resin Gallery not only serves as an anchor space but also allows the artists to see what everyone else is working on—their processes—and share resources. There are two to three artists working from Resin Gallery at any given time.

Armitage finds inspiration in knowing that in the course of a day she can come across something that might be inspiring to another idea, process or technique at Resin Gallery. “It’s one thing to go to a gallery and see a piece of work—and that’s inspiring in and of itself. However if you come in here, there’s always someone here working. It opens up so many more doors, themes and your imagination than just seeing the end result.”

HBAC’s show in May brings the collective together in another way. Symbiosis: The Poetic Nature of Mutualism will be collaborative works from artists in the collective.

Sabrina Armitage

In addition to a quarterly show, artists get their own feature show. In February, Paul Roustan is presenting an ‘80s art show featuring the iconic Back to the Future car—a DeLorean—and other relics from the past that inspire him. His medium is painting people with airbrush makeup that’s compliant on skin. The show will feature a painted model in roller skates and a male model painted to look like he came out of the movie Tron.

“I like to tell stories about the people that I paint by painting a little bit of their narrative on them,” he says. “Other times it’s more objective, and there’s a cool location I want to put somebody in and paint something that reflects that.” Paul then photographs them.

He also does a lot of underwater photography. Since a lot of his work is performance-based, including holograms, video is one of the best ways to preserve them.

“We’re not teaching any particular art discipline. We’re teaching how to be creative and how to be comfortable in your creative self.”

Paul prefers that people come into his space and think of it as an experience—not as an art gallery. “Usually most people who walk by an art gallery feel like there’s this barrier; you have to cross this threshold—you don’t necessarily feel invited. I want people to walk past, say, ‘Woah, what’s going on in here?’ and then they can’t resist coming in to look. And I want them to leave feeling like they’ve seen something they’ve never seen before.”

HBAC was founded not only as place for artists to work and show from but also to create a youth program. “A lot of the local schools—particularly the elementary schools—don’t have art classes,” shares Rafael, who has a daughter in first grade. The program—originally called 15 Under 15 and now 16 under 16, because the oldest is 16 years old—offers three 90-minute classes a week and up to four classes a month per child. Rafael, who spearheads the program, teaches everything from photography, painting and illustration to computer design.

Like sports, art requires your full attention. Rafael leads meditation prior to the students getting their art supplies. When they ask why they have to “sit and breathe,” he gives them an analogy of closing apps on their phones to free up space. Meditating is just like this. It helps free up creative energy.

“We’re not teaching any particular art discipline, “ he says. “We’re teaching how to be creative and how to be comfortable in your creative self.”

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