Symposium Addresses Art and Cultural Diversity

Jamie Gadette
El Vaquero Staff Writer

A symposium Wednesday in the Student Center generated discussion about the role artists can play in breaking down barriers that distort communication between ethnic groups.

The panel, mediated by Annabelle Aylmer, GCC’s Gallery Director, included two members of the Glendale Arts Commission: Arts Administrator Eve Rappoport and Richard Espinoza, a photographer from Eagle Rock. They were joined by Joseph Beckles, artist and curator of “Eye-Speak,” the gallery exhibit at the center of much of the conversation.

“Eye-Speak” was formed through the efforts of Beckles and Jane Castillo, who wished to create an outlet for underserved artists to display their work. The two organized separate events drawing artists from the African-American and Latino communities respectively. Each group got together to create a tapestry to project their individual expressions as one unified vision.

Aylmer organized Wednesday’s symposium as part of her desire to better understand what its like for a minority to adequately express itself to the larger society.

“As a white woman, I’m part of the dominant power structure and can’t fully relate to being a small ethnic group within the whole,” said Aylmer. “I wanted to ask people if they feel that others understand them better through their art.”

For the most part, minority groups lack the necessary resources for realizing their underserved needs. For example, artists who lack a university degree are not likely to have the chance to gain entry into the elite world of contemporary art. Those without access to higher education will have to overcome additional obstacles on their journey to success.

“As a group, African-Americans lack the societal infrastructure embracing or encouraging their work,” said Beckles. “This exhibit gives them an opportunity to get their message across.”
The panel focused on the importance of developing a sense of community for artists in order to bring their visions to fruition. Audience members shared their ideas on other events and exhibits that could use art to help create positive change in a diverse environment. The idea is to develop a greater frequency of events.

Beckles emphasized the artists’ role in humanizing society: “You have to ask yourself how you want to use art to talk about politics – to provide a medium through which to express your personal agendas.”
Audience members were active in their participation in the discussion, sharing their personal experiences with organizing their own competitions and showings. Richard Kamei, a sociology teacher at GCC, who attended the event with members from his race and ethnic relations class, was pleased with outcome of the discussion.

“I thought it was very productive for those who wish to affect social change through art,” said Kamei.
Abel Elegio, a GCC student, was surprised to learn how much effort it takes to get projects off the ground. “They’re putting more into it than I thought,” said Elegio. “It really opened my eyes to how much work it really takes to generate activity.”

“Eye-Speak” is currently at GCC’s Art Gallery through Dec.14.