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Local Artists Complete SMC’s Art Mentor Program:

Dave Quick



Local Artists Complete Santa Monica College’s Art Mentor Program

While John Malkovich’s latest film, Art School Confidential, (currently showing at Santa Monica’s NuWilshire Theater) pokes serious, even slightly demented fun at art schools in general, one local higher education program at Santa Monica College is on the cutting edge of assisting serious artists with their fledgling careers. 

Twenty-three Santa Monica College Art Mentor Program artists are currently presenting their group show of recent work, “Under the Radar,” at the Arena One Gallery at Santa Monica Airport. The exhibition is an important annual event in the college’s unique mentoring program, an innovative year-long process that was created to provide an experimental and interdisciplinary environment for gifted practitioners in art and art history to explore a variety of art forms, professional practices and critical theory.                                    

This is no first year college art program. Rather, a special Art Mentor Committee, staffed by selected faculty and headed by Chair of the College’s Art Department, Maurizio Barattucci, each year selects over 20 participants from a field of well over 100 applicants with outstanding portfolios in fine art, design, art history and/or architecture. Program participants are challenged to develop the tools necessary to further pursue a career in the fine arts. Resources include weekly visits to the studios of established artists and dialogue with noted art critics, which this year included Holly Meyers.  The program also fosters exhibition opportunities and ongoing critical peer critique of each artist’s creative explorations. In addition, each student is encouraged to develop their own style while working very closely with two Santa Monica College art mentor instructors, Linda Lopez and Sharon Kagan.

Reflecting the cross-cultural nature of the Westside, this year’s collection of 23 artists is widely varied in their nationalities, backgrounds and pursuits. Participants include foreign artists from Asia, Europe and Latin America. There is a small cluster of backgrounds in film and television, successful career professionals seeking to further express their creativity in the fine arts.  Several local artists are included in the group.  One example: 20-year Santa Monica resident Liz Comay.  Comay blends her lifetime experiences (from former “deadhead” hippie with a bent for tie-die to mom of three to an advanced art degree from CSU Fullerton) to create distinctly feminist imagery with carved wax paintings. 

      The Arena One Gallery is located in the Santa Monica Art Studios, Santa Monica Airport, 3026 Airport Ave, 310.397.7449. The show runs through June 24th, with an opening reception on Friday, June 9th.  A show catalogue is available. This summer, the Art Mentor Program artists will split into groups of two and three for a second exhibition at the Upstairs at the Market Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.

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