CACtTUS, An Avant-garde Haven for Long Beach Artists
By Sydney Walters
Although Long Beach, California is teeming with artists, there are relatively few venues to showcase artwork. With only two art museums and a handful of niche art galleries, coffee shops, cafes and bars are more often than not the creative platform for local artists. And while showing art in these spaces can be a good commercial opportunity for selling work, what is to become of the non-traditional, experimental, avant-garde artist?
In response to the limited artistic platforms for exploratory artists in Long Beach, artist Jorge Muijica and co-founder Mayra Serna have founded the Creative Arts Coalition to Transform Urban Space (CACtTUS). On its most basic level, CACtTUS is a donation-based project for emerging contemporary artists. Artists are invited to occupy and transform this storefront art gallery for a new exhibition every month. Since opening in January 2017, CACtTUS has exhibited over ten shows with artists coming from New York, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Tijuana, and of course, Long Beach.
“CACtTUS is a bridge for the Long Beach community to see artists do things that don’t belong in the living room or kitchen or bathroom,” says Mujica. He adds, “We want to support artists that are more experimental and non transferrable….if the idea was to make income and have a commercial object then we wouldn’t be able to take risks and this is an incubator for risk.”
CACtTUS is not alone in the journey to accommodate radically innovative art while operating beneath the blue-chip radar. Elevator Mondays is a pop up where an elevator is transformed into an exhibit. The futuristic Midnight Gallery gets its name from its late open hours conveniently located above the Stache bar in Long Beach. And Outpost Projects in Joshua tree is a vacation rental/experimental artist lodge where people can rent the space and make work in a pristine desert. These are just a few spaces Mujica mentions in his consideration for the kind of model he wanted to emulate for CACtTUS.
Mujica holds a masters degree from both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University. “When I was in Chicago, the idea of project spaces became more prevalent because Chicago is a city that has many universities within seven square miles. Therefore, you have a lot of art programs and a ton of artists that need places to show. Because the mainstream art places are very institutionalized and there is a long line to get into those kinds of conversations, there are a lot of project spaces that pop up which the institutions enable as an acceptable way of growing and developing an artist’s own art practice.”
He moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and then to Long Beach as his studio practice strengthened. At one point, he had an art studio with a wide window overlooking the busy 4th Street. He loved the personality and the transaction between him and the pedestrians on the street gaining visual access into his studio. To keep that curiosity and innovation alive, Mujica now rents a storefront gallery that invites people to participate in local art events.
“My goal is to enable people,” says Mujica. “Art is not the type of thing that ought to be influenced by capital. It should be influenced by empathy and support of human kindness. I want to be able to foster an attitude that encourages natural creativity.” One way that he is fostering this creativity is by working with other project spaces. In 2018, CACtTUS is reaching out to like-minded individuals to create a broader network so when local artists make their installations, they are inherently connected to an international and global network of artists.
For more information, visit http://www.cacttuslb.org where you can also donate/support.
For up to date news, follow them on Instagram @cattus_lb.
326 Elm Ave, Long Beach, California 90802
Hours: Wed-Fri 5-8pm or by appointment