I’ve always been a visual learner. My mom was a painter so I was always surrounded by images and colors. In school, I did better in art history than history because it was easier to grasp things if I had a visual aid. I was really into comics, but I was more captivated by the imagery than the words. I followed the storylines through the illustrations.
I made my passion for art a career. I have a company called Branded Arts, which sets up art projects in communities around the world, enhancing and transforming communities through the arts. We’ve done over 350 public and private art installations in over 40 cities worldwide in the past seven years.
I started as an art collector. My first major purchase was a Takashi Murakami, which still hangs in my office. I’ve always had a diverse aesthetic for art so curating was a natural progression. I started working with artists on pop-up art shows that would donate a portion of the proceeds to a non-profit. To build up hype for the exhibitions we would paint a mural on the outside of the gallery spaces. We were working in Culver City with (artist) Yoskay Yamamoto. A bunch of students from a school across the street would gather around after class and watch him paint. So, we were like lets get the kids involved. It was a starry night-themed painting so we had the students draw stars on the wall. That’s when we realized that this project was a lot bigger than a temporary exhibition. The mural was inspiring kids and impacting people in the community. We were making a positive social impact through art.
My current project is with the Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF) in Inglewood. The ECF is a non-profit that’s been around 72 years. They empower children and adults with special needs to reach their greatest potential. I went to an ECF gallery open house and immediately connected with what they do. There are so many worthy causes to contribute to and communities to enrich, but I have to look at a project through different lenses. What’s the street visibility? What’s the access going to be? Will the piece have a shelf life? We want as many people to see the piece as possible.
The ECF Collaborative Art Project (tentative title) came together as soon as I saw a big, empty vacant wall across the street. The building’s tenant happens to be another great community center, the Social Justice Learning Institute. I brought in a renowned local artist, Inglewood’s own Aiseborn, who will incorporate the ECF students’ art into the design of his mural. Aiseborn will create an outline and the ECF students will paint a portion of it. We can’t bring them onto the lifts because the wall is 25 feet high, but they can touch the bottom part. The challenge for Aiseborn is to replicate the art to make it all cohesive.
My biggest challenge on every project is making sure everyone is heard. Some people (city council members, tenants, donors) might not understand how public art can help a community. On the other hand, some artists might not trust how the system works. My job is to manage both sides so everyone feels comfortable and has a good experience. The stakeholders have their input and the artist can live in their creative space. We want to create community landmarks so that everyone involved can go off and come back to and say, that’s an Aiseborne piece, but it’s also an ECF one.
My favorite part of any project is seeing the reaction of the participants when it’s all said and done. The artist gets to share their artwork with a community and the kids haven’t seen their work on such a large scale so it’s an eye-opening experience. That unbridled joy reminds me of when I was a kid flipping through the pages of a comic book.
I think it’s really important for every person, especially kids, to find their creative outlet because it will help them in all their life endeavors. I want parents, teachers, and kids to think about the “creative economy”. One out of every six jobs in Los Angeles involves the arts, whether it be design, fashion, film, media, etc. There are some amazing networks and opportunities are out there so if a Branded Arts project can inspire people to think about things more creatively than just the core curriculum then it’s a win.