Vision in View
By Gordon Durich with Jeff Phillips
Sculpture photos by Kristan Marvell
The San Fernando Valley is a vast canvas of commerce and colorful communities, but there’s something missing from the picture. The scene is devoid of a museum of art, which, with a population of some two million, would be an excellent addition to the community.
“A lot of research has been done with respect to an art museum in here,” explains Jeff Phillips, a Tarzana-based art curator. “A lack of cohesiveness to community has led to a lack of cultural expression here.”
About Our Expert
Jeff Phillips is grounded in fine art, establishing “Art Speaks for Itself,” a program for the Directors Guild of America. Over two million visitors viewed this exhibition of contemporary artists.
Founding curator of art exhibits at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Sherwood Country Club, The International Photography Guild, Bosnia Relief, and various contemporary galleries including Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles.
Award winning art curator and internationally successful consultant.
The Valley Art Scene
With a population of over two million, Los Angeles County’s San Fernando Valley is the largest credited population in the world without an art museum.
There are some 30 art galleries in the “Valley.”
Los Angeles proper, incorporating downtown, houses 10 art museums and counting. They include MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Neon Art, and Mexican Cultural Institute.
Funding for art programs are derived from the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairsas well as sponsors like the Visual Art Source, and corporations including ABC and Telemundo.
Phillips contends that high profile arts destinations such as the Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles have in turn increased property values. In contrast, the Valley offers no such destination. A cultural advocate, he declares, “I’m a lone wolf with a mission.”
Phillips is well-recognized in the local art community, having served as curator for various contemporary galleries in Los Angeles. He is founder of The Art Art Project, which exhibits contemporary fine art throughout the Los Angeles region. A graduate of the California Institute of the Arts, he is considered one of the state’s leading independent curators.
A strong advocate for a Valley museum, Phillips notes that “contemporary art brings in the current youth generation who represent the future of the Valley.”
Phillips explains that the draw of cultural offerings beyond the Valley attract the younger and future generations and takes them to where the ”real action” is. “There’s nothing here for ‘cultural kids,’ and in the minds of many, you want kids to become cultural, if they’re not so already. Otherwise, they’re stuck in a time warp of their parent’s concept of what culture is, as opposed to the current generation that ignores the Valley’s cultural relationship, perceiving it as not being hip. Los Angeles is the international center for art making, ascending over even New York,” contends Phillips. “It was New York in the 1980’s, and New York ascended over Paris in the late 1940’s. The impact of that has made Los Angeles a world class destination, but the San Fernando Valley has yet to truly benefit. From an artistic standpoint, it has yet to reach its potential.”
Phillips has broached the entire business, philanthropic, political, and civic leadership of his community with the call to arts in the “S.F.V.” The pioneer’s plan of converting a warehouse space into a local art museum, rather than building a new institution, has, to quote Bob Dylan, “no direction home.” So far. “Not that there’s no good intentions. There’s just nothing to build on,” rails Phillips.
“On the surface, there appears to be a lack of motivation on the part of the Valley business community to become involved in cultural affairs.” He continues “It’s an example of self-imposed limitations that are the excuse for tackling something previously ‘outside their box.’ When presented with the opportunity to leave their box, they have a myriad of excuses representing their own misunderstanding of their own self interest to put themselves, and their own sphere of influence, in a position to further their goals, but not understand the economics that a world class cultural destination would create.
“The Valley is virtually a blank canvas, which is a great opportunity to draw and define a cultural initiative that is unique to the region and will reflect the multicultural make-up of the San Fernando Valley,” Phillips exclaims. “This is a great challenge and opportunity to step forward and help define and draw a new cultural map to put the Valley on the world map of cultural destinations.”
Jeff Phillips doesn’t mince words.
- Develop an executive board that can support the arts in the region.
- According to Robert Rodine, co-chair of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley’s Livable Communities group, raising capital is dependent on the interest in a museum of art in the Valley. Members from other museums who reside in the Valley would be a large factor in determining funding this project.
- The final hurdle would be finding an appropriate location. Jeff Philllips’ vision is to take an empty warehouse and transform it into a contemporary art museum, featuring a contemporary mission. By using an existing structure it will be more cost effective than building from scratch.