Oxy Arts transitions In Plain Sight exhibition and internships to remote setting

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A few of the pieces in WE LIVE! Memories of Resistance at Oxy Arts on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Dominic Massimino/The Occidental

Oxy Arts and In Plain Sight — a coalition of 80 artists — opened the “WE LIVE! Memories of Resistance” art exhibition Sept. 14, which runs until Nov. 29. In Plain Sight’s message is to raise awareness around the injustices of the U.S. immigration system and cruelty of detention centers. The exhibition features artwork from 14 artists in the In Plain Sight coalition. The Oxy Arts and In Plain Sight collaboration further extends into the classroom with Occidental’s Arts in Los Angeles Immersive Semester

Oxy Arts will be hosting 10 events related to “WE LIVE!” throughout the semester. According to Marisela Ramirez, programming and communications manager for Oxy Arts, events will include artist talks, film showings and a livestreamed performance from the Greek Bowl. Ramirez said via email “WE LIVE!” takes a closer look at ongoing injustices that are in plain sight and experiences from oppressive systems with a reminder that there is still joy in the world. Ramirez said via email Oxy Arts has shifted events virtually onto Zoom and livestreams.

“This work is deeply connected to the movements that have had heightened visibility during the pandemic, bearing witness is a reciprocal process,” Ramirez said via email.

The series kicks off Sept. 17 with a panel discussion led by members of Cumbiatón Collective followed by an Instagram Live DJ Set with DJ Funky Caramelo and DJ Sizzle Fantastic, according to Ramirez.

Sculpture in WE LIVE! Memories of Resistance, at Oxy Arts on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Dominic Massimino/The Occidental

Meldia Yesayan, director of Oxy Arts, said the In Plain Sight artists are activists that work in their local community and partner with various arts institutions and colleges. Yesayan said the 14 artists center their artwork around detention centers and immigration.

“Wherever you find yourself this semester, you have an opportunity to bear witness, in this case, to the ongoing work around the migrant detention crisis in America by the In Plain Sight Coalition,” Ramirez said via email.

According to Yesayan, “WE LIVE!” will have a 3D virtual tour and documentation of the artwork inside the Oxy Arts gallery to make  it available to the public.

Oxy Arts is eager to welcome In Plain Site coalition member  Dorian Wood for their performance “Déjenme Gritar (Let Me Scream)” Oct. 28. Wood is a self-taught musician and vocalist and uses their music and booming voice to vocalize their position in society as a non-binary person of color. Ramirez said Wood was scheduled to perform at Oxy Arts during Spring 2020; however, the event was canceled due to COVID-19.

Sculpture in WE LIVE! Memories of Resistance, at Oxy Arts on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Dominic Massimino/The Occidental

Yesayan said this fall semester, Occidental is offering 15 courses that are hosting 20 In Plain Sight artists to speak about their work as artists and knowledge on immigration and detention centers. These courses, which are part of the Arts in Los Angeles Immersive Semester and Cultural Studies Program (CSP) span across 10 different departments including studio art, sociology and theater.

For the first Core Program event Aug. 31, Rafa Esparza and Cassils spoke about In Plain Sight and their art. According to Yesayan, Rafa and Cassils were the two artists that really spearheaded In Plain Sight.

Rafa explained the power art has to educate communities and be a resource for change, Ramirez said via email. According to Ramirez, Rafa echoed art’s ability to see the world beyond its horrors.

The new Arts in Los Angeles Immersion Semester is advised by professor of art and art history Amy Lyford and allows first years to take 12–14 unit classes on the arts in LA with the option to add an internship to the coursework. According to Frankie Fleming, Oxy Arts manager of education and community engagement, the internship is a rare exposure to careers in the art field. Fleming said she works with Lyford to connect students with artists in the community.

“Students are not just studying art in Los Angeles, but actually getting an opportunity to engage more directly with art. The internship is a really important way that first year students can be more connected to the city and to have some more context for what they’re studying, hopefully feeling less abstract during the remote semester,” Fleming said.

Fleming said there is a wide range of projects that the Arts in LA interns will be working on this semester, including interning for an art publisher, studio artists and theatres.

“We are supporting students with Center for Community Based Learning and their tools to think about community engagement and relationships with community partners. So they are getting a grounding experience with an understanding to what community engagement at Occidental looks like,” Fleming said. 

Fleming said she is eager to see students involved in the Arts in LA internship grow and continue their community involvement through the arts and find their specialty.

According to Fleming, the internship gives first year students the opportunity to exercise their creativity in the arts while gaining experience in the field throughout the semester. Fleming said there are many ways for people to explore the art field now, and wishes this opportunity was available when she was in college.

Ramirez said via email although Oxy Arts misses in-person events, they appreciate the new ability to reach people beyond Occidental’s campus and LA.