Since opening its doors in 2005, the one constant at this East Los Angeles art and design emporium has been transformation. ChimMaya was conceived as a unique handbag and jewelry store, a neighborhood social hub it was hoped would enliven and augment owner Steven Acevedo’s main career as an interior architect and designer with a more personal, colorful, creative outlet.
That plan succeeded, in ways Acevedo and partner Daniel Gonzalez could not have imagined. Almost immediately after they launched, it became apparent that their clients were inspired, too. They had their own ideas about what ChimMaya could and should be — and chief among them, they wanted ChimMaya to show art, too.
But not just any art — art from the community. Art by the people they knew, people young and old. Folks who lived and worked right there in East L.A., Montebello, Monterey Park. Men and women who painted with dedication and passion, whose talents were recognized by precious few, and whose intentions for their art were frequently rooted in community ritual rather than career ambition.
“My nephew is a great artist, Steven!” This is not the conventional way to introduce an artist to a gallery — but ChimMaya, it soon became apparent, was destined to be anything but conventional. Within a year, it was showing art all the time. Thirteen years — and nearly as many renovations of the ample interior galleries — later, ChimMaya has reinvented its program and fine-tuned its mission many times since that first leap of faith into the art world. But always with the same goal in mind — to celebrate the depth, range and value of itsown creative community, while at the same time broadening its cultural horizons with challenges to the status quo.
Most (though not all) of its artists are of Latino heritage; many (but not all) explore archetypal Latino themes and motifs. However, abstract, progressive, pop and folk art are not uncommon to find in the mix. ChimMaya staged group, solo and thematic exhibitions with artists primarily (but not exclusively) from the region, ranging from the renowned to the absolutely new, in an egalitarian and intuitive combination, which its founders describe as “showcasing the many facets of culture, society, humanity and the changing attitudes and acceptance of global diversity.” And don’t worry, there is still the store, featuring jewelry, prints and handmade crafts by local artists and makers.
With the Autumn Group Show on view through this weekend, ChimMaya is set to mix things up yet again for October. You see, every August, it mounts a massive Frida Kahlo exhibition, which is exactly as over-the-top and exuberant as it sounds, and always quite a party. This year circumstances intervened and the show was postponed — and it now will merge with ChimMaya's other annual highlight, the Day of the Dead show, which opens on Sunday, Oct. 21.
That’s right, this year, it’s a mashup, a veritable Dia de las Fridas, a Calavera Kahlo if you will — and ChimMaya wants to hear from you. As ever, this Open Call for art (as well as craft vendors) is free to apply and limited only by your imagination. And also by a deadline of this Sunday, Oct. 14. Highbrows, lowbrows and unibrows welcome.
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