Part massive interdisciplinary art exhibition, part civic and policy-minded symposium, part public health festival, part community meet-up spot, WE RISE LA is all of these things and more. A ten-day pop-up exposition in a gorgeous brick and glass Arts District development, the 2019 edition of this cross-platform mental well-being happening promises a variety of experiences from the esoteric to the educational, inspirational, and pragmatic.
Hundreds of visual artists, selected and invited by four curators, represent national and local voices whose work in some cases directly addresses the topicality of the occasion, and in others simply sparks salient contemplation. The artists came to the show through the dedicated team’s outreach from personal contacts, independent and established galleries, and open calls via like-minded organizations, schools, and community programs.
Through what seems like miles of wide, warm corridors and cavernous, sun-filled rooms (the team built every one of the display walls on the site, which as a side note is an impressive, Herculean effort), the work is installed along a loose but compelling narrative arc. It moves forward from identifying the problems, the causes, the dark experiences, the unease, and the perhaps secret traumas that everyone carries within them to some degree. There is some incredibly moving work in this section, from the abstract to the autobiographical.
As the show unfolds, it morphs into a story of healing, support and the empowerment to envision hope. Depictions of wisdom, sisterhood, education, and purpose grow in scale and luminosity. It culminates at a sunny heartfelt panoramic Risk mural, and on through to the back room which is activated by LED installations, monumental site-specific murals, and a stage area that will be well used throughout the show’s run.
Along the way are intimate and wall-size works in paint, neon, sculpture, photographs, and a significant number of murals which artists have executed on site (on those slick temporary walls). There’s a dedicated art-making workshop room, wandering poets, spoken word collaborations with Get Lit, music, insightful panel discussions, and perhaps most crucially, therapists and facilitators on site for anyone who needs them.
The strategy here is two-fold, reaching art audiences with a message about mental wellbeing, and upending expectations of what art can do and how it operates in a community. Because, while measures may become political, the fundamental issue isn’t partisan, it’s universal, and the organizers simply feel that the more ways into this story that can be offered, and the more likely viewers are to recognize themselves in the narrative, the closer we come as a society to finding those solutions.
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WE RISE LA happens at 1262 Palmetto St. in downtown from Saturday, May 18 through Monday, May 27. It’s free and open to everyone 10am-10pm weekends (including Memorial Day), and 5pm-10pm weekdays.
For a free schedule of programs and events visit the SCHEDULE.