About five years ago, some artist friends of Peter Woods were telling him how hard it was for them to get into the galleries here in L.A.
“Either they had no exhibition experience or not enough name recognition,” says Woods. “Since most of the galleries were rather pretentious, we decided to host our own quote-unquote ‘lowbrow’ art exhibits and to install them in the inner city.”
The first few events were at private residences — including Woods’ parents’ home in Inglewood. As the crowds grew, Woods and his partner Jae Vi Moss started hosting exhibits at lofts and rented galleries. Their project became known as the Quality Collective.
“As we progressed,” says Woods, “we noticed the same need for musicians and vocalists, so we decided to fuse the two disciplines and host art-and-music exhibits.”
This all culminated in Quality Collective’s large-format “Redefined” exhibit, which hosts more than 20 visual artists and 15 bands. And every Tuesday, Q.C. hosts the free live-music event Transmissions at Crane’s in Hollywood, with the promise of no cover charge, no velvet rope and no guest list.
“Our hope is to combat the community’s decreasing awareness and appreciation of the arts by making these events accessible — in other words, free,” Woods says. “We’re trying to ensure a new generation of creative, inspired individuals capable of lifting themselves and others through positive, creative avenues.”
The events are funded through donations, and because they’re hosted by a collective, the artists pitch in too.
“Usually an artist would have to give 20 percent or more in commission for the services we provide,” Woods explains. “All we require are a couple of weekends per year to teach or assist in our art programs and music-appreciation classes. In the near future, we’ll be presenting a series of free guerrilla public performances, a large art-and-music show in Inglewood, art and music training, art-appreciation workshops, and other events designed to stimulate creativity in our neighborhood.”
Recently, the L.A.Weekly asked Woods to explain how Q.C.’s agenda ties in with his own political beliefs and love for Los Angeles.
L.A. WEEKLY:There is a very strong political base to Q.C. …
PETER WOODS: I wouldn’t use the term “political,” but we definitely have a focus on societal needs. We noticed a void in the arts, and instead of lobbying or petitioning, we got active. A prime example would be Project Luz, spearheaded by Jasmine Lopez. It’s a free art-training workshop in Ejido Hermosillo, Mexico, which will also be our model program for L.A.’s inner city as well. We assessed the costs of transportation, housing, food, gas, materials, etc., looked at the numbers and said, “Hey, we can raise that amount ourselves by hosting a couple of events.” There were a lot of folks telling me to use other people’s money to fund these types of projects, but I think it’s important to establish a track record as a group that puts our money where our mouth is.
It seems that the black arts community in L.A. is being revitalized. A lot of people are doing interesting, vibrant work. How does the view look from where you sit — is that perception accurate or not? And why this resurgence now?
Since Birth of a Nation, African-Americans have been dealt an identity by those who control the media, whether we identified with that identity or not. The idea of black inferiority has been ingrained into our own self-image to such a degree that it’s caused a sort of psychosomatic self-hate syndrome, producing African-Americans that would rather subscribe to the racist views of the oppressor than redefine our own identity in our society and embrace the rich and full history that is ours. While some will argue quote-unquote ‘artistic freedom’ for artists that pander to these negative images, I say that media representation is very powerful in shaping public perception of us and indeed our own perception of ourselves. And that could be used to turn the tides.
We don’t have the luxury of pursuing artistic freedom when the so-called art is used against us as negative advertising. A good example is the Truth campaign against smoking. For decades, multimillion-dollar organizations were unable to put a dent in rising new-smoker stats. The Truth — using controversial TV commercials, avant-garde public performance art and viral marketing techniques — was able to reduce new smokers between [ages] 16 and 21 by more than 14 percent within two years. The Cancer Society, American Lung Association and others have been around for years and years, and have never been able to do that. And when you really look at that, smoking is more than a tangible product; it’s a lifestyle. The only way you can change a lifestyle is through changing your perspective. I believe we can use this approach to change the perspective of African-Americans, to empower ourselves through this creativity.
Right now, I think African-Americans are getting a clear view of how bad a condition we’re in. With that knowledge coming into view, you have an upsurge of individuals who want to try and address these issues. Once all of these individuals are synchronized into a unified, collective struggle, I believe the amount and impact of this work will increase tenfold.
On your MySpace page, you say you don’t want to meet anyone who uses the word “nigga,” even if it’s referring to themselves or their friends. Explain that, please.
While that comment was directed at MCs, it’s pretty simple. We are not niggas. Period. No amount of justification will allow me to accept that. We have to stop referring to ourselves and allowing others to refer to us as niggers/niggas because that word does not define me. It’s a slap in the face of all that have walked before me. It’s like the world’s most negative mantra repeated over and over again. Honestly, I think [stopping use of the word] is the first step to African-Americans responsibly reclaiming their direction.
What’s the best part of being in the collective, for you?
Establishing art and music programs for at-risk children. And did I mention that I love music? Every week, I get front-row seats to some of the most incredible artists.
The part you’re not so crazy about?
Having to work a 40-hour-a-week schedule to subsidize what I am passionate about.
What do you not like about L.A.?
People that aren’t from L.A. talking shit about L.A.
What do you like or love about it?
Love the food. Love the weather. And I think I like the direction it’s going with the arts as of late. It’s like, L.A. all of a sudden got over itself and is engaged in some very interesting, collaborative work.