East of east is another way of saying, “way the hell out there”. East of east is El Monte, Whittier, La Puente, Walnut, Diamond Bar, West Covina, Claremont, Pomona, Chino and beyond… San Bernardino, Riverside, the Inland Empire. But its also Pacoima, and Wilmington. In short, east of east is all the people, places and histories beyond the scope of Los Angeles’ main cultural centers. East of east, can be a barren terrain, or it can be a place of expansive possibilities.
The South El Monte Arts Posse proposes that east of east is ripe ground with untamed voices and visions. In our inaugural show, How’s the Water?, we turned our gaze inward, deep into our personal and communal cultural hinterlands. We made, installed and exhibited original photo work inspired by the inhabitants and geographies of El Monte/South El Monte.
Ironically, in our eastbound ventures, we found ourselves in a thriving arts community in downtown Pomona where SEMAP will be exhibiting How’s the Water? in the Downtown Metro Pomona Gallery on 2nd Street for the entire month of March. This arts community consists of a serious arts colony, strings of galleries and artist studios. We will be participating in Pomona’s art walks on March 10.
While our “a la brava” arts making curatorial approach made for a unique experience for both artists and audiences, we are now moving the show from our front lawn into the gallery. This gallery reincarnation of How’s the Water?, a show about looking closely, will be an opportunity to look even more closely at the carefully crafted work of Christopher Anthony Velasco’s “Juan Valdez: A Tourist” and Romeo Guzman’s “Bici Bici, Bici,”. (For those of you who attend the inagural show, don’t worry there will be plenty of new things: from video installations to interactive photo projects.)
Although Pomona lies deep in eastern territory, well beyond the east-west divide marked by the Los Angeles River, its thriving arts community is evidence of not only its cultural richness, but also of an overlooked history that largely credits the City of Los Angeles proper as the master of a cultured civilization, with its theaters, movie houses, museums and galleries. Today, most of Los Angeles and Southern Cali’s significant cultural institutions remain firmly planted on land west of the L.A. River.
Without getting too much into it, this concentration of cultural capital has left smaller Greater Los Angeles suburbs such as El Monte, bereft of cultural resources. In addition, not only is El Monte, east of Los Angeles, but it is also east of East Los Angeles. Despite East L.A.’s explosive cultural and political awakening in the Chicano Movement that has shaped much of contemporary Chicano culture, El Monte has largely remained just beyond its reach. While East Los Angeles has since sprouted a number of important artists as well as homegrown arts groups and spaces, El Monte and other eastbound communities have sprouted comparatively less. East of east Los Angeles is what has been referred to as “an arts desert.”
However, El Monte, and all its east of east brethren is a landscape lush with creative possibilities and fertile with its own cultural idiosyncrasies and histories. We, SEMAP, invite you to nourish the creative minds that inhabit the east of east and come out to How’s the Water? next month in Pomona.