The amount of eye-popping, mouth watering art, music, and limitless creativity constantly pouring forth from the city of Los Angeles can sometimes be overwhelming; and that’s not even counting undiscovered artists! Founded in 2001, Create:Fixate is an organization dedicated to elevating the importance and accessibility of art and music through education and to providing opportunities for emerging artists to create, perform, and sell their work through mixed medium exhibitions. At the head of that brilliant chain of art is Michelle Berc, the tireless Renaissance woman who graciously takes a moment out of her overflowing schedule to have a word with me.
In your own words explain what the Create:Fixate organization does and your title.
Create:Fixate serves many roles in the art community. Not only is it a forum for emerging artists to exhibit their work, we also educate artists while going through the process of participating in each event, in essence, there is a curriculum that has been created where the artists learn while doing. Because our exhibits are more festive and relaxed than a traditional gallery or museum, the environment that we create is more welcoming for all walks of life to explore art and as a result we are cultivating a new generation of art collectors and patrons that directly support emerging artists at an early stage in their career, which in my eyes is the most important time of their lives. We also do community outreach by bringing art projects to partnering community groups that work with at-risk youth. Our program is a satellite program that specializes in giving the exhibition experience to creative youth.
Who are the other key figures of Create:Fixate?
I am the Founder, Curator, Event Producer, and/or Executive Director. (I can keep going with all the roles that I play but I’ll stop there). Andrea Graham is our music coordinator and somewhat of a co-founder since she’s been a part of it all since day 1. We also have a board of directors that advise and contribute on multiple levels. Lastly, amazing volunteers, interns, and key freelance staff members that work at each event. Even though I’m the main person behind it all, none of it could not happen without the help of all these people (please visit our website to find out who all these wonderful souls are as there are too many to list here).
Where did this idea first come from?
I’m actually an artist myself and it was almost 10 years ago that I decided to throw our first “Art Party” in my downtown loft that I used to live in. I am very much into music as well and thought it would be great to combine the two to create a more festive environment. So I gathered all my artist friends as well as DJs and musicians and along with our neighbors, we opened our up our lofts. I really had no idea what to expect but 300 people turned up at the first C:F. Once the dust settled, the feedback was quite positive as everyone was asking “When’s the next one?” so every few months, I started throwing the “Art Parties” and through this process I naturally started mentoring other artists on how to properly exhibit and market their work. It was then that I realized there was a need for this type of forum in the community and decided to pursue creating an official arts organization.
How were you initially able to get it off of the ground?
The energy and support was there from day one but I did make a lot of sacrifices to make it happen. Like I said before, C:F started out of my loft, in essence, my living room. There were some shows were I was actually putting up my rent money as the capital to make it happen and then slowly building up production supplies each show. Also, all the participating artists were asked to volunteer and contribute to the production. It naturally grew all on its own.
How is it presently funded?
The shows fund themselves through admission, art sales, and small sponsorships. Our nonprofit programs exist through volunteers, in kind gifts, small sponsorships and volunteers. We just received our own nonprofit status in late 2010 and have now separated from our fiscal sponsor, which actually held us back because many of the foundations that would support a program like ours did not work with fiscal sponsors, so this held us back for many years. So now it’s like we are starting all over. We are now working on grant proposals and doing major fundraising through private donations. It’s a crucial time for our organization and funding is our biggest focus as there is so much we want to do but have felt handicapped in the past due to the lack of funds.
What is the process of an artist to become a contributor to Create:Fixate? Is there specific criteria you look for? Reoccurring themes? How many new artists do you add to your catalogue annually?
There is a definite process. To start off, each artist must submit a minimum of 10 images. I need to see this many because in my eyes, it’s the only way to understand an artist’s body of work, their skill, and artistic vision. As a curator, I probably look at 300+ submission each year. I am looking for artists that are doing something different than anyone else. Artists that are pushing the envelope by utilizing different materials, creating a new visual style that has not been done before or exhibiting ideas or concepts that get the viewer thinking or art that provokes an emotional response of some sort. Artistic skill is another thing that I look at and then how the artist has organized their work by creating series. Lastly, is the final finishing and presentation of the art. Sometimes there is an artist that might be strong in one category and I’ll work with them to help develop the rest because I can see that they really have something special in their work. Each year I add about 75 new artists and have worked with over 800 artists over the past 10 years.
You presently promote all sorts of musicians, visual artists, fashion designers, and installations. Would you ever consider expanding to include future art medians?
We’ve had performance art at C:F here and there. I am very open to new forms of creativity as long as it fits the direction of the show.
Why the recent addition of Kids Kreativity Zone and 8 Sundays High School Program? How do you go about awakening the artist within kids and adolescence?
From the beginning both Andrea and I knew we wanted to work with kids at some point. It makes me very sad that there is a lack of art programs in the schools these days and I think it’s our responsibility to help fill this void. Creativity is a huge part of development as it’s a form of personal expression. One of our main projects is taking the theme of each show and sharing it with the kids and allowing them to express it in their own way through art. We then specialize in the exhibition experience, which is something quite special for the kids. Our programs teach kids about self confidence, project and time management, and the reward when a goal is met. There is something special about having something you created hanging on the wall and then watching people take it in.
Where is this organization primarily based? Where is it expanding to in the near future?
I actually work out of my home but our art shows usually happen in Downtown LA. I would love to obtain a gallery space to serve as our official office, year round galley, and a place to host seminars and workshops. For the moment, we’ve streamlined our programs until we get real funding. I hope one day to expand to other cities in the US and perhaps go international.
When is the next Create:Fixate event? Can I get a preview of your calendar?
Our next show is on Saturday, July 16th. The following show will be in the Fall, probably in October and after that we have plans to celebrate our 10 year anniversary in late January of 2012 along with bringing back our All Photography show in April of 2012.
Do you have a current favorite artist among the Create:Fixate exhibitions?
Of course there is my top 25 that fall in to my personal taste of art and that is top secret information…but really in the end they are all my favorites.