Like Sant Khalsa, visual artist and Treasurer of Arts Connection, mentioned at the City of San Bernardino Arts Groups Connect meeting on Oct. 10, downtown Pomona in the early ‘90s was a mirror image of San Bernardino’s current status. Stricken by the unfortunate burden of an economic downfall, the city was condensed to being seen as seemingly absent of art, vibrancy or bravado – sound familiar?
However, all it took was one venue, The Haven, and passionate kindred spirits were summoned, the community was granted a melting pot for artistic political activism, and the spark that brought attention to the active underground community of Pomona was ignited, later birthing the Pomona Arts Colony.
As the idea of lush art bars and vibrantly colored galleries lining San Bernardino streets resonates in your mind, let us look at the true availability of this supposed pipe dream and examine the pieces of this renovation we currently have, and identify the ones we are missing. That is what the many representatives of the San Bernardino County arts community did at their recent Group Connect.
Ernie Garcia, with seasoned work as the President of the San Bernardino Valley Concert Association (which sponsored the evening) and the National Orange Show Art Gallery, sat amongst representative of the new era of art enthusiasts, Brandon Aguilera, Coordinator of art collective Zealous Lyfe and guiding force behind San Bernardino Generation Now, a political collective working to bridge the gap between age and voter participation.
The impressive pool of individuals, led by Arts Connection’s Andy Woods, specializing in differing sectors of the arts community examined ideas to rejuvenate San Bernardino such as monthly art tours highlighting historic San Bernardino cites, a city mural project, art in the park, the implementation of artist lofts for housing and work space, and the notion of a television broadcasting endeavor to chronicle the existing art community with the intention of attracting an even larger one.
My view from the back of the room, notepad in hand, listening to muralist Phil Yeh speak on his current mural of San Bernardino County at the historic McDonald’s inception site, following my conversation with Maria Saenz, President of Sinfonia Mexicana, which has a music academy giving youth the opportunity to learn and play instruments as well as adding the extra value of creativity to their development of self-awareness, dually inspired me to believe that the conversation starts here and now.
The demand is present—knowledgeable individuals with the resources to instill real change are waiting for the arts community to make its presence known. Splash paint on canvas in a way that demands attention, write prose to rival Hunter S. Thompson on his best day—San Bernardino is not an eye sore, nor is it a burden—it is a community, an opportunity, and an investment towards an enlightened future for this community and neighboring communities alike.