Fall’s KaleidoLA Speaker Series Explores Personal Narratives Featuring All Artists of Color

This fall, the Department of Art and Art History is hosting the 8th season of the KaleidoLA Speaker Series, this time organized by Karen Rapp, Director of the Laband Art Gallery. A featured program of the LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts, KaleidoLA has been curated this season to be thematically centered on artists whose artwork and lived experiences foreground issues of racial, economic and social justice, and features all artists of color.

This collaborative effort typically welcomes local artists from the Los Angeles area to speak in Murphy Recital Hall to students and LMU community members. Though the speaker series has transitioned to an online format this fall, the new modality has held unexpected advantages, both in terms of speaker availability and audience participation. Easier accessibility has made it possible to invite a broader spectrum of guest artists geographically, with the eight guest speakers joining this semester hailing from the Bay Area to Philadelphia. And with attendees able to log in wherever they are, each KaleidoLA speaker has spoken to a “packed house” via Zoom.

“When inviting the artists, I tried to find artists who are making artwork about their own lived experience and making work that has positions, opinions, and perspectives about contemporary culture,” said Rapp. “They are artists of color who intersect with different communities. With this new concept of ‘essential work,’ we are also asking the question ‘what role do artists play?’ and ‘how do we evaluate their role?’ Our goal is to create a space to give a spotlight to these artists.”

Saeri Cho Dobson, Professor of Design and Chair of Studio Arts, has her Freshman Art 110 students attend each speaker talk, to give students the opportunity to meet with the artists and expose them to potential careers in art and design. Attending this series has opened a lot of doors for students to learn what other artists are working on and how the artists overcame different hurdles to get to where they are today.

“Most students in the department are interested in fine arts, graphic design, and multi-media so we tried to pick artists whose skill sets spoke to a broader range of students,” said Dobson, “The guest artists this year have skill sets from multi-media, illustration, ceramics, and painting, focusing more on the fine arts.”

The keynote guest speaker was June Edwards, a Los Angeles-based painter, teaching artist, and public artist. Edmonds creates richly textured abstract paintings to explore how color, repetition, movement, and balance can serve as conduits to connection with her African American roots and to spiritual contemplation. Edwards spoke about her critically-acclaimed series entitled, “Flag Paintings,” which considers the alignment of multiple identities such as race, nationality, gender, or political leanings.

Though KaleidoLA typically draws mostly students from the Art and Art History Department, this semester’s new online format made it possible for audiences of often 100-plus LMU community members to attend from a range of majors and interests. This diverse audience resulted in a variety of questions addressing everything from identity to the social systems in place that have affected Edward’s experience as an African American female artist. The other featured artists include Jessica Wimbley, George Rodriguez, John Bankston, Audrey Chan, Dr. Tiffany Barber, Huntrezz Janos, and Joel Garcia.

“Students planning on attending virtual KaleidoLA this semester should approach the series with an open mind. Every student, even those outside of CFA, are familiar with exploring personal narratives through art and can to look at the translation of popular music and film that address contemporary issues like racism and gender discrimination,” said Rapp, “I don’t think there is any kind of background knowledge that you need to have an intimate experience with an artist who uses visual art to explore their personal narrative.”

To see the full slate of artists, as well as videos of the talks so far, please visit the KaleidoLA website.