Long Beach shows their Big heARTs

Lauren Torres, Staff Writer

Skateboards, paintings, photographs, and even bark art (sculptures made of tree bark and nails) were all collectively present at ‘The Big heART’ show at the Long Beach Skate shop on Friday, Feb. 13.

The Big heART benefit, sponsored by the Rose Park Neighborhood Association, brought local artists, the public, skaters, and creative types together to collectively support the goal of providing art supplies to homeless and at-risk youth via art auctions and donations. The art ranged in price from $10 to $6,000.

The theme of the night, the heart, was present in some of the art, including pieces made with two skateboard ends, making the shape of a heart and finished off with a bright painting on top.

Though art is not the obvious first choice of what homeless youth need, Gretchen Swanson, president of the Rose Park Neighborhood Association, explained the importance of exposing those in need to a creative luxury as well as their necessities.

Swanson said, “One of the strategies is to present it to the older teen as a trade, so they have a life skill that creates meaning for them, and also a pathway into society that they haven’t had.”

One attendee, Veronica Yakovenko, a graduate student from UCLA, attended the event not only for the good cause but to also study the strategy used in implementing art as a trade for the homeless.

“It looks great,” she said, “I’m glad so many people were able to come out, it’s very communal, very nice.”

The attendees were able to mingle among the art and place bids on both traditional pieces (paintings) and non-traditional pieces (bowls made from skateboard wheels). The crowd was also treated to a live band, wine and cheese, and the chance to speak with some of the artists. Most artists were locals of Long Beach.

Rhett Johnson, a mixed media artist whose paintings were up for bid, said, “Well I live in this neighborhood, it’s important to me, it’s my home. I love skateboarding, I love my community. I’m happy to be here because it’s a good thing.”

Long Beach is known for their community-driven event as well as their vast artistic community, and this event proved to be a perfect fit for both those things.

“We’re a neighborhood,” Swanson explained. “We thought of homeless youth because these are people that don’t have a neighborhood, don’t have a home, and these are conditions that we have, so we wanted to flip the idea of what we have and give it to people who don’t have that.”