The Art of Frogtown continues to connect artists and community 

Frogtown Artwalk Sep. 22, 2018. Photo by Javier de Leon.

The Elysian Valley Arts Collective (EVAC) is hosting its first virtual Frogtown Artwalk, “The Art of Frogtown,” Oct.16–18. The event will include free crafting workshops, artist talks, panel discussions, online art exhibits and music performances. Since 2006, Frogtown has been a representation of vibrancy, ingenuity and creativity in the amphibian populated, historically working-class neighborhood of Elysian Valley in NELA.

With this new programming, Tracy S. Stone, one of the co-founders of the EVAC and the Frogtown Artwalk, said she is excited to broaden the audience of the collective and reach those who are not usually able to attend the physical version of the Artwalk.

“We have the opportunity to continue to support the arts, at a time when they have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, along with so many other aspects of society, but this is our opportunity to help this particular sector maintain a connection to an audience, which is especially important in this point of time,” Stone said.

Stone said she is nervous that people would not attend the events because of Zoom fatigue, but said she believes the virtual event will maintain the wonder and surprise of the Artwalk from previous years.

“By being that inclusive and by creating the opportunities for people to participate, we end up generating a festival that has a great amount of delight to it,” Stone said. 

According to the producer and one of the social media managers for the event, Michelene Cherie, people will be able to watch individual events from Facebook Live or EVAC’s website. She said they started planning the event 59 days in advance — a short amount of time for something the collective has never done before.

“Social media is our friend and our lifeline, and within the next 11 days, people are going to be bombarded with our missives as far as different events, special guests and artists spotlights,” Cherie said.

Frogtown Artwalk Sep. 22, 2018. Photo by Javier de Leon.

With EVAC based right alongside the LA River, the event is river-centric. According to Cherie, the LA River serves as the muse and background of the show and will be present in the event’s virtual environment.

Cherie is particularly interested in a presentation by Tilly Hinton, the founder and curator of an Instagram page called Los Angeles River X. The presentation will be moderated by Pat Morrison, an LA Times and NPR journalist.

Cherie said there will be many events in tribute to poet and activist Lewis MacAdams, who was also the founder of the non-profit Friends of the Los Angeles River and a huge supporter of the Artwalk. MacAdams passed away April 2020. One of the events will include MacAdams’ family, friends and colleagues reciting the late poet’s works.

“We want to cover all of the arts, not just painting, drawing and sketching. We’re really focusing here on a lot of writing, poetry and dance,” Cherie said. “Being online, we can offer a little bit different programming that we might not do usually.” 

Alongside the online events, EVAC is sponsoring a juried art show with jurors including artists Mark Steven Greenfield, professor Ramone Muñoz and Anne-Elizabeth Sobieski. The theme this year is “Resilience & Renewal.” 

Oliver Nowlin is an art educator and artist who specializes in neon and mixed media in Frogtown. He said he is excited for the event to help his art reach a larger audience, but also said he misses some of the aspects of an in-person Artwalk.

“I think the best part is when kids come up and they see the art and ask you about it or tell you what they see. When they see what you see as an adult, that just makes me happier than anything else,” Nowlin said. 

As a second-time juror, Greenfield said he never goes into any kind of jury competition with any expectations because when he approaches judging that way, he is usually happily surprised with what he finds. After judging many competitions, he said his favorite part is the award ceremony. 

“How can people not be happy when they’re getting awards, you know? You’re happy that they’re happy, and so it works out well,” Greenfield said. 

Sobieski is an art educator and artist who has submitted her work to various art shows. She said she is looking for sincerity and expression in the art submissions.

“My advice would be not to think about what I think. Be as true to yourself as possible and use this as a point of entry to go down a road where you might discover something about yourself or this community,” Sobieski said. “In this time we’re in right now, use the show as an opportunity to push yourself to  find out more about who you are and what you believe.”

Sobieski said she is looking forward to the virtual Zoom workshops because they give her the ability to access classes from home that she may not have the confidence to attend in-person. 

“I’m a sensitive artist, and I don’t always like to go where there are tons of people and I really appreciate access to two things through Zoom and virtually,” Sobieski said. 

During this stressful period of time, Sobieski said she appreciates how the event will be an opportunity for people to reach out to each other and connect through arts and culture. 

“We need community connection. We need it for our sanity and our health. Personal connection is so important, and this is something that’s going to bring a lot of people together,” Sobieski said.