Welcome to Junior High, L.A’s coolest new art space for “everyone who ever felt the art world was too expensive, too male saturated, too white, and too inaccessible”. A community hub that combines exhibitions and workshops with a cute little store where you can buy pink stuff with Drake’s face on it, Junior High is pretty much the space of our dreams. We caught up with the gal who made it all happen, Faye Orlove, to find out more.
The concept of Junior High, giving back to the community and giving people in the arts the resources and space to learn and thrive is amazing; why did you decide to undertake a community-serving project?
—I think a project that doesn’t serve the community inherently just serves one person. That doesn’t interest me too much. There’s a lot I like doing alone but I don’t value my success if other people aren’t succeeding too. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, you know? This is a project I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time. Having my own space to offer the city. To showcase the artistic pursuits of folks marginalised by a fairly white, fairly affluent, fairly male art scene. Last December I decided to quit my full time animation job and pursue this experiment in the form of a DIY art space.
Why was it most important to you to have a physical space to bring people together in?
—I think women already own the internet. The digital communities we have formed through Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit and whatever are astounding. I have met some of my best friends through the internet and have gotten some amazing jobs and opportunities through social media. There are even entire art/feminist collectives that exist entirely online, like Art Ho Collective, Girl on Girl Collective and so on. I think where women still don’t feel represented is in physical spaces. Not to say there isn’t abundant hate and harassment via the internet, but there are entire music festivals, group gallery shows, feature-length movies that don’t feature any women. I want to facilitate, even if it is on just one tiny block, in one city, in the entire universe, a place for women to feel safe and valued.
You moved over from Boston to LA; how was that? And do you feel that the geographical change affected or inspired your work?
—Moving from Boston to LA was really hard at first. I was used to urban life where you sit on your stoop drinking PBR and fourteen of your friends walk by so you add their requests to your YouTube playlist and offer them cold popsicles and you spend your day without plans knowing an adventure will just unfold. In LA that doesn’t really happen. People don’t really hang out outside or on stoops or in cool spots. I found it hard to make friends, to connect with people. It took a solid year to start figuring LA out and making the city work for me. I moved to Hollywood, ditched my car, and focused more of my energy on facilitating and pursuing community-oriented spaces.
You crowdfunded the space via a successful Kickstarter campaign. Were you surprised by the response you had?
—I’m incredibly surprised when anything I do gets public interest. If anyone besides my mom buys a sticker sheet I make or hires me for a project and donates money to a cause I’m campaigning for I’m absolutely floored. I think a lot of America and capitalism teaches you that if one person succeeds someone else has to fail. So when you see folks helping each other and being supporting it’s honestly radical. I think just buying an artist’s merch or donating to a Kickstarter or lending a helping hand is a radical act. Anything that rejects the notion that someone else’s success is a hindrance to your own. So yes. Incredibly surprised and grateful.
Do you have a line-up of artists you’ll be working with in coming months? Can you tell us a little more about them?
—We just debuted the first show, Smash that Like, with Caroline Goldfarb. And in the coming months I’m working with Natalie Yang, Color Study Collective, and Mukta Mohan to curate new shows for the summer. Natalie’s show will deal with the use of photography in being your own muse. The Color Study show will be for the release of their second zine, Amerikana, which focuses on the colonisation of America and how black communities have persevered. And Mukta is helping book lectures and talks about the history of Los Angeles and the subcultures that make the city thrive.
Part of your mission statement was to have a place that featured “more work by women, more work by people of colour, more work by people told their art doesn’t matter” and part of the issue was that most people’s work is only seen through a screen and not in a physical place – now you’re solving that in LA but what are your future plans? Will you take Junior High on the road, or pop up in other locations around the world?
—My plans for Junior High are very Los Angeles based right now. A lot of our upcoming lecture series are LA and I’m working on curating a group show myself that’s LA-themed. I really want to meet every artist in this city and exhaust every creative outlet possible. Los Angeles is an absolute mecca of creativity and ambition and I’ve never had a single uninspired day here. I love California so much. I love the hills and the mountains and the sunshine and the old movie theatres and the way every street name reminds me of a song. Junior High is always going to be an LA destination, but I’m totally down to help other folks start similar ventures in their cities!
(Images by Emily Alben)