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)