Around the Counties: An Inside Look at Riverside County Arts with Gayle Brandeis

Mt. Rubidoux by Thomas Bougher.jpg

Today, Gayle Brandeis provides her take on the arts and culture of Riverside County.

The columnist who was named Inlandia Literary Laureate in April, gives us an update on INnerLANDIA and shares details of teaching her first literary workshop since she was given the title.

Read on to find out what event recommendations the Riverside resident has for you this week.

What makes Riverside County so attractive?

Well, I think the fact that it's attractive at all is surprising to a lot of people. In the media, there's so many perceptions of Riverside being a place that's just full of smog, and meth, and foreclosures and we don't often see the really cool stuff that's happening out here. Riverside is such a diverse area. Geographically, we have mountains, we have deserts we have little Mt. Rubidoux that you can hike up, and botanic gardens and lots of cool art going on. There's a great sense of community that has developed here. I think maybe because we're not glitzy there is an authenticity here that is very attractive and creates a real sense of camaraderie amongst artists and writers.

Gayle Brandeis teaching a workshop. | Photo: Courtesy of Gayle Brandeis.

What are some of your favorite art venues in Riverside County?

In downtown Riverside, I really appreciate the ARTSblock that's been created by the University of California, Riverside. They took over historic buildings on Main Street and there's the California Museum of Photography, which is a great venue that has all sorts of interesting rotating exhibits. The new [Barbara and Art] Culver Center for the Arts is right next-door and it's a great venue for film, and dance and visual art. They have a small black box theater there, which has performances, and it's the small place in Riverside where you can see more arty films. They have a film series every Friday and there's also the Sweeney Art Gallery that's run by the University. So, it's a nice concentrated area in downtown Riverside. Riverside really prides itself on being a "City of Arts & Innovation," and I think that that has brought itself forth in the last few years, than ever before. When I first lived in Riverside, downtown was kind of dead, and now it's this thriving arts community.

'Matters of Decay' reception at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts | Photo: Courtesy of Culver Center of the Arts, University of California, Riverside.

You were recently honored with the title of Inlandia Literary Laureate. In your article "Laureate on Laureate Action: A Conversation Between California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and Inlandia Literary Laureate Gayle Brandeis" you mention that your focus right now is INnerLANDIA. What projects have you realized so far?

I actually just had my first INnerLANDIA workshop a couple of weekends ago at the Riverside Art Museum and it was a workshop for teens. INnerLANDIA is the focus of my first year of laureate and I really want to help people explore their connection between self and place because place, it's not just what's outside of us, we take it into us, it becomes part of who we are. The palm trees and the rocks that we see everyday become part of our internal landscape as well as our external landscape. I am really encouraging people to write about how place lives within them and how they interact with it. In this first workshop I was so moved by the stories that were shared by these young people. They were so willing to be honest and brave in their writing and talking about not only the places they live in but the places inside them that scare them or the places where they feel most at home. We did an exercise where I gave each of them half of an orange, and we spent a few minutes exploring it with all of our senses because oranges are so integral to the history of this region. I had them write from their senses but also about a memory that the orange evoked about place. I'm eager to do more of these workshops because there's so many rich stories here and it's exciting to uncover them.

Orange groves at California Citrus State Historic Park, in Riverside. | Photo: Daniel Orth/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Do you see any art trends in Riverside County?

  • I have noticed at least in the writing community that there has been more writing about place and I think that the Inlandia anthology [Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California's Inland Empire] that came out five years ago, really helped to create a literary identity for the area and has encouraged other people to write about this place as well because, as I mentioned, Riverside gets a bad rep. People have been hesitant to write about it and as a result our stories just weren't being told. Now there's more of a sense of ownership of this place and that's coming out through the art and the writing.
  • I've also noticed that, and I hate to call this a trend because I hope it will continue, but just a real desire for authentic expression in whatever genre that finds itself in. I'm finding the writers and the artists that I talk to really want to create a radical sincerity in their work. That's something I appreciate and I'm definitely feeling pulled too, in my own work.

Can you recommend any events for Artbound readers to attend this week?

If people want to wait until next week to do something there is Riverside Arts Walk on Thursday and that's when all the galleries and museums are open late and there's usually readings going on and different performances. There's going to be a belly dance showcase in the Life Arts Center building that has been happening every month. It's a good way to see what artists are doing in the area. It's just a fun night of art.

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Top Image: A view of Riverside County from Mt. Rubidoux. | Photo: Thomas Bougher/Flickr/Creative Commons License

About the Author

Melody Soto is a journalist living in the San Fernando Valley.
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