Around the Counties: Observing the Ventura County Art Scene with Tracy Hudak

Ventura County by wanderingnome.jpg

This edition of Around the Counties features Ventura County resident, Tracy Hudak.

Hudak answers five questions and describes the activity taking place the first weekend of every month in her area. She also recommends an opening event that features work by an established, multi-disciplinary artist.

Tracy Hudak

What makes Ventura County so attractive?

Well, what makes it really special and what draws people here is the topography. I live in a house that's walking distance to the beach but the beach is wild, it's not city beach. It's at the mouth of the river and the the river valley stretches all the way up into Ojai. There's river and swimming holes and hills and the Ojai Valley and it's hotter than 80 degrees here.

It's wild but there's also some great industrial sites.

What are some of your favorite art venues in Ventura? Why do you particularly enjoy them?

One of my favorites is Stoneworks Studios. It's run by Michele Chapin and Guy Nichols. They have thematic group shows every month for First Friday. Michele is a sculptor working with big chunks of gorgeous, crazy, marble. They've got this real sweet scene there of the art shows and music and just this jar full of stuff to make things with ... and fire pits. She makes chai tea and fudge, so that's really fun.

What's great about Ventura is there's a real freedom for people making things happen. There's a place that has been open for decades: Art City (Studios). People used to live there but it's this property that's filled with rock and stone and these little individual studio spaces with people making stuff. It's a beautiful, crazy playground and they have events there.

Which art event did you last attend?

  • First Friday. I went to four or five galleries that night.

    What happens in Ventura for every first Friday (of the month) is all the different art spaces have openings or events. There are seven major spaces within walking distance from each other and a lot of the spaces are concentrated on the west end of Ventura. The WAV (Working Artists Ventura) was open and Bell Arts Factory which has 14 or 15 artists studios and 3 galleries.

    You kind of do the circuit. You go to this one. You go to that one. You go over to the Sylvia White Gallery for the performance and then you come back over to Stoneworks Studios for the chai tea and the fire pit.

    It was an awesome night because all kinds of people turned out.

  • I helped organize a panel on arts and economic development at The WAV. The WAV is a brand new construction. It's a live/ work space and subsidized housing for artists. They have gallery and performance space. I think there are 51 units there and a bunch of artists in different mediums that have come from all over the country to live there.

WAV Ventura. Photo by Kaizer Rangwala via Flickr/Creative Commons

Do you see any art trends in Ventura County?

There's so many different people working on different things.

A lot of established artists are working pretty privately. So that's why it's hard to record trends, ... something like the performance art (trend) in Santa Barbara, that's really visible.

A while back the city of Ventura was behind using the arts as an economic and social development tool. Now they're kind of retreating from that because the leadership has shifted ... and focus has shifted with the economic crisis. Artists were drawn here because of this promise and interest and understanding that came from the city and now that has kind of eroded.

There's a trend now for artists working in different disciplines, whether it's poetry, visual art or performing art, they're starting to talk to each other... "Hey, wait a minute we're wanted and necessary here. What's going on and how do we kind of join forces and how do we try to work together to advocate for what we need."

Downtown Oxnard did a similar thing. There was a lot of importance placed on the arts in the area and the cities have seemingly retreated from that and the artists are wanting to find ways to not lose ground.

Can you recommend an art event to the Artbound audience that's taking place this weekend?

John M. White is a a very well-known artist who came out of the 60's art scene. He's a performance artist, painter and poet but not in any boxed kind of way. He just lives and breathes it all.

He is presenting new works at Sylvia White Gallery called "Good Morning Giacomo." The show is based on one of his primary art teachers. The show this weekend will be a cool thing and there will be a performance the following weekend.

"Good Morning Giacomo" at Sylvia White Gallery (Opens June 30)

John M. White at work. Screen shot from Youtube video - John White: Man of Many Mediums

1783 East Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001 805-643-8300

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Top Image: "Ventura View." | wanderingnome via Flickr/Creative Commons

About the Author

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