Interview with Erin Stone: 11:11 A Creative Collective

Erin Stone, Co-Founder of 11:11 A Creative Collective | Photo from 11:11 A Creative Collective Facebook
Young Voices is a series of interviews conducted by Occidental College students, assisted by the Keck Grant, for Professor Jan Lin's Urban Sociology course. Each interview highlights an individual who has made an impact in their communities.

Erin Stone is the founder of 11:11: A Creative Collective, a San Fernando Valley-based arts collective that aims to develop the area "as a thriving and accessible destination for those seeking an innovative and unique artistic experience."

What is 11:11 A Creative Collective?

11:11 A Creative Collective was started primarily by a network of friends, coworkers, peers in school all that jazz -- just a bunch of creative people. We realized that all these creative people, in order to expose their art work or their performance or sculpture or whatever it may be, had to go out of the San Fernando Valley -- outside of their home -- to show their work. The San Fernando Valley has at least 2 million people in it, [but] there is no creative outlet or cohesive organization to bring the arts together and show them here at home.

As of right now, within the last three years we've grown to about 40 to 50 artist that regularly show with us and we have art shows and art walks throughout the year, in order to expose local talent.

Would you say that it was then an idea born out of necessity?

Yes, necessity -- absolutely that's the main thing. But also personal passion, being creative ourselves. There is nothing like this happening in the valley, so we realized we had to create it.

What was your initial position and how has that position evolved over time as the collective has grown?

My position was or is, a co-founder of the organization. It started with four women who in our early-mid twenties decided to start this organization. At first we didn't really have clear roles within the organization; we were all kind of throwing in our "two cents" and figuring out how we could make it work. Over the last three years we've had quite a bit of changes happen within the organization, and my role has morphed into the Artistic Director. What I primarily do is contact and recruit the artist. I am the coordinator of all the artist and most of the artwork that goes up, and networking, public relations, marketing -- that's kind of my area.

Besides your website, what other social media sites do you use in order to publicize the collective?

Facebook, Twitter, and we just started a Pinterest account. We've started to work with different business and organizations that are doing a lot on -- sites where you can post activities and have everybody come together collectively and participate. We have a blog as well; we do a lot of work through our blog.

Do you think that social media is essential in helping the collective be more active?

Facebook is the most essential thing that we use; it seems to be the glue between all these different avenues. While a business, an organization, or a non-profit usually likes [their] website to be the glue, facebook seems to be where most of the artist are hearing about us. You know, we can post an event on our website and not hear back from anybody, but the second we put it on facebook we have 25 artist interested in participating. So facebook is really the main network at this point.

You helped start the collective when you were in your mid-twenties. Did you see any obstacles because of your age?

Yes and no, I think that it has really been a double-edged sword for us. Some people, because we are young -- although we are educated -- they may not think that we are serious, or that we have the motivation or the drive to actually get this going and really be a "Valley Revolution." But once they hear about our educational background that starts to change a little bit.

There are a couple organizations within the San Fernando Valley that have been established for 40 or 50 years. The San Fernando Valley Arts Council is one of them, and they are literally a bunch of 60, 70, 80 years-old women trying to rejuvenate the arts scene in the San Fernando Valley. Now, given that you really have to tap into the younger generations, these women are not able to do that. So we started attending their meetings, and as we have gotten bigger and gotten more publicity, these older organizations are looking at us as a fresh new face -- this group of young women and now a couple of men that are really going to be able to take this by storm and have a fresh new look on it.

So do you think your age has been more of a positive tool in order to get younger people involved in the collective?

Yes, we have within our group shows, a huge group of younger artists, even high school students, that are interested in showing their work. They kind of see us as young and hip and kind of know what's up. But then we also have a lot of the seasoned artists that have been showing their work for years and years who see 11:11 as what the valley needs to kind of bump us up a little bit [artistically].

Canoga Park Artwalk | Photo from 11:11 A Creative Collective Facebook

You said that you are in charge of artist management. How are artists chosen to show their work with the collective?

We have two different types of events. One type of event that we throw, like the Canoga Park ArtWalk, are community-based events. That means we don't want to turn anyone away, we want everybody to be excited to get involved, we want the community to come out, people of all ages, the whole family. We don't really judge the work; we do ask that it is of quality, maybe not high quality, but that it's quality work that we are proud to put on our walls. It's your community, grab it by the balls, take it with you and use it as your own.

The other type of event is the "curated shows," where we hand-pick the artists, we ask for submissions. We review the work, and some people we turn down, some people we...say "we like [these] pieces but please omit these three pieces from showing. This is where we do ask for a higher quality of work.

You have been involved with the collective for three years. Have you seen a shift in the art scene in the San Fernando Valley since then?

Yes! I've seen a shift in the art scene in general, which inevitably trickles down to the Valley. When we started, there were very few regular people and artists looking to become event promoters and coordinators and throw their own shows. When we had our first show, it was very hard to get into an art show. Artists didn't really know what to do, they didn't know how to find the shows. Within the last three years I've seen Los Angeles see somewhat of a revolution: these art shows, like the Downtown L.A. ArtWalk, which has gotten huge, are popping up everywhere. You know everybody that has an extra couple hundred dollars in their pocket is able to throw an art show, and you see that happening more and more; more collectives are joining together and coordinators are joining up. Not only that but you see more and more businesses that are really interested in rejuvenating their business and their clientele flow through the arts. More and more restaurants are opening up their walls to artists for monthly installments.

You talked about the Downtown L.A. ArtWalk and how it has gotten so huge. Have you ever shown there and what was your experience with that?

Yes, I have shown there. My experience was, and excuse my language, a clusterfuck. Luckily when I showed there I was in a pretty established gallery -- The Hive Gallery on Spring and 7th -- and they have a huge clientele, a huge flow of people who go in there, it's a very well known gallery. It's fantastic that so many artists are able to put their work on display, and that there are so many people seeing their work, but it seems to me that theses events at some point shift from people who are interested in purchasing art and people that are interested in showing art, to people who are interested in being part of the scene.

That was the biggest thing that stood out to me -- it seemed that the focus was not really on the art, it was more on the "this is the cool thing to do, let all go out." There is an argument that can be made that nothing can really gain momentum unless it's a scene, but I felt that the true focus of what it was meant to be -- community, downtown Los Angeles, and exposing Los Angeles artists -- that all has become lost in the new attitude which is come down, let's get drunk, and walk the streets and get crazy.

The collective recently put on the Canoga Park ArtWalk. How did you make sure that this ArtWalk was different than the one in downtown Los Angeles?

It was so much smaller. The Canoga Park ArtWalk is put together every summer by a few different entities that work together to make the event happen. As far as 11:11 goes, we decided that there is a certain atmosphere that we want our galleries to hold. We don't want the music inside the galleries to be crazy loud so as to prevent you from talking to the person next to you. We encourage the artists to be at the gallery while their work is on the wall, we encourage the patrons in attendance to speak to the artists. The whole purpose is to get these artists known, to have people meet each other and network.

So many of the other shows that I go to, including the downtown LA ArtWalk, there is no emphasis on that. Sometimes you can't even tell who the artist is; they might be walking around the gallery, but you have no idea who they are. So at our ArtWalk we give all the artist name tags. We want the artist to be talking to each other and working together and collaborating.

We truly make sure that there is an easy flow in the gallery so that everyone is aware that the main focus is the art. Many times you'll see a DJ on the back of the gallery or the warehouse where the art show is taking place, and it's so loud, and the lights go down when the band starts to play -- and the focus is taken off of the art. We really try to cover all these bases so that the focus is established on the art.

What are your plans for the future both personally and for the collective?

With the organization, we are hoping that by 2013 we will get 501C-3 non-profit status. We hope to, in the long term, be a self-sustaining artist collective in the San Fernando Valley that's able to potentially rent out studio spaces or galleries for artists, all in the non-profit sector.

We hope that it becomes so big and so wonderful, that the community gets really excited and be involved in what's going on so that the four of us can step away and it still is a living breathing entity. We want to have everything from theater workshops to writing to poetry to 2D and 3D art, even fashion, music -- basically everything creative.

Personally, like I said I am an artist and that is basically what I have devoted my life to. I am also a professional photographer so I hope that I never have to have a real job ever again. I hope that I can make my money selling my art and taking the type of photos that I want to take. That's ultimately my long-term goal.


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