IN PREPARATION FOR THIS YEAR’S OPEN ENGAGEMENT CONFERENCE WE ARE DOING “NOW/LATER” INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR FAVORITE LA ARTISTS PARTICIPATING IN THIS YEAR’S CONFERENCE. WE’RE ASKING SOME Q’S NOW. AND CHECKING BACK IN WITH ARTISTS AFTER WE ALL GET BACK TO LA.

SIDE STREET PROJECTS: What’s your art practice like right now? (and/or describe any on active projects. OR if your presenting/doing a project at OE please describe that!)

NOE GAYTAN: My current practice is pretty diverse. I’m working on two major projects right now.

I’m working on a public art project in Pomona. I’ve been working with a group of people there and leading a public art workshop. The premise of that was that I would give a presentation on public art through the years and then help participants develop projects. In the end, we decided to work collaboratively on a single project. July, we will be wrapping a fence around a notorious empty lot in Downtown Pomona and asking people what they would like to see there. Participants will write directly on the paper wrapping the fence, and we hope to have a conversation via social media with the hashtag #FillTheVoid.

Also, I have recently decided that in order to pay off my tuition at Otis, I will be printing money. This started with a simple question: what would it look and feel like if I were to literally come face to face with all my debt? So I am making $50,000 worth of prints which are depictions of currency in many forms. The project is an experiment in using art to come to terms with my own debt, but also open up a conversation about the impact that rising cost of higher education has on the economy and how it affects the lives of young people. Through this over-arching project I will develop multiple works that range from prints, videos, and installations to more “socially engaged” projects like conducting teach-ins where groups of students discuss options for paying off their debt.

SSP: Which projects/speakers/conversations are you looking forward to at this year’s Open Engagement?

NG: I’m excited for the Writing for Socially Engaged Art workshops. I think it is important that practitioners engage in the discussion via more than their art. We should not let the conversation be controlled by critics, historians, or theorists who do nothing but write and never practice what they theorize. On the one hand, it’s important for artists to have a voice, and on the other, writing can be a useful tool for artists to develop their thoughts and art practice.

Also, I’m looking forward to the student summit. As students, we need to be informed about what our peers are up to. Exchange will lead to more developed programs, which I believe can only help the genre of social practice.

SSP: As socially engaged artists in LA, what specific conversations to you think our communities need to be having? (ie specific issues of best practices/social justice issues, etc)

NG: I think the most important conversation for LA artists is race and economic equality, which are two closely tied issues. I guess were lucky in LA that we haven’t had as much widespread displacement of people of color as in San Francisco and or Brooklyn, but with more and more artists moving into places like Los Feliz or Highland Park, gentrification continues to be a hot topic. We need to think critically about how social practice fits into the equation. What is at stake when we choose to make our art? How can we make sure we consider the potential problematics of our practices, even when our projects don’t necessarily address those issues directly?

Websites: noegaytan.com, Nomad Art Project