A Week of Creativity and Community at Otis College

Community, News | March 15, 2024
Staff talking in forum

March has welcomed visiting artists, a documentary, and even Katy Perry

It’s been a busy March at the College! This month kicked off with Los Angeles Art Fair Week, during which work by several Otis alumni and faculty was featured in the trio of art fairs or the many shows and happenings around the city. The College celebrated International Women’s Day with a dinner that engendered a sense of belonging among students, faculty, and staff. Theaster Gates wowed with his Einstein Visiting Artist Lecture about his wide-ranging practice. A beloved printing event returned to campus, a filmmaker screened her new documentary about renowned artist and former Otis faculty Betye Saar, and Katy Perry brought some of her Firework Foundation students to campus for a day of bonding, creativity, and fun. 

Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates Delivers Einstein Visiting Artist Lecture 

Gates, the 2024 Mandy and Cliff Einstein Visiting Artist, delivered his lecture, “Ghosts, Gimlets & All Things Black.” The artist shared stories from the last three years of his artistic practice and took questions from the packed room during a talk that touched on race, identity, history, loss, and making as a form of remembrance. The day after his public lecture Gates spent time with Fine Arts students, observing their work and further sharing his practice.

Otis Students holding sign

The Steam Roller Returns to Otis

“Super Natural: Super Sized Prints” was this year’s edition of a beloved large-scale wood block printing event that returned to Otis after a pandemic-driven hiatus. Hosted by the Labs and Shops staff, the event provided free wood blocks to members of the Otis Community, who used them to carve their own designs—large and small—which were then inked and printed using a steamroller. 

Betye Saar: Ready to be a Warrior!

Screening of Betye Saar: Ready to be a Warrior! 

Documentary filmmaker Angela Robinson Witherspoon screened her documentary Betye Saar: Ready to be a Warrior! for a roomful of artists, Otis students and staff, and friends of Betye. The film documents Saar’s journey as a creator, teacher, activist, mother, and Black woman and includes interviews with Saar’s three daughters and grandchildren—all artists in their own right. Witherspoon and her director of photography, Abdul Malik Abbott, were on hand to answer audience questions after the screening. 

Women during women's event

Second Annual International Women’s Day Dinner

This invitation-only event began last year, when up to 40 staff, faculty, students, and alumni were invited to connect with each other across identities and generations. Once again this year, 40 Otis Community members were invited to continue building community and a sense of belonging in celebration of International Women’s Day. 

Katy Perry at Otis College

Katy Perry’s Firework Foundation Visit

Katy Perry and her sister, Angela Lerche, brought their Firework Foundation to Otis for a reunion of past Camp Firework attendees. The foundation’s mission is to empower children from underserved communities to explore their inner light through the arts. They and the young creatives designed tote bags and bandanas with Otis staff and joined in several team-building activities. 

Kelly Akashi artwork

Otis Alumni and Faculty Show During L.A. Art Fair Week

Otis connections were seen throughout Los Angeles Art Fair Week, when Frieze L.A. took over the Santa Monica Airport, Felix was held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, and Spring Break happened in Culver City. Work by Kelly Akashi (’06 BFA Fine Arts) was a top Frieze pick by Laura Hyatt, Executive Director of Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND). Her sculpture, Life Forms (pictured), was shown at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Betye Saar, a former Otis faculty member (see above), showed several works with Roberts Projects, including Oasis, which debuted at MOCA Los Angeles in 1984. The gallery Sprüth Magers exhibited works by John Baldessari (’59 Fine Arts) and Robert Irwin (’50 BFA Fine Arts). Otis faculty member Cole James participated in a group exhibition, organized by JOAN art space and David Horvitz, that celebrated David Hammons (’72 Fine Arts). Srijon Chowdhury (’13 MFA Fine Arts) was on view with Ciaccia Levi at Felix Art Fair. Meanwhile, at Spring Break, the Floating Gallery—an ongoing, Otis alumni-led project—featured a bevy of Otis alumni including Ashton Allen (’16 MFA Fine Arts), Amanda Benefiel (’16 MFA Fine Arts), Matthew Carter (’10 MFA Fine Arts), Regina Herod (’13 MFA Fine Arts), Nefertiti Jenkins (’20 MFA Fine Arts), and Kristin Moore (’15 MFA Fine Arts).

Images, from top: International Women’s Day photograph by Matthew Parish (’25 Illustration); Theaster Gates photograph by Jacob Barri (’25 Fine Arts); Super Natural photograph by Danielle Vega; Betye Saar film still from Betye Saar: Ready to be a Warrior!; International Women’s Day photograph by Matthew Parish (’25 Illustration); Katy Perry image courtesy of Firework Foundation; Kelly Akashi image courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

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