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August 25th, 2020

A Conversation with SoLA Contemporary Gallery Founder - Peggy Sivert


Interview by Original Paperbacks

Growing up who and what inspired you to express yourself through the medium of art?

My parents met on the stage of a college theatre set, sharing a mutual passion for performing arts. They carried that passion into the raising of me and my sisters, weaving poetry, theatre and visual art throughout the fabric of our childhood.

How has todays' social-political climate influenced the contemporary art scene?

Artists reacted dramatically to Covid, BLM protests and economic downturn. They had time to think, feel and react. Some with anger making activist art and some by starting a whole new practice. The contemporary art community of artists and organizations had to get more creative in presentation of art. Virtual presentation, social media and video have become the norm and outdoor murals, social practice and outdoor events continue to pop up. And the long overdue realization that it is time to act, to change our relationships and structure to be more inclusive and representative of the diversity of our city.

On your website you say that your ' goal is to advocate for change by empowering people from diverse backgrounds to take risks in their endeavors' . Can you elaborate on this?

Of course, this statement is in regard to contemporary art and the statement continues… and to explore the intersection of art, culture, society and politics. We are actively bringing in diverse staff, board and curators into positions of leadership (empowering) whose creative passions are shaping SoLA to be an organization where everyone has a voice and feels the power of contemporary art to make change.


Do you believe through art we can impact change? Can you give one example of this that was very powerful?

Not by one artist or one show. But I do think it is possible to make change by the collective effort of artists and institutions together. A powerful example is the Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of female artists devoted to fighting racism and sexism within the art world. Their mission is to bring gender and racial inequality into focus within the greater arts community. I have seen dramatic change happen in numbers of women and people of color being included in art exhibitions across the country. 

We've seen some poignant street art over the last few months across LA echoing the sentiments of the BLM movement. How did the protest posters installation at the gallery come about?

Protest in Place came about as we noticed the waning of media coverage of BLM protests. We wanted to do our part to keep the movement going. Due to Covid-19 and art gallery/museum closures, traditional exhibitions were impossible. I imagined empty walls, with protest posters floating throughout the depth of the gallery, staggered at varying levels to be seen through the windows from the street and sidewalk. We had two weeks to call out for posters from across LA and we had amazing response. A beautiful mix of hand painted cardboard, mixed media posters and silk screen and digital prints were delivered and a soundscape/video of an LA protest was included. The installation was recognized by LA County Department of Arts and Culture and was acquired and has been offered in donation to the CA African American Museum.

Do you think that living in a COVID world and the profound effect the pandemic has had on some many lives will inspire and shape a new wave of art?

Yes! I think the Covid world effect has forced people to stop, meditate and look inside themselves, contemplate their priorities and become conscious of our united existence as humans and the injustices that have existed in our country for far too long. Great art reflects our society and I definitely believe that there is already a wave of art focused on decolonizing culture, bringing back the authentic histories of all diverse peoples.

 If you could select any living or dead artists to showcase your dream art show that would resonate today with a global audience, who would you pick and why?

There are so many to choose from, but this is my pick of 3 for this moment in time:

I chose female artists for their unique perspective, strong voice and to help level the gender inequality in the art world.

Betty Saar: Using mainly found objects to make sculpture and assemblage art, Saar challenges negative ideas about Black people.

Barbara Kruger: Through use of Text, Kruger deals with the complexities of power and social life.

Kara Walker: Through her art, Walker explores race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity.

How important is funding the Arts programs in schools and colleges?

Extremely! A world without art is not natural. Art is an impulse natural to all humans. The only way it can be stopped would be through force and suppression of an authoritarian government We must support and protect our arts education! 

Finish the following sentence..'A world without art..

"A world without art is a place where only animals can survive. It is a place where struggle for survival dominates is so intense that there is no room in the heart or mind for creativity or inspiration. If we see the beginnings of a world without art, we will know it is the sign of the end of human life on earth."