Inside an East LA building that’s less than a year old, a building that many don’t even realize exists, is a connection between lives lost and lives living.
“It’s a big prize for the school,” said East LA College student Zoe Cruz, who works at the museum on campus. “Something to be proud of. I would love to say thank you!”
The Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) started as a small gallery in the 1950s. It was then that the famous Broadway and Hollywood actor and his wife decided to lend their expertise and love of art to East LA, donating some 2,000 pieces of art over their lifetimes.
“He wanted these pieces to be for this community, for East LA, Monterey Park to use and the students particularly,” said Victoria Price, daughter of the actor. “Art is what made him want to be a larger part of the world.”
Price remembers her dad with a smile that looks just like his.
“My dad always said that nobody owns art. You’re a caretaker of art. An artist makes something and puts it out into the world to be seen.”
One artist in particular is making a much closer connection between the Price family and East LA.
"Carlos Almaraz: A Life Recalled" is an exhibit on display for the first time at the VPAM and it draws from those who cared for and knew the artist best. Visitors travel through Almaraz’s life from his earliest years in Mexico, his childhood in East LA, travels in New York and his awakening to the Chicano Movement.
Ephemeral materials will offer a glimpse of Almaraz’s personal life as a friend, husband and father; his recognition as a rising Los Angeles studio art star; and AIDS victim.
“It’s fantastic,” said entertainer Dan Guerrero, a close friend of the artist.
Guerrero spearheaded the idea to showcase Almaraz’s work because of his close connection to East LA.
“It’s trippy! Things that have been under my bed or hanging on my wall and then in a beautiful museum setting,” Guerrero said.
Almaraz left an arsenal of artwork before his passing for the world to see and for people in East LA to experience. The art on display now through Dec. 8 connects deeply with the mission set forth by Vincent Price himself.
“For my dad,” Price said, “I think he would say art is where he still felt faith in humanity.”
Price says her dad would often look for work from unknown artists, and this exhibit she thinks he would have particularly enjoyed.
“Here’s a man, Carlos Almaraz, who constantly was pushing himself, as you go through you see the different styles,” she said.
Almaraz’s work varied over his lifetime – from giant murals painted to honor Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers to his visions of devastating car crashes on the Pacific Coast Highway, he often used bright, vibrant colors.
When he was diagnosed with AIDS, his art started to take a darker turn but remained true to his style. And in his death, Almaraz connects his life’s work with the lives of those still hoping to have such an impact.
“His art says it, you’re not trapped by your environment being from East LA,” Guerrero said. “If you’re talented and you work hard, you can do anything you want. And I think it’s important for young people to get that notion.”
“This is what my dad was all about,” Price adds. “I think that’s his greatest legacy and that’s what this museum represents.”
Carlos Almaraz: A Life Recalled runs at the Vincent Price Art Museum located on the East Los Angeles College (ELAC) campus Aug. 25 through Dec. 8, 2012. http://vincentpriceartmuseum.org
It is organized by Karen Rapp, museum director with Dan Guerrero, life-long friend, and Elsa Flores Almaraz, acclaimed Chicana artist and Carlos’ widow. Admission is free and NBC4 Southern California is a proud sponsor.