Orange County isn’t exactly the place that comes to mind when you ask most people where they can find a burgeoning art and music scene. But every Thursday, musicians, poets, artists, dancers, and music lovers from all walks of life gather at The Coollab Project in Santa Ana to create—and stir up—a diverse melting pot of culture and talent unlike anything else for miles.
“Everybody Gets Love”
Though the open-air courtyard of 4th Street Market is filled with beautiful sounds every Thursday evening, perhaps the most incredible thing about The Coollab Project is the community that’s sprung up around it. Everywhere you turn, you’re greeted with smiling faces and invitations to converse. Strangers become friends, and for a few hours, the social barriers we’re all so used to just seem to melt away.
This radically inclusive spirit is infectious. Regulars of The Coollab Project tell a similar story of stumbling upon the event, having a blast, and now coming back every week. For many, it’s the community they didn’t even know they were searching for.
It is, however, the platform that Coollab Project Founder Vinson Muhammad, who goes by ALäZ, was searching for when he moved to Southern California from Macon, Georgia. “The purpose of The Coollab Project is to bring artists together for cool collaborations through music,” said ALäZ. “When I moved out here from Georgia in 2016, I wanted to build something that would help musicians, including myself, get their message out to the people.“ His positive energy and message, along with undeniable bars and trumpet chops, have gone a long way in shaping the community of The Coollab Project.
“Respect the Mic”
ALäZ has one request of his fellow Orange County dwellers: don’t sleep on the talented musicians right here in our backyard—instead, come through and give them respect. Styles you’ll hear in one night at The Coollab Project range from jazz and hip hop to spoken word. The event’s host, Rocky Angelini, is an emcee and musician who epitomizes this kind of variety. Unafraid to twist, bend, and blend styles together, Rocky is definitely an OC artist on the rise, and his live performances are legendary, complete with live looping and incredible dance breaks.
House band Apollo Bebop take the concept of musical flexibility to the next level. A modern jazz fusion band led by emcee Brian to Earth, there’s not a style they can’t play. And if you show up in need of musicians to back you up, just ask. They’ll be happy to sit in on a song. No practice required.
In fact, just about every musician at The Coollab Project is willing to lend their talents, and one of the most exciting parts of every Thursday is the jam session. After the Open Mic participants, Apollo Bebop and Rocky Angelini, as well as the night’s featured artist—that’s right, there’s a 15 minute headline slot each week—have performed, all musicians are invited on stage for an improvised jam. The musicians set the tone, rappers and singers trade bars, and the B-boys, hula hoopers, and dancers in the crowd all let loose. It’s truly an experience to behold.
The Coollab Project is truly a hidden gem in Orange County, but the ambitions of the musicians and artists there are far-reaching. The group has seen explosive growth in 2018, and they’re optimistic about the future.
A major part of the soul of the Coollab is its location. There is an intentional effort at the Coollab to honor the ancestors and residents of the great city of Santa Ana. Despite various challenges and wide-spread misconceptions, every Thursday we are reminded of what truly makes this city beautiful—the people. Artists and audience members practice supporting each other financially and are encouraged to take the support beyond the event to local businesses and organizations throughout the community. With this type of collaborative energy, it is only a matter of time before everybody sleeping on Santa Ana and the OC gets a serious wake up call.
Exciting things are indeed happening in Santa Ana, and The Coollab Project is at epicenter of the city’s blossoming music scene. Next time you’re looking for a live music fix, a fun Thursday night out, or even a great spot to impress your date, head to 4th Street Market from 7–9:30 p.m. to support your local artists. You can also support The Coollab Project by purchasing an official T-shirt for $20 at the event, or by following us on Instagram @TheCoollabProject.
Story by Randall Head
Photos/Art provided by The Coollab Project
Sometimes creating an arts “masterpiece” has little to do with paints or pigments. And the
“Arts Roundtable” that was held on Friday the 25th of January at the Frida Theatre in Downtown Santa Ana demonstrated that there are other kinds of “masterpieces” being created.
This Arts Roundtable was the 5th in a series of what was described as a process for creating a network and support system for practitioners of the arts, crafts, and industrial arts. Before the event started, I sat in a seat, and was thankful for the Mediterranean food provided usurping my usual pre-show popcorn and drink. Instead of the pre-movie fare of previews, and commercials, I was able to preview in the conversations and interactions around me what this roundtable would be. To name a few, I spoke with a film producer, a film maker, an artist/muralist that I had become familiar with almost twenty years ago, an engineer, a fabricator, and a ceramicist. All of these personalities were in attendance to ensure that they would be active participants in a cohesive, articulated, and supportive community of artists, artisans, and crafts people.
The program for the evening reviewed and celebrated the past roundtables over the course of two years throughout Orange County. Selected speakers spoke of how the results of those roundtables impacted their work and resulted in their own personal successes. One resulting partnership resulted in a school, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and an industrial designer working together to create an art installation that was displayed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Another presenter spoke of his international status as a filmmaker of food for an internationally renowned online food network. The two-hour program was engaging and served to remind those in attendance of the importance of creating and maintaining a network of engaged and supported creators. It was noteworthy, and pointed out, that it was the creative community that wanted to be connected formally. The online “arts registry” was the response.
Over twenty years ago I opened up two galleries in Santa Ana. One in the Santora Building, and another on Main Street. Any connectivity I had to other creative forces were made by me in order to survive; and any support given to my gallery and artistic endeavors were usually limited to my galleries being used as backdrops for redevelopment and sought after gentrification. (But that is another story). I would have been ecstatic to open my galleries with the support and networking capabilities that the “Arts Registry” presently provides. To me, the product that individuals like Robyn McNair, Ryan Smolar, and Madeleine Spencer have been able achieve and create (with the support of others who I’m sure should be mentioned) is nothing short of a “masterpiece”.
Is the masterpiece finished? I’m certain that it is not. After all, art is more than just a product, it is a process. And I for one, can’t wait to see how this masterpiece evolves in the ongoing process of Arts Roundtables.
Learn more about the Santa Ana Artists Registry >
Story by Matthew Cruz
Photos by Matthew Martinez
ABOUT THE ARTS ROUNDTABLE SERIES
This event is part of a multi-event series, the Santa Ana Arts Roundtable events organized by Santa Ana’s downtown improvement district, with the hopes to connect and empower artists in-person and online at SantaAnaArts.org. The Arts Roundtable series kicked off in 2015 at Santa Ana High School and has traveled to the Bowers Museum, OC Heritage Museum, Segerstrom Center for the Arts and now The Frida Cinema with the mission of building resources to help artists and arts organizations connect and thrive in the Santa Ana.
The Santa Ana Arts Roundtable V was created to showcase the launch of the Santa Ana Artists Registry by the Santa Ana Business Council, Downtown Inc., major arts institutions across Santa Ana and SanArts Conservatory and the City of Santa Ana under the banner of SantaAnaArts.org.
The proposition was simple and straightforward: We would meet at my place around about 12:30, when the afternoon light was just right. And after a few minutes of catching up, we would sip tequila with beer chasers on my front porch, where I would ask Rogelio Reyes (a.k.a Roger Eyes R.) all about his four-month long endeavor to finish 6 medium-sized portraits of day laborers, live, during the coming art walks in downtown Santa Ana. Yes, simple: while I sit before a T.V. dinner table with my typewriter on it and conduct the interview, he paints a portrait of me with my whole arsenal of media at his fingertips—a face-to-face meeting, as it were, and a brutal peeling/picking of artistic minds.
The way I saw it, there was no real better or more fitting way to accomplish this task of outlining what he plans to do and just how he plans to do it. I had to catch the man in action, as he’ll be seen during the bleak icy first Saturdays of the months to come; see what makes him tick; see his style bleed upon paper, and hopefully by being one of the first to hear him speak about blue collar/hump-busters/hard-working/laborers, I could really get an understanding as to why he chose to paint those who truly make the world go round, for the first time in his artistic career.
He’d seen them all his life; regarded them as something familiar yet too removed from the world that his art tended to gravitate toward, and wanted nothing more than to revolve around: his inner-thoughts, his own world.
But after several brush-ups and lengthy conversations with assorted laborers at his last job, he felt inspired to make them come through in what he calls “Pop Impressionism.” He basically pops all the colors in a painting that you wouldn’t normally pop--as is my understanding. At first I thought he’d coined the style/technique, but he reassured me that wasn’t the case.
And the portraits will be, aside from his Pop Impressionistic approach, straightforward, because he wants to make sure that the message is received by as many of those who see the portraits. And that message is that laborers are everywhere, and you more than likely have several in your very own lineage.
So, as he drew some starter shapes on the 12 x 10 newsprint paper he had up on an easel, using some black Higgin’s ink I had leftover, he went down the list of the types of laborers he’s (so far) considering.
1) Basket weavers of the Juaneño tribe, natives to the southern tip of the coast now known as Orange County: These, he said, will be drawn from old sepia photos he managed to get his hands on, and are to be interpreted by Roger in “oranges and yellows that pop.”
2) A Ranchero: Possibly tilling the soil of his fertile land, or one of a rancher humbly standing in front of Irvine’s meadowy green and grassy hills as they roll seemingly forever behind him, off into the distance. The concept for this portrait is also dependent on what old photo(s) he’s able to scrounge up and that inspire him.
3) A Business Owner: In red. Roger is considering hitting the pavement and searching for a living breathing subject that hits the spot for this one. He feels it just might be the right type of subject to sort of round off the whole collection: One for the little guy.
He tells me he’s not quite sure who or where to start asking. But he’s not worried. Plenty of time, still, he says.
He eyeballs my hair and adds a couple of more ink lines in a downward motion. I type: B. Owner…To Be Determined.
4) Orange pickers: a fairly obvious choice—but equally a must, considering where we are. Possibly a picture of him committing himself to the kind of work that was once rampant around here not too long ago; before the burnout strip malls and the heavy industrial goliaths arrived and shaved them off the map, roots and all.
Also from sepia photos. Roger plans on doing this portrait in blue.
Bold, I told him. He agreed.
5) Shop Owner(s?): Although similar to #3, he’s considering making it a portrait of a man and a woman who run the show of some small shop, along for the drudgery of earning an honest American buck together. Also T.B.D.
6) Female Machinist for Aerospace: This one is a little down the line so there’s not much to go off of yet, he tells me.
This brings us to the first Saturday of May, the 4th, Spring of 2019: Artwalk. By this time Roger plans on having all six portraits finished and displayed at the promenade, by the fountain, in the heart of the Artist’s Village, finished and ready to then be hauled to the Fourth Element Gallery in DTSA, where they will more legitimately displayed as a collection of finished works with all the lights and the little signs beside each painting that give you the titles and a brief description of each one.
But the money melon is the actual experience of standing beside Roger Eyes R., seeing him paint, but also, actually having a conversation with the man. If you find yourself walking toward the fountain on the promenade in the coming months, and you happen to spot Roger, wearing his paint-stained white lab coat, looking like a mix between John Lennon (circa ’75) and Roy Orbison in his heyday, you should talk to him. Tell him where you’ve been. Tell him about what in the hell was bothering you all day today, and why it was a mean gorilla’s hair up your ass. Tell him about your walk down Santa Ana’s dark alleys, feeling the bricks with your fingertips, taking a long drag, thinking that things (and truly believing) could really be a whole lot better than now. He will listen. He will paint. For all the right reasons.
Story by Eric Cocoletzi
Photo by Brian Feinzimer
Santa Ana Arts News
News, opportunities and updates for the creative community.