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Arts and Entertainment

The 11:11 Art Collective Wants to Show You How Cool the Valley Really Is

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By Teena Apeles

The San Fernando Valley tends to be the last place you want to be during summer, when temperatures often top 100 degrees, but Addy Gonzalez Renteria and Erin Stone of 11:11: A Creative Collective are determined to change your mind.

They have been producing art happenings in the area since 2009—more than 75 events to date—bringing attention to the work of more than 700 artists, 80 percent of whom are Valley-based. These numbers are not only a testament to the amazing work that 11:11 does, but also to the creative forces that have existed there all along, but only in recent years have gotten media attention. (Yes, Levi Ponce is one of them.)

While you may not know 11:11 by name if you aren’t already immersed in the Valley art scene, you've likely seen or experienced projects they’ve had a role in: the monthly Canoga Park Artwalk that features artists, artisans, and musicians (the next one’s this Thursday, July 20); those colorfully painted utility boxes in NoHo, Burbank, and Reseda that caught your eye; the interactive art installations in North Hollywood Park as part of “NoHo Summer Nights”on Saturdays in July; the affordable weekly Valley Art Workshop life-drawing sessions; not to mention the many murals that brought life to otherwise dim stretches of Valley boulevards.

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Or perhaps you were among the 8,000 people who crowded the Reseda sidewalks of Sherman Way during a night market last June. Yep, that was 11:11’s Reseda Rising. And City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield can’t praise Renteria and Stone enough for the impact it had in his district: “We saw people from all over the city flock to the West Valley to celebrate local artists, musicians, and enjoy the unique character of Reseda,” he said in an email. “And that would have not been possible without the amazing partnership with Addy, Erin, and the whole 11:11 team. This event brings the community together, transforms our city into a gallery and concert hall, and reminds everyone of the importance of art.”

The work 11:11 has done in the San Fernando Valley has been significant enough to even catch the attention of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who visited 11:11’s temporary gallery space in Tarzana with Blumenfeld in 2014 and also invited Renteria and Stone to present at a special reception at his residence as part his Great Streets initiative. When’s the last time the mayor had you over?

“It is really important for us to create that collaborative process amongst the artist and those city entities... we see ourselves as a bridge between them,” says Renteria, who has a background in art history and architecture. “A lot of the time artists don’t want to have anything to do with any of it. We have worked really hard in creating that bridge, in creating that dialogue so that our local artists are represented in our neighborhoods.”

While first and foremost, “we definitely serve the artist,” notes Stone, a photographer who has worked in community development and education, “we also serve the independent neighborhoods, we serve small businesses” that are in the areas where they produce their events.

So what drove these two proud Valley girls—Stone is actually a third-generation Valley-ite—to lead the charge to make the 818 an arts and cultural destination? She recalls the night that would eventually lead to 11:11’s founding: “We were all at this show in Hollywood, I had photos up, friends were playing music, and at some point Addy and I looked around and looked at each other, and had this realization that the entire space in Hollywood was filled with Valley people.”

She adds, “We had backgrounds that were very different, but converging at this point of art, and it was kind of that moment of, why aren’t we doing this in the Valley? Let’s throw a show. And that is how it started.”

At the time two other girlfriends were also involved. “We saw there was definitely a need in the Valley for local artists to display their work and have opportunities presented to them to network with other artists,” recalls Renteria, whose family moved to the Valley in her teens. For anyone who grew up the Valley, you’d be strained to name an art gallery or regular art event to see local work up until recently. Most artists had few to no exclusive spaces to exhibit in the area. Yes, there have always been coffeehouses (R.I.P. Cobalt Café, Insomnia, and Horseshoe) and bars that had work on their walls—and maybe some college art galleries—but not enough to attract people in large numbers.

“Our first art show was out in Studio City, a pop-up art show,” says Renteria. “We had about 40 artists and we were kind of just blown away with the response that we got at that art show. We had approximately 300 people show up when we were anticipating 100.” They followed up that show with fundraisers to produce more group shows, and while their other friends moved on, Renteria and Stone have continued to work to make the Valley an artist-friendly place to live, as well as a destination for artists to exhibit their work.

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“We prefer to bring the L.A. artists to the Valley than take the Valley artists to L.A.,” stresses Stone, “because it is bridging the gap and showing people things are happening out here, there is a scene out here. It is the L.A. people who are like, ‘We have no reason to go to the Valley,’ well, now you do.”

Mark your calendars now for the next Reseda Rising Artwalk and Night Market on September 23, which will feature 200 hundred artists, a zine fest, live painters, large light installations, and two music stages. “I think our intention from the beginning was to invigorate the Valley,” says Renteria.

Well, 11:11, mission accomplished.

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