By Dana Bartholomew, Los Angeles Daily News
POSTED: 02/18/14, 9:50 PM PST | UPDATED: 5 DAYS AGO
TARZANA >> The San Fernando Valley may be best known for its swimming pools, shopping centers and broad boulevards of hot cool cars.
Now its more cultivated residents want to add a new designation: the fine arts.
The San Fernando Valley Arts Council is now on the verge of opening the region’s only public arts and cultural center for Valley artists and their work. A pending lease for the Tarzana center could lead to a showcase for its galleries, workshops and performances as early as next month.
“It’s a great thing,” said Carolyn Uhri, vice president of the nonprofit council, which was founded a half century ago to bring music and art to Los Angeles public schools. “It’s great because we’ve finally gotten Valley arts recognized.
“Before, it’s all been over the Hill, or on the West Side. There’s lots of arts in the Valley, and loads of artists, and they’ve not had their fair share of (recognition).”
On Monday, Uhri pointed toward what will be the likely home of the San Fernando Valley Arts & Cultural Center, now under construction on the 18300 block of Oxnard Street.
Located behind a Mission-style portico at Oxnard and Etiwanda Avenues, the new center will divide 4,600 square feet between soaring galleries, workshops, meetings and performance space.
From there, a dozen Valley-based arts groups composed of hundreds of local artists will be able to exhibit and sell their art.
The arts and cultural center means to serve as a community hub and creative space, offering workshops for budding artists and professionals, and space for local performing artists.
“Valley artists will have a voice, no matter what their medium, visual arts, performing arts, music and poetry,” said ceramic muralist Juliana Martinez, the council’s director of public art whose colorful mosaics range from a Blessed Virgin in Canoga Park to a giant Gibson guitar on Sunset Boulevard. “We are proud to have the opportunity to be part of this.”
This month, Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Valley native, pledged $10,000 to get the Valley’s only visual arts center off the ground, Uhri said.
The center will be supported by gallery and workshop fees, or $40 annual memberships that offer discounts on local arts and cultural events. Go to www.sfvartscouncil.com.
Similar public art galleries once run by the Valley Institute of the Visual Arts closed three years ago in Sherman Oaks because of a city zoning issue, and 11 years ago in Northridge because of local development.
The all-volunteer arts council, in league with the Valley Arts Alliance, hopes to soon offer nearly 400 linear feet of wall space that could accommodate up to 100 works of art.
The new San Fernando Valley Arts & Cultural Center will also host arts council programs to promote local mural artists, public arts projects and workshops for L.A. school kids. Others include photography for incoming veterans and the blind, as well as a courtyard makeover at Los Angeles Valley College.
“At this moment, we have 10 murals in the works in the west San Fernando Valley,” said Martinez, a native of Puerto Rico. “I’m thrilled that this is finally happening.”