When VCReporter was asked if we’d like to curate a pop-up gallery for the Westside ArtWalk, we thought it would be a tremendous opportunity to gather up some of the city’s edgier artists for an exhibition of protest-driven art to coincide with the release of our Protest Song Project (see cover story).

The sometimes controversial artist Paul Benavidez was already on our radar as he’s recently been the center of a dispute at the Working Artists Ventura (WAV) complex. A resident there for a year and a half, Benavidez is being asked by property management to leave his live/work space in response to issues of noise and other alleged disruptions. The fracas between Benavidez and a few members of the WAV community has revealed a culture of intolerance and repression, according to some residents. In the midst of the upheaval there, Benavidez has been facilitating a meet-up group for people to discuss the ramifications of unequal wealth distribution, and he’s used the results of the group’s discussions as a focal point for his UWD art installation.

The installation, which will be on display during the Westside ArtWalk, will feature a large-scale lotus flower of plastic coat hangers as well as a monolithic anti-big-oil piece and a community wall devoted to the UWD project. Somewhat of an organic, evolving exhibition, Benavidez regards all interaction with it as an addition to the project. “People become the art form as well as all the developments associated with it,” he explains. “It is a social sculpture. To date we have experienced censorship, racism, authoritarianism, hate, name-calling, discrimination, love, synergy, art-making, hope, and the list continues.” Benavidez will give a talk about UWD and his installation on Saturday afternoon.

Also exhibiting at the Reporter’s pop-up gallery are emerging contemporary artists Grant Ensminger, Sean Tully and Evita Huapaya, all of whom have some surprises in store.

The public will be encouraged to participate in the protest exhibition, not only as spectators, but also through expression. There will be a community wall for people to draw and write their personal protests and a speaker’s corner where people will have seven minutes on the “soapbox” to deliver a speech, read a poem or rant about something relevant to social or political protest.

 Salon recently published an article about the evaporation of the antiwar movement in this country due to bad organization, scarce media attention and a post-Obama culture of inflated positivity among Democrats. In general, it would seem the need for powerful protest has never been so undeniable, and for artists to respond never so acute.

VCReporter’s Art and Music Protest Project will welcome all points of view and opportunities for productive conversation about what is not working and how we can leave this planet and its people better than we found them.  

July 23 and 24. Saturday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. at 89 S. California St. Paul Benavidez will speak about UWD on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The speaker’s corner will be open from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 2-4 on Sunday.

Speakers are limited to seven minutes at the microphone.For additional information about the artists and the event, visit  www.westsideartwalk.org.

michel@vcreporter.com