“Interconnectedness is attracted to me. That is my nature, and it keeps me in a good place.”

Those are the words of MB Hanrahan: artist, educator, community activist, Bell Arts Factory denizen, creative spirit extraordinaire — and the ArtWalk 2016 Artist of Distinction. Since she showed up in Ventura nearly 30 years ago, Hanrahan has been an integral part of the artistic community, helped in no small part by her propensity for collaboration. She’s left her stamp all over the city, through murals and other public art projects that almost always involved large groups: kids in juvenile detention centers, incarcerated youth, local tribes, the mentally ill, her friends and neighbors on Ventura’s Westside, where she is one of its most recognizable and beloved residents.

MB Hanrahan, Rolando Sigüenza and Uriel Leon with the finished mural at Harrison and Ventura Avenue. Photo by T Christian Gapen ArtWalk 2016 Global Artist of Distinction An interview with Rolando Sigüenza ArtWalk Ventura is fortunate to have the talented Oaxacan artist Rolando Sigüenza as this year’s Global Artist of Distinction. Part of the folkloric art movement, his colorful paintings showcase angels, trees, animals and children, revealing a world full of hope, joy and spirituality. He took time out from his work on Oaxaca to Ventura, the mural he designed with MB Hanrahan and Uriel Leon, to answer a few questions for the VCReporter. Welcome to Ventura! How do you like it here so far?  I love the ambience! It is quite special: the fresh air and close to the sea. It is a place to enjoy, and most of all I feel great surrounded by kind and caring people. Also there’s so much art to enjoy! Everywhere I go, it seems like a giant museum. Are you enjoying being a part of our ArtWalk?  I´m very humble about it. As a deaf person, many doors have been closed in the past or I’ve been invited only for exhibits designated for deaf people. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: The deaf community is my family and I’m proud to say I have friends all over the world. But I have faced [preconceived notions] from some about disabilities. This is an opportunity to distinguish myself as a person and artist in such an important venue. This recognition is not only mine — it is for all the artists in Mexico, especially from Oaxaca, the Rufino Tamayo Art School, museums and galleries. Talented and well-known artists could have been in my place right now. I’m honored, but mostly grateful. Can you tell us a little bit about your design for the mural?  Believe me it was a hard task, considering that for the first time I’m involved in a mural project. Many ideas went through my mind. The mural has a woman holding the moon and a man holding the sun. It is my invitation to mankind to thank what nature is giving us. The entire universe is our home, everything has a place to create balance and harmony in our lives. I also wanted to add a butterfly — such a small creature migrating every year through California to its final destination in Mexico, no passport needed, restrictions do not apply. There is a bird spreading its wings as a symbol of freedom. I love dogs. In many of my works, dogs have a special place. The trees embrace my idea about love. . . . They provide shelter, shade and do not set conditions to be generous. That’s what love means to me. What was your inspiration?  Once my feet sensed Ventura it all came easier. I understood the spirit of this county. I’m convinced that inspiration arrives once the ambience is read in our minds. Then I know what to do and the elements to integrate. Every artist has constant traces or symbols unique to their own style, so I added elements that can easily be found on my paintings, but made them specifically to fit in Ventura. I did not have a religious education because there were no sign-language instructors when I was a kid, but my family would take me to visit churches. There was no one to explain what the priest said, so I would look around and discover the walls and wood carvings filled with angels, in different posturesIt was like they wanted to talk to me, so they became my imaginary friends, and very often are an essential part in my paintings. Any final thoughts on your experiences here?  All the comments we have received are very encouraging and motivate me to give my best. Above all, working with MB Hanrahan and Uriel Leon is already my reward. I may add that when people approach, I explain to them that I am deaf. Then magic happens and communication flows naturally. I´m taking these moments into my heart. Oaxaca to Ventura can be seen at the corner of Ventura and Harrison Avenues in Ventura. An exhibit featuring the work of Rolando Sigüenza and other Oaxacan artists will also be on display Oct. 1-28 at Bell Arts Factory, 432 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura. For more information, visit www.vitaartcenter.com or www.artwalkventura.org.

ARTWALK 2016 ARTIST OF DISTINCTION

An interview with Rolando Sigüenza

ArtWalk Ventura is fortunate to have the talented Oaxacan artist Rolando Sigüenza as this year’s Global Artist of Distinction. Part of the folkloric art movement, his colorful paintings showcase angels, trees, animals and children, revealing a world full of hope, joy and spirituality. He took time out from his work on Oaxaca to Ventura, the mural he designed with MB Hanrahan and Uriel Leon, to answer a few questions for the VCReporter.

Welcome to Ventura! How do you like it here so far?

I love the ambience! It is quite special: the fresh air and close to the sea. It is a place to enjoy, and most of all I feel great surrounded by kind and caring people. Also there’s so much art to enjoy! Everywhere I go, it seems like a giant museum.

Are you enjoying being a part of our ArtWalk?

I´m very humble about it. As a deaf person, many doors have been closed in the past or I’ve been invited only for exhibits designated for deaf people. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: The deaf community is my family and I’m proud to say I have friends all over the world. But I have faced [preconceived notions] from some about disabilities. This is an opportunity to distinguish myself as a person and artist in such an important venue. This recognition is not only mine — it is for all the artists in Mexico, especially from Oaxaca, the Rufino Tamayo Art School, museums and galleries. Talented and well-known artists could have been in my place right now. I’m honored, but mostly grateful.

Can you tell us a little bit about your design for the mural?

Believe me it was a hard task, considering that for the first time I’m involved in a mural project. Many ideas went through my mind. The mural has a woman holding the moon and a man holding the sun. It is my invitation to mankind to thank what nature is giving us. The entire universe is our home, everything has a place to create balance and harmony in our lives. I also wanted to add a butterfly — such a small creature migrating every year through California to its final destination in Mexico, no passport needed, restrictions do not apply. There is a bird spreading its wings as a symbol of freedom. I love dogs. In many of my works, dogs have a special place. The trees embrace my idea about love. . . . They provide shelter, shade and do not set conditions to be generous. That’s what love means to me.

What was your inspiration?

Once my feet sensed Ventura it all came easier. I understood the spirit of this county. I’m convinced that inspiration arrives once the ambience is read in our minds. Then I know what to do and the elements to integrate. Every artist has constant traces or symbols unique to their own style, so I added elements that can easily be found on my paintings, but made them specifically to fit in Ventura. I did not have a religious education because there were no sign-language instructors when I was a kid, but my family would take me to visit churches. There was no one to explain what the priest said, so I would look around and discover the walls and wood carvings filled with angels, in different posturesIt was like they wanted to talk to me, so they became my imaginary friends, and very often are an essential part in my paintings.

Any final thoughts on your experiences here?

All the comments we have received are very encouraging and motivate me to give my best. Above all, working with MB Hanrahan and Uriel Leon is already my reward. I may add that when people approach, I explain to them that I am deaf. Then magic happens and communication flows naturally. I´m taking these moments into my heart. F Oaxaca to Ventura can be seen at the corner of Ventura and Harrison Avenues in Ventura.

An exhibit featuring the work of Rolando Sigüenza and other Oaxacan artists will also be on display Oct. 1-28 at Bell Arts Factory, 432 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura. For more information, visit www.vitaartcenter.com or www.artwalkventura.org.

TINSELTOWN MEMORIES

Hanrahan was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Her mother, Rosemarie, was a model and singer. Father Jack moved the family to California in the 1960s to pursue a very successful career as a television scriptwriter. He won an Emmy for his work on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, and worked on such shows as Get Smart, Marcus Welby, M.D., CHiPs and Inspector Gadget.

Raised in the creative crucible of L.A. in the 1960s and 1970s, Hanrahan’s interest in art hit early and hit hard. “I always knew I was going to be an artist,” Hanrahan states on her website (www.mbuniverse.com), and certainly there was never a time when art wasn’t the center of her universe. She took art classes and posed for artists in high school, and earned a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz (on scholarship), and an M.A. from Humboldt State University. Influences include feminist performance artists of the 1980s, pop artists Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha and muralist Kent Twitchell.

After college, she found work in Hollywood as a display artist and prop designer. She also did some freelance design work — most notably for Jimmy Buffet. “I’ve done tour tees for Jimmy Buffet for years,” she explains. Hanrahan got to know the “Margaritaville” singer through a friend who worked for his management agency, and continues to design concert T-shirts for him to this day.

A lover of public art, she also started doing murals and sculptures in the L.A. area. Hanrahan’s work can be seen in Beverly Hills, the City of Commerce and Woodland Hills. Her skill set and personality lend themselves to large, public projects: She enjoys collaboration, and she can get stuff done.

“Murals are big, they’re kind of a leveler,” Hanrahan explains. “Even with a lead artist, I feel that mural painting is collaborative from the get-go.” There are permits to acquire, funds to raise, designs to select, paint and scaffolding to obtain. Hanrahan excels at keeping several moving pieces in line. “Breaking down a task, coordinating — those are useful skills. I’m the oldest of six kids. I’ve been mobilizing groups for a long time.”

SWEET HOME VENTURA

Hanrahan moved to Ventura in 1989. Her first studio was at Art City, but much later she would become closely associated with Bell Arts Factory: She was one of its first resident artists when it opened in 2006, and she maintains her study space there to this day. She supported herself through freelance design work, photography and modeling. “When I first moved to Ventura, I mentioned that I was an artist’s model. I posed for some art groups and my name got passed around,” she recalls. Hiroko Yoshimoto and Richard Peterson, both artists teaching at Ventura College, used Hanrahan for their life drawing classes. In 1995, the college was looking for more part-time art teachers, and Peterson encouraged Hanrahan to apply.

She spent the next 10 years teaching at Ventura College, emphasizing the importance of collaboration to her students. “It’s what I would tell my students: We’re a team,” Hanrahan explains. “We’re all equal here.” She continues to teach this lesson to her fine arts students at El Camino High School.

While she continued to produce her own art (including paintings, sculptures, photography, even film and video projects) she never stopped being an organizer and community advocate. The drivable sculptures known as ArtCars (which gained national attention), her contributions to ArtLife magazine, co-founding the Artists Union Gallery, hosting shows on Our Ventura TV (filmed at CAPS) all further solidified her reputation as a local mover and shaker.

And not just for her fellow artists. Hanrahan’s work extended to projects aimed at supporting less-privileged members of her community. Through initiatives with Ventura County Public Health and the Ventura County Arts Council, she worked with young people in jails and prisons to create murals and other artworks related to “safe sex, positive behavior choices and the dangers of tobacco use.” She also took part in a successful lawsuit against Avenue Liquor for painting over a community mural (which was restored in 1998).

So prolific is her work, it’s hard to pick out just one thing that defines Hanrahan’s role in Ventura County — but murals come close. Hanrahan’s murals can be found all over: Sheridan Way, Las Posas Elementary, Ventura College, Dargan’s Irish Pub and numerous locations throughout the Westside. Her most famous endeavor, however, might be the Tortilla Flats project, which she and Moses Mora conceived, designed and installed (once again, with the help of several community members) as a memorial and homage to the vibrant and diverse neighborhood that was displaced in the 1960s to make way for Highway 101.

OAXACA TO VENTURA

MB Hanrahan, Rolando Sigüenza and Uriel Leon with the finished mural at Harrison and Ventura Avenue. Photo by T Christian Gapen

Hanrahan got a chance to do what she does best with Art- Walk’s pièce de résistance, a new mural at Ventura Avenue and Harrison Avenue. The mural Oaxaca to Ventura is a joint effort by ArtWalk’s 2016 Global Artist of Distinction Rolando Sigüenza (a native of Oaxaca), Hanrahan and local designer/muralist Uriel Leon. “We are collaborators, honoring our visiting artist,” Hanrahan says. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to learn from Uriel and Rolando. It is a privilege, and an honor.”

The feeling was mutual. “It was a really cool experience,” says Leon. “Both MB and Rolando were open to suggestions. The design is definitely different from what I’d paint, but it was really humbling to work outside of my comfort zone. And it was nice to be at a wall with people who know what they are doing. I feel like that was one of the main reasons it went so smoothly — just the level of professionalism of the artists.”

Sigüenza is deaf, and while he does read lips, he speaks only Spanish. Between Leon’s translation skills and, perhaps, a natural affinity between creative spirits, Hanrahan says it was a challenge easily overcome. “He listens in a translated way,” she explains. “He’s very present. He’s just really open. And you know what? Personality and dynamics, I believe, are stronger than words.”

SECRET OF HER SUCCESS

Mutual respect, an interest in outside ideas and a lack of ego are hallmarks of MB Hanrahan’s creative process — and one of the major reasons she’s been chosen as this year’s Artist of Distinction. “I don’t consider myself a genius,” she says humbly. “Other people’s influences are really exciting. I have only benefited from collaboration.”

And while she is profoundly grateful for the honor of being named the 2016 Artist of Distinction, she finds that being embraced by her community, and being able to serve it through her art, is truly the greatest reward. “I already feel like an Artist of Distinction by the way my community treats me,” Hanrahan says. “I don’t know how many people can walk down the street and have people say, ‘Hey, MB! I love your work! Thank you!’ ”

“My psychic card catalog is gigantic,” the esteemed artist says with a wry smile. “There’s no money in it — but there is community.”

MB Hanrahan will have a new show, Body of Work, on exhibit at Vita Art Center starting Nov. 4. For more information, visit www. mbuniverse.com. For more information on ArtWalk, visit www.artwalkventura.org.

ArtWalk 2016

Saturday, Oct. 1, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, 12-5 p.m. A brief guide to Downtown Ventura’s premier art festival. For full schedule, map and more information, visit www.artwalkventura.org.

ARTWALK COLLECTORS RECEPTION Ventura City Hall Thursday, Sept. 29, 6:30-9 p.m. Get an early look at featured artists at this special reception where attendees will have the opportunity to reserve works for purchase prior to ArtWalk’s formal kickoff on Saturday, Oct. 1. Tickets: $20; $25 at the door.

OAXACA TO VENTURA: THE MURAL Ventura and Harrison Avenues A collaboration of this year’s Global Artist of Distinction Rolando Sigüenza, Artist of Distinction MB Hanrahan and local designer and muralist Uriel Leon, the large-scale Westside mural is now complete, just across the street from the Bell Arts Factory. A formal unveiling and dedication will take place on Friday, Sept. 30, at 6:15 p.m.

VENTURA PLEIN AIR INVITATIONAL “QUICKDRAW” Gallery V, 540 E. Main St. Saturday, Oct. 1, 9-11 a.m. The 17 regional artists who participated in the Ventura Plein Air Invitational in the weeks leading up to ArtWalk will compete in a “Quick-Draw.” Artists have two hours to complete a painting from start to finish on the sidewalk and corners around the gallery, with the public voting for their favorite through Sunday, Oct. 2. The winning artist will be awarded a cash prize.

PODS® CONTAINER GALLERIES Various locations Oct. 1-2 These mini, mobile galleries have become a hallmark of the ArtWalk celebration, and can be found scattered throughout Downtown Ventura and the Westide. Hundreds of local and regional artists and galleries will showcase their work, including (but by no means limited to) Michael O’Kelly, Indigo Art House, Eco Shumaker and Working Artists Ventura.

BOWL HOP Participating restaurants Oct. 1-2 Enjoy the culinary arts at the annual Bowl Hop! Purchase a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bowl made by a local artist during ArtWalk and receive a punch card that allows you to visit participating restaurants for samples of their cuisine. Restaurants may be visited during normal business hours on both Saturday and Sunday. Bowls cost $25 and can be purchased at the Bowl Hop tent at California and Main Streets. Note that food will be served in takeout containers, not the bowl itself. All proceeds benefit ArtWalk Ventura and Project Understanding’s food pantry.

OAXACA TO VENTURA: THE EXHIBITION Bell Arts Factory Oct. 1-28 The Westside art center will showcase the work of several esteemed Oaxacan artists in celebration of Global Artist of Distinction Rolando Sigüenza. Vita Art Center hosts the works of Sigüenza and printmaker Alan Altamirano (aka MK Kabrito), and those of numerous other artists — including painters, sculptors, fiber artists and photographers — will be on display in the Tool Room and Community Galleries. Bell Arts is always a hotbed of activity during ArtWalk, but this very special exhibition will be up for most of October, so there’s plenty of time to catch it.

VENTURA COLLEGE PERFORMANCES California and Santa Clara Streets Saturday, Oct. 1, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Students and faculty from Ventura College (this year’s premier sponsor) present a full day of musical entertainment, including classical, jazz and percussive music, choir and dance. The festivities kick off at 11 a.m. and culminate with a screening of the one-act film Bad Hair at 8:30 p.m. Be sure to check out the Ventura College PODS® Container as well.