Master of his domain

At what point does an artist become a “master”?

Paul Lindhard has achieved a quality of work and level of peer recognition during an impressive 40 years of expressing himself through art that more than qualifies him for the title. His achievements as an artist and teacher have created opportunities and inspired more artists in four decades than most leaders and mentors are able to reach in a lifetime, and none of his achievements stand out more than Art City, the artist workspace he founded and operates in downtown Ventura.

“The focus of the current space is providing support and space for alternative creative processes,” Lindhard says. “I’ve tried to get to a situation that is also comfortable for our ever-increasing audience. I don’t know how or why, but Art City stimulates a lot of artists to work hard at their pieces all the time.”

The original Art City came about when Lindhard migrated from Santa Barbara to Ventura. His hobby, recycling, had him salvaging and reusing parts from torn-down buildings; it took him nine trips with a fully loaded semi-truck to bring all the material to Ventura for used in reinforcing the outbuildings on the original property on Peking Street. Functioning as a stone supplier, the property soon filled with artist workshops and became an inspiring place for many artists.

Two fires in 1999 caused Lindhard to move to its current location on Dubbers Avenue.

A public fundraiser put together by Ventura Cultural Affairs Manager Sonia Tower raised enough money to make the new space a reality. Despite the tremendous loss, the tremendous support from the community touched and encouraged Lindhard and the artists to create a new space.

Featured on Huell Howser’s California Gold, the space has attracted a whole new group of people.

“People like to hang out with the rocks,” Lindhard says.

Lindhard received his BFA from UCSB and attended the Masters Program at Penn State. After a stint in Manhattan working as a gallery installer, he returned to the West Coast to teach at Ventura City College for a year and at Santa Barbara City College for seven years.

These days, Lindhard prefers to teach through the ambient nature of the studio environment. An active part of the Artists Union Gallery from its beginning, he has learned what it takes to run a public gallery. He continues to find the process invigorating.

“There are 20 to 30 artists whose work I get to see regularly,” he says. “Sales are tough in Ventura, but sometimes it works. It’s rewarding when it does. It has the power to change lives.”

Originally a vendor for the California Sculpture Symposium, Lindhard will be in Cambria at Camp Ocean Pines to teach a totem carving workshop on April 28 and 29. The symposium is a series of lectures and workshops that attracts attendees from around the world. Lindhard sees it as an “opportunity to use synergy to create more than anyone can as an individual.” The totem is being carved from a stone he donated to the camp. Joanne Duby, Chris Provenzano, G. Ramon Byrnes and Rudy Calderon — all Art City artists — will be leading workshops and working on the totem as well.

Going forward, Lindhard will be creating a large piece for Ventura’s Museum of Art and History. Huge stones he has collected will flank the entry to the new courtyard that is planned as part of the expansion of the museum.

As Ventura continues to nurture and support its local artist community, economics continue to price most artists out. Lindhard commends the new WAVE affordable housing project, and laments that, like his efforts through Art City, only a limited number of artists can be accommodated. As it is with many ventures in the competitive world of art, making the creation of art the focus of his life’s work seems to have been the deciding factor in Lindhard’s ongoing success. n