December is usually the time when we send our best wishes to our friends and supporters, but this year we are announcing that FLAX will cease its activities after its last Project at the Pompidou Center in June 2020. After a decade and a half of pioneering work to “promote Mutual Understanding Between the Diverse Communities of Southern California and France Through the Arts,” and after much reflection, we have come to this ultimate conclusion. It has been a privilege to serve as FLAX’s Executive Director for the last twelve years and to work with a small but mighty group of committed staff members, a Board of Directors that believes in FLAX’s important vision and mission, and, of course, the many of you who have become part of the FLAX family.
Our individual desires to pursue other endeavors, coupled with the loss of our artist-in-residence house, led Lionel Sauvage, FLAX’s Founding President and patron, as well as I, its Executive Director, to this final decision.
Thanks to the trust and carte blanche the Board has afforded me to develop programs fitting FLAX’s mission of promoting mutual understanding through the Arts, the Foundation has, since its inception in 2006, gradually evolved from initially providing grants to other nonprofits with like-minded goals to initiating and producing over 100 FLAX Projects ranging from exhibitions, performances, and screenings to talks and publications.
With the LOST (in LA) exhibition, curated by Marc-Olivier Wahler, in partnership with Palais de Tokyo and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, FLAX became key in both creating awareness for the French contemporary art scene in Los Angeles and establishing itself as a visionary and leading multi-disciplinary arts organization, with a following both in SoCal and in France.
While we were extremely proud of the recognition we received from our peers, our vision to further develop long-term collaborations between France and Los Angeles-based artists required a different strategy. To wit, in January 2014 the Fahrenheit by FLAX space, and its related residency program, opened under the curatorial direction of Martha Kirszenbaum. Exhibitions and performances, featuring predominantly original works, provided extensive visibility to young artists, curators and writers never presented before in the US. Fahrenheit became a successful and well attended cultural destination. But our commitment to public engagement remained an ultimate goal and motivator.
In 2016 our current Director and Curator Anna Milone took FLAX beyond the Fahrenheit walls by developing FLAX Projects with a mobile, cooperative, and interdisciplinary approach. To introduce our artists-in-residence program to a wide and diversified audience, we produced innovative projects in partnership with Los Angeles, and more recently, Paris-based cultural institutions. Concurrently, the FLAX residency house welcomed over 50 France-based artists, curators, and writers providing them curatorial guidance and advice on how to navigate the LA art scene.
This is where we stand today, and this is when we exit, while we are at the peak of performance. The FLAX years have been the most productive and fulfilling of my professional life, and I hope that you, our audience, have discovered, enjoyed, and benefited from our programming and advocacy on behalf of LA and France-based contemporary artists. Again, I want to express my gratitude for your continued support for the work of FLAX and to the dedicated collaborators, private and public donors, senior advisor Olga Garay-English, and Board founding members Gerald du Manoir and Mark Tinglof, who made our journey a reality.
FLAX Executive Director
Certainly, this season was memorable for FLAX, as I am sure it has been for all of you. Though for our curtain call, we would have wished for something more uplifting than confinement and curfew, we bring FLAX to closure with the knowledge that we accomplished what we originally set out to do.
Our first thoughts are for the victims of the pandemic, the communities affected by longstanding inequalities and racial injustice, for those who are suffering from the consequences of the economic downturn and, of course, for the artistic community which is impacted more than most.
So instead of ending with a Bang, FLAX will close down with a whisper.
Our mission has always been to promote mutual understanding between the diverse communities of Southern California and France. But our work was to serve artists and curators on both continents, and it is time to reflect on how those artists were touched by FLAX, and in turn we were touched by them, since its inception in 2006.
With our residency programs, over 60 artists were invited to present their work and conduct research while interacting with the Southern California art scene. Our cycle of exhibitions, featuring multiple artists such as in Lost (inLA) or Paroxysm of Sublime, thematic such as Pioneers & Entrepreneurs, or simply introducing artists in conversations, screenings or performances, has presented numerous creations and engaged diverse audiences.
True to our philosophy, we have collaborated with dozens of cultural institutions, including MOCA, the Fowler Museum, Grand Performances, Grand Park, LACE, and ICA LA, among others, not to forget most of LA’s art schools—and more recently, with high schools. In today’s climate, we should mention Maybe Some of Us Will Change This, the project conceived by artists duo Brognon-Rollin with the Metropolitan Continuation High School in downtown Los Angeles to raise students’ voices in their community.
To fulfill that mission, we were helped by a committed and generous Board, a great team with Elisabeth Forney, our Executive Director, Anna Milone, our Program Director and Curator, Olga Garay-English, our special advisor and friend, and all the donors who have helped us through these 14 years of French Cultural Exchanges in Los Angeles.
We are grateful for all the relationships built through our work at FLAX, and I know each of us will continue to be involved in the arts in different ways, so this is merely au revoir.
FLAX Co-Founder and President