New Exhibit Captures Latinos’ Timeless Spirit

September 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles City Hall plays a supportive role in a exhibit of Rick Ortega’s art opening this weekend at the ChimMaya Gallery in East Los Angeles.

It’s a fitting inclusion given that L.A. City Hall on Friday will play host as it has for decades to “El Grito,” a festive commemoration on the eve of Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16. It should be noted, that “El Grito” has been expanded over the years to include the independence days of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador & Chile, and the month long observance of Latino Heritage Month.

With Latino Heritage month set to start on Sept. 15, the opening of two new exhibitions marking the 12th anniversary of ChimMaya – a gallery its owner says was established to support and highlight emerging Latino artists – is a visual reminder of Los Angeles’ deep Latino roots and culture.

Artist Rick Ortega says his art (pictured) is a reflection of modern day Latinos that still carry “the spirit” of past generations. His new exhibition, “Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless,” opens Sunday in East Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy ChimMaya Gallery)

Artist Rick Ortega says his art (pictured) is a reflection of modern day Latinos that still carry “the spirit” of past generations. His new exhibition, “Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless,” opens Sunday in East Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy ChimMaya Gallery)

Located on Beverly Boulevard near the border of East L.A. and Montebello, ChimMaya’s unpretentious exterior belies the Latino cultural beauty found in its four separate gallery spaces, showcasing Latino art, jewelry and classic furniture.

ChimMaya owner Steve Acevedo told EGP that he never intended to own an art gallery, but after opening his handbag and jewelry store, his customers started telling him about friends and relatives who were great artists, encouraging him to bring their works into his store.

“Once I decided to showcase artists work it became about connecting with the community and showcasing predominantly Latino art,” Acevedo said.

On Sunday, ChimMaya will hold an opening reception for two new shows at the gallery, one is a group show, the other highlights artist Rick Ortega who is returning to the gallery after a 7-year absence.

In an interview with EGP, Ortega recalled being a young artist in search of a place to show his work and ChimMaya opening its doors to him.

Rick (Ortega) was rejected by a number of galleries on the Westside, recalled Acevedo, telling EGP that those galleries wanted Ortega to change the subjects in his work.

“It’s crazy,” Acevedo said. “How do you tell someone to change what they see?” he said incredulous. Rick, he pointed out,  “doesn’t put anything in his work that doesn’t have significance.”

Ortega’s new exhibit is titled “Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless.” The artist said the exhibit has special meaning to him, capturing “a time in his life when he stepped away from his art while searching for inner peace.”

“Life takes you through some rough patches,” Ortega said. “When you come out of this darkness, this depression, you realize that life is good.”

According to Ortega, he had to transform his negative energy into something positive in order to be able to once again create art.

His work is a reflection of modern day Latinos that still carry “the spirit” of past generations, explains Ortega about the pieces included in the exhibition.

“Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless” opens Sunday at ChimMaya Gallery in East Los Angeles

“Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless” opens Sunday at ChimMaya Gallery in East Los Angeles

The artist describes his latest exhibit as a weapon against the Trump administration, and at the same time “a weapon of hope” that puts to rest misconceptions spoken by President Trump.

“No matter what politicians” say, one always has a voice and “mine is art,” Ortega said, adding that art has the ability to lift one’s spirit.

With this exhibit, “I’m showing the world who Latinos and Chicanos really are and what they stand for,” he told EGP, calling it an honor to be showcased at ChimMaya.

While the month-long celebration of Latino history is important, Ortega points out that Latinos celebrate all the time.

“We are always celebrating, through art, music and poetry,” he observed. “I’m just glad to be part of the movement of artists that continue to keep Latino history alive.”

Echoing Ortega, Acevedo said his gallery is a place where you can celebrate Latino heritage every day.

“It’s nice that Latino history is being recognized, but a month is just that, a month,” Acevedo said.

Quoting a famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come,” Acevedo told EGP that ChimMaya has become a safe haven for artists and the surrounding community.

“We have artists that capture the beauty of our community,” he said. “And ChimMaya is that place close to home to come and view that beauty.”

The opening reception for ChimMaya’s new exhibitions will take place on Sunday, Sept.17 from 4-7p.m. The gallery is located at 5282 E. Beverly Blvd., L.A. 90022.

For Many, This 4th of July Was Akin to a War Zone

July 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Did you feel like you were living in a war zone this 4th of July?

If so, you were not alone.

The loud thunderous blast from fireworks —most presumably illegal — rocked Angelenos from every direction.

EGP has heard from many residents that they were forced to endure the incessant sound of exploding fireworks for hours on end. The intensity and number of blasts this year from M80 rockets and other powerful fireworks far exceeded what many considered normal for the neighborhoods.

On street after street, fireworks that rivaled the red, green, blue and white flaming lights of sponsored and organized displays filled the night sky.

But these were not professionals trained in handling the dangerous explosives putting on a show, but amateur thrill seekers who thought nothing of putting their lives and those of their family, friends and neighbors in danger.

The explosions were so powerful and numerous they set off car alarms, made windows shake and drove both pets and their owners unable to find refuge into panic.

Where were the police patrols looking for the barrage of illegal fireworks? Residents tell us they weren’t in their neighborhoods.

Were they all busy guarding the big shows, potential terrorist soft targets?

Whatever the answer, it seems Angelenos across the county were left to their own devices to deal with what we are tempted to call a terrorist attack at home to get the issue the attention it deserves.

The numbers of injuries and size of the seizures of illegal fireworks is alarming, but clearly, far more illegal and dangerous fireworks made it into the hands of consumers than was confiscated by law enforcement.

The 4th of July has come and gone yet in many neighborhoods the loud blasts continue. The illegal use of fireworks — and we’re not talking about the so-called safe ‘n sane variety — is getting bigger every year.  It also appears that our law enforcement agencies are less and less able to control the lawbreakers.

There does not seem to be any real concerted effort to stave off the mayhem that comes with illegal use of pyrotechnics. Why not?

How can we expect our law enforcement agencies to protect us against terrorism when they can’t even stem the overt and blatant sale of illegal fireworks that can also be used for malicious purposes?

We understand that most people see fireworks as a great American holiday tradition and loathe the idea of not being able to engage in the activity with family and friends. But the fireworks that once were suitable for backyards and driveways have morphed into something much more dangerous.

If the lawless Fourth of Julys continue, we fear it’s only a matter of time before the scofflaws feel they can continue to skirt the law whenever they please, putting us all in  more danger.

U.S. Flags Retired In Vernon Ceremony

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

There were hundreds of them: U.S. flags battered by years of exposure to sun and pollution, a far cry from the vibrant red, white and blue of their “Old Glory” days.

Last week, the Vernon Chamber of Commerce hosted a ceremony to retire faded and torn flags they had collected from area businesses and the homes of individuals that were in danger of being discarded in trash bins, a disrespectful end to the best-known symbol of U.S. independence, the red, white and blue American flag.

Lea este artículo en Español: Boy Scouts de Vernon Retiran Banderas Estadounidenses

This Saturday, people all across the country will display the flag as part of their Fourth of July celebration. Many will have no clue that there’s an etiquette that goes with flying and caring for Old Glory and for disposing of the flag when it falls into disrepair.

Boy Scout Troop 419 led last Thursday’s flag ceremony at Vernon Fire Station 1. The troop is located in Vernon but none of its members actually live in the city. Some of the younger Cub Scouts attend Vernon Elementary; most live in the bordering cities of Cudahy, Maywood and Huntington Park. They meet at the Vernon Fire Station.

Members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 419 held a special flag retirement ceremony June 25 at Vernon Fire Station 1. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 419 held a special flag retirement ceremony June 25 at Vernon Fire Station 1. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

For 12-year old Boy Scout Andres Soto, expressing what he feels when he sees the U.S. flag does not come easy, he just knows he’s proud of the country he calls home and grateful to all the servicemen and women who fought, and are still fighting, to keep the country safe.

“A lot of people think ‘it’s just a flag,’ that could just be thrown away, but it should be respected,” Soto said. “We’ve had to do a lot to get our flag, it represents years of fighting and the laws and changes we have had from then to now,” the scout said.

According to the United States Flag Code, worn, torn and faded flags should not be flown but retired with dignity, preferably by burning. There are organizations across the country, such as The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Boy Scouts of America that understand how to properly retire a flag, and many chapters hold retirement ceremonies on Flag Day or military holidays.

Mary Fremd worked at Exide Technologies for 56 years before the plant’s closure in the spring. She returned to Vernon last week with several flags no longer in good condition. “Everyone will be waving their flags this week,” said Fremd, “it’s the perfect time to retire an old flag and make room for a new one.”

Fremd said she could not stand seeing “the flags in a ratty state.”

Boy Scout Connor Esquivel, 11, was charged with starting the fire where the remnants of red, white and blue would eventually go up in flames. He said the flag reminds him that America is a free country. “The flag flies over the best nation,” he said excitedly.

Flag retirement ceremonies are usually steeped in tradition and formality and Vernon’s ceremony was no exception. The flags were displayed to the audience of police, firefighters, city officials and others. The history behind the national symbol – the star spangled banner – was explained before the flags were cut into pieces and placed into the fiery pit.

Alex Duran has worked in Vernon for 25 years and says the flag’s symbolism holds special meaning for him: “I love the fact that white stands for purity, blue stands for valor and red stands for all the blood shed by those who have served their country,” Duran said. “I’m reminded how blessed I am.”

“When I see the flag I think of a Marine,” said Fremd, who volunteers at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.

Vernon Mayor W. Michael McCormick is the troop’s scoutmaster. He told EGP most people don’t realize there’s a proper way to dispose of a flag and recommended that residents contact their city, local boy scouts or veteran’s group when they have a flag that is no longer in good shape.

A ceremony like this is befitting of an industrial city like Vernon, said Marisa Olguin, president and CEO of the Vernon Chamber. “Many of the 30,000 businesses in Vernon fly the U.S. flag,” she esplained. “It shows our strong civic pride.”

For Vernon Firefighter Jason Rosa, a former Navy officer, it means so much more.

“When you think of what the flag symbolizes, all the people that have died for the flag, the least we can do is retire it with respect.”

The Vernon Chamber is selling new flags and proceeds will go towards the Vernon-area Boy Scout Troop 419. For information, call (323) 583-3313.

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Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

Fireworks Raise Risk of Brush Fires and ER Trips

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Dangerously dry hillsides from years of little rain has fire officials across the state worried that fireworks could spark a new round of wildfires, putting people, animals and structures in danger.

Serious injuries and millions of dollars in property loss happen each year from wildfires sparked by fireworks, warned CAL FIRE, a state agency.

“This year’s extreme drought poses a particular threat for devastating wildfires throughout all of California,” the agency said, adding there is “zero tolerance” across California “for the sale and use of illegal fireworks.” including “sky rockets, bottle rockets, roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers and other types that explode, go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner.”

In 2014, CAL FIRE responded to 1,000 more wildfires than in an average year and the trend for 2015 appears to be continuing if not surpassing that number, according to the agency.

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Fines for illegally selling, transporting or using fireworks that don’t carry the “Safe and Sane” seal can be as high as $50,000, Cal Fire warned.

It’s not just the forest and outlying areas that are at risk; extremely dry brush on local hillsides also poses a high fire danger to residents across the county.

Fireworks also often correlate with an increase in hospital emergency room visits, according to physicians who urged the public to use common sense this Fourth of July when it comes to using fireworks.

“We see many injuries in the ER due to fireworks around the 4th of July,” said Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “Many of those ER visits are initiated with the line ‘hey watch this!’”

Eight people died and more than 11,000 people were injured due to fireworks in 2013, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC). Those figures have significantly increased over the years. Sixty-five percent of those injuries occurred in the days surrounding Fourth of July festivities.

It’s estimated that nearly half of all injuries were a result of sparklers and rockets. Over 45 percent of cases involved injuries to a person’s hands or fingers. One-third of injuries were to a person’s eyes, head, face and ears, according to CPSC.

ACEP strongly suggests that instead of discharging fireworks at home, patriotic individuals should leave it to the professionals:

“You should only watch a professional fireworks display managed by experts who have proper training and experience handling these explosives,” said Dr. Gerardi.

If you do, however, decide to use fireworks at home, these do’s and don’ts could help make it a safer experience:

Do — Have knowledgeable supervision by an experienced adult

Do — Buy fireworks from reputable dealers

Do — Read warning labels and follow all instructions

Do — Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher on hand

Do — Light fireworks one at a time

Do — Dispose of all fireworks properly

Don’t — Give any fireworks, including sparklers, to small children; older children should be supervised by a responsible adult

Don’t —Light fireworks indoors or near other objects

Don’t — Place your body over a fireworks device when trying to light the fuse

Don’t — Point or throw fireworks at another person, ever

Don’t — Try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully

Don’t — Wear loose clothing while using any fireworks

Don’t — Set off fireworks in glass or metal containers (the fragments can cause severe injury)

Don’t — Carry fireworks in a pocket.

Don’t — Try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks

 

 

Los Angeles County cities that permit the sale and use of state-approved fireworks:

Alhambra, Artesia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Carson, Commerce, Compton, Cudahy, Downey, Duarte, El Monte, Gardena, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Huntington Park, Industry, Inglewood, Irwindale, La  Mirada, La Puente, Lakewood, Lawndale, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, Monterey Park, Norwalk, Palmdale, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, Santa Fe Springs, South El Monte, South Gate, Temple City, Vernon

 

Local Restrictions:

City of Los Angeles: Prohibits the selling and using of all fireworks, even those with the so-called “Safe and Sane” label.

Vernon: Fireworks may be sold within the city but the use of fireworks in the city is prohibited.

Bell Gardens: Fireworks may be discharged within the city beginning noon on June 28 until noon on July 5.

Commerce: Fireworks may be discharged within the city beginning noon on June 28 until midnight on July 5.

Montebello: Fireworks shall only be discharged within the city boundaries on July 4 between noon and 10 p.m.

Monterey Park: Fireworks may be discharged on July 4 between 10a.m. and 10 p.m.

 

 

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