We all know that Long Beach is a city brimming with culture, diversity, history and art galore – whether that comes in the form of newborn contemporary murals downtown or any of the museums that lie within city limits.
So why, oh why is it that we flock to the depths of Los Angeles to marvel at neon spaghetti and oversized chairs when we have so many art-based institutions right in our own backyard? Why do the Museum of Latin American Art, the Long Beach Art Museum, Rancho Los Alamitos and Outer Limits get glossed over on the list of three-day-weekend-must-see-spots?
If you were to estimate the number of art pieces held in Long Beach museums, you’d be able to view 20 new pieces of art each day of the year and still have to get through a few more months to see them all. The histories of a plethora of cultures are preserved in time-accurate spaces across the city, breathing stories from the past into the ears of the future.
But the ears are starting to turn away.
Do we not understand the magnitude of art in Long Beach? Make note of the specific use of “we” here – I was, and still am in part, hypocritically under-informed on what our city has to offer in the museum category, despite a longstanding self-identification as a museum buff.
If you were to read me a list of the handful of museums in the city, I could easily conjure up a visual of the building and intersection that house each and every one. If you asked me how many of those doors I had actually walked through, I would get a lot quieter.
Long Beach is, in myriad ways, a Los Angeles Lite. We’re the second largest city in L.A. County with nearly half a million people counted in a 2013 census, only trailing the city of Angels itself. We have a Cal State University campus with 40,000 students, a city college with scores more, a thriving downtown scene and waterfront views to rival the OC.
We’re the city “La La Land” used as a filming location, with Ryan Gosling taking up shop in The Blind Donkey, but not as an actual setting for the characters. We’re the bronze medalist for pride parades and displays. We’re good – to some, even great – in a lot of areas, but we aren’t the best.
And because of this secondary social status, things Long Beach do damn well get written off quickly, and the museum circuit isn’t protected from that.
So, to my fellow 49ers, I offer you the following challenge: become a tourist in our own city. Take off the rose-colored glasses the global community has shoved on us whenever we look to L.A.
There are, combined, around 2,000 pieces of art on the intersection of Alamitos Avenue and Seventh Street alone, between the MOLAA on one corner and the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum on the other.
To put that number into context, the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles, which opened to critical acclaim in late 2015 and quickly became a clamored-over hot spot, showcases roughly 250 pieces of art at a time.
Giving our city the credit it deserves for curation can expose us all to historically significant, emotionally charged, masterfully crafted, deeply honored, poignantly relevant art that is quite literally sitting around waiting for us to come visit.
Simply downloading the map of murals created in honor of the city’s first POW! WOW! art installation can create an entire day’s worth of adventuring, with Instagram photo ops just as plentiful as colorblocked walls in L.A.
Before the semester ends and the heat of summer gets us all into that California state of mind, honor the roots of the city we all love so much. Let the stories tell themselves and remind everyone that we deserve – Long Beach art deserves – your time and attention.