Categories: Cori Wilbur, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: The Athenaeum Art Center Continues to Promote Compassion and Inspire Artists With New Outreach Program

By Cori Wilbur

November 24, 2020

Christina Schoenthaler prepping her scagliola work
Photo credit: Omar Lopex

The Athenaeum, for it’s stance and stature, is a place of humility and inclusion–much attributed to their Executive Director, Erika Torri, who has been with the institution for over 30 years. A historically women-led organization, the Athenaeum opened their studio space in Logan Heights specifically for women artists in the community. 

Torri avowed her love and appreciation for the people and art of the Logan Heights community. She wanted to do something positive for the people, without coming across as an intruder. 

“Us starting the studio was partly in response to COVID-19 and the quarantine,” said the manager of the studio, Omar Lopex. “In times of great disruption, that’s when a lot of innovation happens.”

The Womxn’s Open Art Studio welcomes artists of any medium and level within the Logan Heights community. Torri noted that Lopex wants to provide an opportunity for artists of the area that he did not have growing up there. 

“With COVID-19, all of the normal factors of being stuck in a crowded house or not having time to yourself are multiplied,” noted Lopex. “People work here; they don’t have a studio space in their house or time off [to practice].”

The studio will be available by appointment, with flexible hours and standard COVID-19 protocols instated. Here, female residents of Logan Heights will have free access to art supplies, guidance and most importantly, space. The latter, Lopex stressed, is paramount, especially when you are just starting out. 

“We’ve got this great space, you can’t have a bunch of people in it at once [due to the pandemic], but you look at the next logical step: this space is great for one person at a time,” said Lopex. “Because we have to limit how many people are in the space at the same time, there is this opportunity to provide the neighborhood with some much needed alone time to create.”

Lopex said opening the women’s art space fits right in with the Athenaeum’s mission statement and seems like the natural progression of what to do. The institution has been historically women driven and women led since its inception in 1899. 

“One of the strengths in having Erika directing the whole thing is that she has a lot of professionalism and heart,” Lopex added. “The collective potential for the people in the area–I know it’s there.”

Out of San Diego’s major institutions, the Athenaeum stands out for its hardworking and charitable staff, as illustrated by the efforts of Torri and Lopex. 

“A great value of the arts isn’t necessarily in just being a great, successful artist and making a ton of money […] but just having it as a part of your life,” said Lopex. “If we can help facilitate that for people, that would be a huge win.”


For information and appointments, please contact Omar Lopex at 619-269-1981 or olopex@ljanthenaeum.org

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