The College of the Canyons Art Gallery showcases artist Deborah Ascheimm, known for her creations of large scale and immersive projects, and artist Kumasi J. Barnett who is the first African-American male to be showcased at the gallery. These artist’s work focuses on issues such as race and class and the climate of social justice.

In honor of Black History Month, Pamela Lewis, COC Art Gallery director, invited and curated Aschheim and Barnett’s artwork on the COC campus which highlights on racial injustices in the climate of today’s world. Her assistants Vivian Lainfiesta and Diana Rodriguez help accommodate Lewis so that the art is being properly viewed.

“I go to exhibitions around Southern California. I do internet searches,” Pam said. “I try to keep an ear out and work with the network of other curators that have been working with different artists.”

Ascheimm’s artwork in the main gallery at the first level of Mentry Hall contains bodies of work called “Never Facebook” drawings and another project called the “365 Days of Voters.” This exhibition is being showcased from February 8th to March 24th. 

The “Never Facebook ” is a series of drawings of people Aschheim created to capture the history being partaken. As she encountered all these political and social tumult as the rest of society did, she participated in many protests, vigils, voter drives, and mutual aid actions which are shown in forms of drawings from photographs of all the people she met at these events. She continues to make pieces for this project as time progresses which can seen on her website neverfacebook.com. Link it

“365 Days of voters” includes a selection of 25 drawings from the series and is a visual diary of voters that she drew from April 2019 to November 2020 in efforts to encourage more people to register and vote. When Aschheim worked as a Creative Strategist for the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk (RRCC), she used art as an outreach in Los Angeles County and drew people she met at RRCC community events. Homeless Connect and LA Free the Vote resource fairs, in high schools to get the younger generation to pre-register, including voters within a 4000 square mile radius of The LA County trying to represent more voters who are from historically underrepresented communities. 

Barnett’s show, located at the COC Library called “The Amazing Black-Man,” examines the racial inequities and the lack of black representation through the use of comic books. With the use of paint techniques, Barnett modernizes popular comic book covers to depict how black men can be heroes and how these superheroes tackle present day systemic issues including police brutality, racism, and corruption. 

“I love this area for curating because it is working with college students and college is a time of creating and recreating ourselves,” Lewis said. “I feel like contemporary art is a vital part of everyone’s lives and we don’t necessarily get introduced to it and if they don’t come across contemporary art they don’t see it for something to access and college art galleries are a place for that.”

The COC Art Gallery also does a great job at recognizing student artworks too. There are many pieces done by students in the gallery and in the halls next to it. Artwork can be valued by other students as they walk to their classes during passing. There will also be more art in the upcoming months as they are able to submit artwork to the gallery.

“Art is important for students to see because it’s a way of expressing your imagination and ideas,” Rodriguez said. “COC Art Gallery is so important because there aren’t many galleries around this area.” The College of the Canyons art gallery can help students see artwork and grasp on themes visually. It is also a creative outlet for not only students, but for faculty as well to let their creativity linger.

COC students are able to see and admire professional artwork right on campus. Especially for those who are not able to commute to the greater areas of Los Angeles to see many great artists and artworks at galleries or museums, many students and faculty can see professional artwork locally, free of charge. 

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