June 2, 2016

Introducing: Junior High

Welcome to Los Angeles' Junior High.

Los Angeles, like any other sprawling metropolis, is a city constantly in flux, with new spaces cropping up and shutting down every day (#savethesmell!). Amidst all of the freeway traffic and shiny set backdrops, sometimes Los Angeles struggles to find common ground, a simple space to… hang out. Cue Junior High, a new space cropping up in Hollywood to fill the Central Perk void in your squad’s otherwise sunny Golden state life. Faye Orlove has spent the past four months pouring through paperwork so that you may benefit from a well-curated, welcoming space that Orlove wants you to participate in, not just visit.

Orlove has an infectious effervescence, a genuine positivity that makes you want to throw yourself in the ring along with her. Her thoughtful honesty makes her an even better helping hand: she’s not full of stock platitudes and lines from motivational posters. In a city coated with glossy golden-hour sheen, she’s refreshingly real. She knows the struggle, but she knows how to push through it (in true Virgo fashion). But she doesn’t stop there – she wants to encourage you to live your truth too, providing a space (with WiFi!) to help you start your own project.

Junior High aims to bring us all in the same space: young, old, famous, new in town… Orlove wants the space to belong to all of us. In a town ripe with celebrity sightings and tangible separations between zip codes, Orlove wants Junior High to be a meeting ground, a place for interaction and collaboration, a space for artist and viewer, questions and conversation.

TLS: Are you animating now?

FO: Yeah, I’m working on a video right now for Lisa Prank. I don’t have as much time now for my own stuff but I also do freelance stuff for Giphy, which is a fun thing forcing me to keep drawing. It’s been crazy this month getting this place started, I feel like I’ll be in more of a routine come June.

TLS: What got you started with Junior High, and when did you start?

FO: So I started last year around Christmas because I was doing my taxes and I had a fortuitous year doing freelance animation. I did work for Google and Pepsi and they both paid me really well so I had this chunk of money. I was thinking of everything I could do with this money, I can either travel, save it, have a kid, or I could just start this venue I’ve always wanted to have. The more people I was telling about it, the more people were like “oh my god you should do that!” Everyone was so supportive and my friends in New York were like, “how can we help?” I went to Israel that winter and met a ton of new people, [all of them encouraged me to open a venue.] So when I got back from Israel, I was like, I guess I’m doing this. I quit a job I hated and started the Kickstarter. There was a lot before that, I was looking at retail spaces, I was figuring out finances, I was figuring out how to form a nonprofit, I was figuring out who could help me, I was reaching out to all of the artists I know. There was a month of logistical stuff probably in January, and then I launched [the kickstarter] in March.

TLS: So of this year, or last year?

FO: This year. Yeah, I work really quickly. I have terrible anxiety so if I sit still, the world caves in. It’s a blessing and a curse. I have to be moving for my own sanity but it’s like… slow down sometimes. In February I made the video and launched the Kickstarter, threw a fundraiser, meanwhile I was finding the space, dealing with realtors, dealing with the lease, forming a nonprofit, getting tax exemption... that part was so scary because like, what experience do I have doing that? None. I just, did it all. I bought “How To Start a Nonprofit For Dummies” basically, and I read every word, 300 pages of it. Most of it was useless, but it tells you what forms to fill out and how to form your committee or whatever. There just wasn’t anyone I could ask for help it was really scary. It still is because I’m like… did I do this right? I just did it all, and maybe I did it right. Tax exemption was really important to me because once you get tax exemption, the donations that people make, they can write them off because it’s for charity. So that was important for me.

TLS: What’s your elevator speech for Junior High?

FO: The elevator speech is a really good thing to have, but what I’ve been having is the Grandparent Speech, which is trying to explain to my grandparents why I’m doing this, my like Jewish conservative grandparents why I’m losing all of my life savings on a community art space. So what I’ve been attempting to tell them is that I only feel like I am succeeding if my community is succeeding and if where I live feels like a safe community. I can have money or success with my own art, but it’s not gonna feel as good if I can’t share that or if I can’t help other people get that. It’s more important to me to be a part of a community of artists than to succeed in a bubble. But, my family’s been really supportive. My sister is 13 and ever since she was born, I haven’t made a decision without thinking about how she’s going to perceive it, as a teenager. It is important to show her that there are different routes you can take in life. There is a trajectory that you think you have to take, but then, you don’t really have to. You don’t have to go to college, and then get a job right out of college and, do that for the rest of your life. You don’t have to decide what you want to do when you’re seventeen.

TLS: For people who don’t live in LA, how do you feel about LA and community? How do you see Junior High combatting some of those issues?

FO: I have cultivated a life for myself in this city that meets my needs, which I don’t think a lot of people realize you can do. I tell my friends, “move to LA” and they say “I don’t want to drive” & I’m like, “you don’t have to drive! I don’t drive!” I take the metro everywhere too, the metro here is great, I take the bus, but I think that’s the hard thing about this city. When I was in Boston I would just sit on my stoop and one of my friends would walk by and I would say, “hey do you want to come inside for dinner?” You don’t do that here, you don’t just bump into people because no one’s walking. It’s kind of funny. I love meeting new people and I’m fairly outgoing, but I definitely notice that there aren’t places to hang out.

TLS: I think that’s the biggest challenge, especially as an adult.

FO: There isn’t like a neighborhood place, [like on sitcoms.] I want a place where people can just come in and sit, bring a computer, get coffee. That’s why I feel community spaces are so important in Los Angeles because there just aren’t avenues to bump into people. I want this to be a place where you’ll see someone you know when you’re in here. Kind of like The Smell.

TLS: Speaking of which…

FO: I know. I’m devastated [that The Smell may be closing]. I just saw a tweet that terrified me to my core, which was someone tweeted at Junior High, a very nice tweet but, “with the depressing news about The Smell, looking forward to junior high’s opening a new space for creative community” I did not want The Smell gone. That’s not the point of this, to replace anything.

TLS: Are you trying to do a lot of music here too?

FO: Not really. I think people are so used to going out for music, so that’s a lot of what I’ve been approached about, but that was never really my intention. I wanted to create a community that’s more focused on visual art and digital art. There’s definitely going to be music here but I want it to have more of an artistic meaning. I don’t want to just book 4 band punk shows. I don’t want to be The Smell except in that it’s all ages and $5. But, we do have some music coming up. It’s usually quieter or more electronic, more intimate or acoustic. There might be a Q&A with it or we’ll film it, something that makes it a little more special.

TLS: I’ve been thinking about art openings and how to tackle them… Like people who don’t know each other coming into a space, bumping into one another, some staring at art but also… “what am I doing here” and the weird anxiety that can come along with that. How do you think we can better tackle the art opening?

FO: I’m hoping with shows I put on at Junior High, there’s going to be a more interactive component to it, where artists will talk about why they made something, how they made it, how it affected them, the point of art. I know the point is to feel it for yourself, it’ll affect me in a way that the artist totally never intended. But mostly I just want to ask, “how did you take this photo? How did you get the light like that? Why did you go here?” I really want more of that.

TLS: There’s a duality of the mystique of art, which is that it’s sometimes intriguing but sometimes you can’t even access it.

FO: Yeah, like why are you making art if you don’t want anyone to access it, if you don’t want other people to experience it?

I think art is for people to connect, to relate experiences. I’m not that eloquent, I’m not a writer, I can’t go through something and express it in conventional ways. I want to draw something or create a mood. I think everyone connects to experiences in different ways. Art is made to unify people who are so different but have felt the same thing. I love going to museums but I don’t like interacting with art in a way that is so sterile and inaccessible. I think it’s also important to remember, like when you go to [music] shows, someone can love a band and you can hate them. Art is similar. You don’t have to like everything that you see. It doesn’t have to affect you. But I also still love hearing a musician tell me why they wrote a song. I went to film school and I only had one teacher who ever tried to help us learn to think. He was like, “what do you want to film?” It was an experimental film course, but it was huge for me, it was my senior year so I’d spent 4 years prior filming absolute garbage. I didn’t hate it when I made it, but it wasn’t until my last year that I was like, I don’t care about this stuff. I care about pop culture. I care about the fucking Kardashians and what Miley Cyrus is wearing. Even though those aren’t the things you’re supposed to make art about, it took me so long to realize that’s just what I’m going to make art about because that’s what matters to me. I can be trite, it doesn’t matter, that’s okay because the best art I’ve made is the stuff I care about. It’s not the stuff I’ve tried to mimic: what a movie is, what a short film is. I feel like so much of art school doesn’t teach you to look inside you, what do you want to make. That should be more of a focus in school. Media history classes shouldn’t be just watching old movies, there should be context. No one teaches you how to think, so you think your thoughts are not normal, the things you’re thinking are not what other people think. But then you talk to people you make art, & you’re like “oh my god you think about that too, you think about how death is creeping up on you, oh my god! You think you’re a complete fraud too?” How helpful would that be if you’re a teenager and you realize you’re not the only one who thought that way.

TLS: I wish I had that realization ten years ago.

FO: Dude I know! That affects me a lot because I had a rough time as a teenager, I was pretty depressed. If I knew that one other person felt that way, it would’ve been life-changing. But you see everyone looking happy posting photos and you’re like, wow I guess I’m the only one with this internal sadness.

TLS: You’re doing an all-ages space. Did you have a space to hang out when you were a teenager that informed this space? Or is it, you want to create what you didn’t have?

FO: I think it’s more the latter. As a teen, I lived in the suburbs. Our hangout place was my friend Rachel’s basement. I mean, I wouldn’t change that for the world; that was great.

I was organizing a Rookie mag meet-up like three years ago in Boston, when Rookie had just started. I met these amazing high schoolers living in Boston, so they were already leaps and bounds smarter than I was when I was fourteen. Particularly Klara and Liana are two of the girls who I connected with and Klara now has started her own publication called OK Mag that’s an art magazine she does with friends in her high school. She has single-handedly started a campaign to get more computers at local Boston schools and she organized a march out of her high school to protest the dress code and sexual harassment that wasn’t being taken seriously. She’s fifteen. Liana is putting out her first tape. She plays music, she’s on a little East Coast tour… Holy shit. If kids are given a space, they’ll thrive. I just think talking to kids like they’re kids isn’t helping anyone. I’ve been so inspired by my sister and these cool teens that I know. So many cool teens have reached out and asked, “how can I help?” You’re 15 and you want to spend your weekends coming in here and helping me clean. That’s fucking cool! These are kids that want to spend their free time in a community space learning about what it takes to start a business and pursue art as a career. It’s just inspiring. All ages is important, it goes both ways, older folks too. I want to offer courses to help older folks figure out how to make movies or use Photoshop, use an iPhone, whatever. There’s so much art centered around this one age group and it shouldn’t be that way.

The shop and gallery are open Thursday-Sunday from 10am-5pm, with workshops every Sunday. There is wifi and a projector – come chill!

“Smash That Like” opens June 3 at 7 pm featuring the work of Caroline Goldfarb. 

Check out Junior High on their website. 

Carrie Heckel is an indecisive art fanatic who spends their time with a gluttonous siamese cat, collecting shitty tattoos, and dreaming of somehow slipping into Kesha's posse. Tweet at them @emojorts.