Like a Boss
As we enter this new year, there have been many changes here at the Gallery. One of the biggest is that the Brea Gallery has a new Director, and we couldn't be more excited.
Heather Bowling has accepted the Director position after just recently celebrating her 5 year anniversary with the Gallery. The BAG blog had an opportunity to ask Heather a few questions (in between her meetings and installing the newest show)...
[Brea Art Gallery] Where are you from and how did you get to Brea, CA?
[Heather Bowling] I am originally from the small town of Staunton, Virginia. Well, technically I was born in Pomona, CA, but my family moved East when I was a year old. After growing up in Virginia and staying in my hometown for college because I was offered a full ride, I decided to move out to California in 2012.
Before moving, I sent out my resume and cover letter to probably 50 galleries and museums in the So Cal area. By chance I got one call back (one!) from the Director of the City of Brea Art Gallery, she was hiring for the entry-level position and wanted to meet me. So I moved to California, got an interview, and have been working here ever since.
[BAG] It was meant to be! What did you study in school?
[HB] I went to a small private school called Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia. When I originally enrolled it was to study Interior Design, but a series of staffing changes made the major unavailable after my freshman year. So I decided to study Printmaking and Photography instead, with minors in Art History and Asian Studies.
[BAG] Who are your art influences? Any mentors that encouraged you to pursue the arts?
[HB] I’ve always been encouraged by the people in my life to pursue the arts, including of course my parents – although my dad wasn’t 100% on board until I sold my first pieces during my thesis show and he realized I could actually make money doing this.
In high school there was Mrs. Herr, my fun, encouraging ceramics teacher who let me try whatever crazy idea popped into my head. In college there was Jim Sconyers, the head of both of my departments, and my adviser while I was a TA, who basically let me live in the studio and would always give me extra photo paper on the sly because I used more than anyone else.
And of course, there is the previous Gallery Director Christina Mercer, who let me follow her around and ask a million questions for five years. I’m so fortunate to have worked with her for all that time, because she helped me realize that this was really what I wanted to do with my life.
[BAG] What’s one goal you would like to achieve this first year at the Gallery?
[HB] I have a lot of aspirations for my first year as Director, like not running the place into the ground (haha). But seriously, if I had to pick just one, I would say that I really want to establish a strong educational tour program with local schools (k-12, as well as college level) and organizations. I believe that introducing students to the arts at any age is a unique opportunity we have here at the City of Brea Art Gallery, and I want that to become a regular part of our programming here.
[BAG] That sounds great, and we know you'll do just fine... Do you have a favorite exhibit from the last 5 years?
[HB] I’m torn between two, either the PaperWorks exhibition in 2013, or the Social Subconscious exhibit in 2016. As a printmaker I am a bit obsessed with paper, so PaperWorks was really fun to work on; finding all of those artists who transform and manipulate paper in different ways to provide an inspiring exhibit for our visitors. I actually loved it so much that I lobbied to bring it back in 2018, so stay tuned for PaperWorks: Refolded this July!
Social Subconscious on the other hand was my baby, so to speak. I first came up with the concept years ago, and seeing it all the way through to the opening was a labor of love. The exhibit focused on social concepts such as homelessness, the drought, and pollution that are a part of our everyday lives yet can be so easy to overlook. The reactions and responses from the visitors of that exhibit were really insightful and powerful.
[BAG] Do you have a favorite piece that you've seen in a gallery or museum?
[HB] Just one favorite? Hmm, I would have to say that my all-time favorite piece was The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson that I saw at the Broad. The installation featured a room filled with nine video projections playing a single recorded piece of music. Kjartansson’s vision brought together a group of musicians, placing each in a different room of a mansion in upstate New York. Each person played a different instrument but they all repeated the same lyrics. The intensive 64 minute piece immerses the viewers, leading to a beautiful, melancholy collective experience. It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.
[BAG] Wow, that sounds pretty amazing. What do you think biggest asset the Gallery provides to the city?
[HB] To put it simply, I think that the Gallery brings beauty to the City of Brea. This space allows people of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of interest to come in and view works of art from artists all over the country, and the world. Because we are not a commercial gallery, we are able to focus on visitors’ art education and appreciation, as well as the promotion of local and up-and-coming artists. It is a really unique and special space for the City to provide to its residents and the art community in general.
[BAG] We absolutely agree. What do you like to do when you’re not at the Gallery?
[HB] In my off time I usually like to have some kind of project to work on to keep me busy. Currently I am redecorating my apartment, but I also like to refinish furniture or try my hand at various DIY projects I see online. I also love reading, going to museums, and, of course, Netflix.
Congratulations, Heather! We can't wait to see what you have planned for the Gallery!
Pictured above are the Gallery Staff:
Ari Foster (left), Heather Bowling (center), and Katie Chidester (right)