The Arts Consortium: Making The Arts a Part of Everyday Life

Feb 6, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Lorie Lewis Ham

by Lorie Lewis Ham

As the pandemic continues, the arts community finds creative ways to keep going. Recently we chatted with Ampelio Mejia Perez, the Executive Director of the Arts Consortium in Visalia, about what they have been doing.

KRL: For those not familiar with the Arts Consortium, can you give us a brief description of what the Arts Consortium is and what you do?

Ampelio: The Arts Consortium is Tulare County’s designated arts council. We do as much as we can, ranging from bringing together artists and art supporters to creating opportunities for our community to take part in and celebrate the arts. The Arts Consortium does as much as we can to make the arts a part of our everyday life in Tulare County.

KRL: How long has it been in existence?

Ampelio: The Arts Consortium has existed since 1990, when it was just a collection of artists and organization reps meeting at the Creative Center.

KRL: What sort of things have you been doing during the pandemic?

MVMC participant at a computer

Ampelio: During the pandemic we have continued to provide art training services through our My Voice Media Center (MVMC). The Arts Consortium’s My Voice Media Center is an outreach and advocacy project meant to provide professional art instruction to Tulare County residents who have what is known as “lived experience” with mental illness. This can mean an individual with a mental illness diagnosis or someone who provides support for someone who struggles with mental health issues. Despite reduced capacity and extensive safety precautions, we are looking to expand these services to Tulare County youth during 2021. This program could not survive without our partnership with the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency.

– Online art training sessions Tuesday through Friday
– Computer access for participants without internet access at home
– Take home art kits relevant to our usual art sessions
– Weekly calls to our participants for moral support

Arts Consortium First Friday
– We continued to feature artists during the First Friday of each month, but our shows are now 10-minute videos and they are online.
– We have also offered to promote artists looking to host their own open studio event, with the hopes to increase their potential sales
– We have been able to travel to artists studios, when they prefer, to ensure their safety

Arts Consortium Membership Meeting
– We continue to provide updates to our membership during online videos and conducted our first Virtual Board Members election this past December.
– We accept arts announcements from our members in PDF format and include them in our videos
– We have provided presenters in video format to accompany each of our membership meeting videos. These presenters usually offer career advice or project insight for the rest of our members.

Tulare County CARES COVID Relief Arts Grant
– Regranted more than 12,000.00 to local arts organizations focusing on our local BIPOC community. In partnership with the California Arts Council. These grants will bring about access to art kits and art supplies for youth; Aztec ceremonial artifacts to be employed in traditional performances during community events; Video storytelling focusing on local BIPOC stories; and Art history lectures featuring the art and philosophies of artists from our region.

Tulare County Bridge Projects
– Finalized the art installation of four images in stoneware tile on a Bridge in Springville California. This was in collaboration with the Tulare County Resource Management Agency, Agee Construction, and the artist Antonio Cuellar. The artist received an $8,000.00 budget to complete the work.
– Began a new bridge art tile project, to be installed on the South Fork road in Three Rivers. Artist Nathan Norman will complete these four ceramic mosaic tiles in mid February for their installation on the bridge. Once again, we are collaborating with the Tulare County Resource Management Agency and Agee Construction.
Anyone interested in being considered as an artist for a bridge project can reach out to me at ampelio@artsconsortium[dot]org.
There is a full explanation in our January membership meeting video here:

Tulare County Bridge Projects – the tiles were created by Antonio Cuellar and are now installed on a bridge in Springville CA.

Government Plaza Art Showcase
– The artwork hanging in the Government Plaza lobby has remained there in an extension of our 2019 show. This was in partnership with the Tulare County General Services Agency.

Tulare County Board of Supervisors Chambers art installation
– The selection process has just ended to install new artwork in the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, this art will come down when the building undergoes a slight remodeling. Soon after that, a 4 foot by 24-foot mural will be created on the North Eastern wall. Once again, this was brought about through a partnership with the Tulare County General Services Agency.

Poetry Out Loud
– We have been working with the Tulare County Office of Education to maintain this invaluable program for our local youths. What is usually an in-person spoken word poetry competition will be an online delight in 2021, featuring local high school students reciting poems from a nationally recognized anthology.

Special Programs
– Our fiscal agency program continues to incubate new arts organizations on their way to becoming fully developed arts organizations. We have helped the likes of the Urbanists Collective, the Spanspek Music Festival, the Visalia Opera Company, and the Maldonado Institute for the Arts. We are proud to currently support the efforts of the Chicano Art Heritage Engagement Project, the Tulare County Theatre Boosters, First Saturday in Three Rivers, and the Visalia Visual Chronicle. During Covid, the Chicano Art Heritage Engagement Project has been extremely active and has improvised various ways of delivering great programming to our community.

MVMC work that should be showing at Arts Visalia in their coming show

And we continue to advocate for MORE art in Tulare County!

KRL: Can you tell us more about Virtual First Friday and Spotlight Videos?

Ampelio: Virtual First Friday videos are growing nicely in viewership, but we always encourage our friends to share them farther and wider. First Friday is dedicated to professional artists who have developed new series or new works that they want to show and sell. The Spotlight videos are an effort to show off the art of newer artists who may not have had the opportunity to show their work yet.

KRL: What is Watermark Preview?

Ampelio: Watermark Preview is our effort to show a bit, of what people can expect in our 2020-2021 Watermark Magazine. We have experienced an incredible amount of setbacks in this project and are doing our best to see it through, but we wanted to give a sneak peak, to keep people excited about the publication.

KRL: How can people help the Arts Consortium during this time? Any special needs?

Ampelio: Please consider donating to the Arts Consortium. Become a Member. Share and like out YouTube videos. Tell an artist friend about us. Participate in one of our committees.

KRL: Where can people find you online?


KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Ampelio: We need more feedback and participation from our community so that we may ensure that we are providing what you all want to see.

Check out more local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. Don’t miss the recent article we did about Theatre in the Valley during shelter-in-place.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


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