Athenaeum Art Center Gallery


Alanna Airitam: How to Make a Country

ART EXHIBITION at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights (Main Gallery)

March 17–May 9, 2020

Opening Reception—CANCELLED: Saturday, March 14, 6-8 PM


Alanna Airitam was born in Queens, New York, and started her career as a photographer in San Diego. Her experience as a black woman working in the corporate advertising industry opened her eyes to the various ways women and people of color were kept silent and out of places that mattered. Airitam saw the need for better and more positive representation of people of color, and this pushed her to create a platform that allowed marginalized people to be seen and heard. Her work often centers on identity and representation, and it proposes an investigation into the concept of wholeness. She uses her portraits to showcase what she believes to be true while challenging stereotypes. 


Airitam’s images have been published in a variety of national and international media outlets such as Chicago Tribune, BBC News, VICE!, The Huck, Lenscratch, Range Finder, Feature Shoot, and the San Diego Tribune, among many others. Airitam has exhibited at Quint Gallery in San Diego, Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, San Diego Art Institute, Art Miami, and Candela Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. An award-winning short film From Haarlem to Harlem about Airitam’s body of work The Golden Age has been screened at various film festivals around the United States.



Interview with Alanna Airitam

Interview by Lidia Rossner


Alanna Airitam shares reflections on her exhibit at the Athenaeum Art Center. Titled HOW TO MAKE A COUNTRY, the exhibit was installed at the beginning of March, however the opening was cancelled. We hope that you will get to see it in person one day, but for now, we are grateful to have Alanna's insightful and inspiring responses below! Please browse the images of the artwork and Alana working in her studio and workshop.


What does it mean to you to have an exhibition at the Athenaeum Art Center?


Before I lived in San Diego, I would drive down from LA to visit and getting to spend time at the Athenaeum was always a highlight. I appreciate the Athenaeum’s dedication to community and the outreach to bring the arts to San Diego communities. As an artist it is important to me that art is accessible to everyone. Reaching out and inviting all communities to participate in creating culture is incredibly needed –especially now. It means a lot to me to have an exhibition at the Athenaeum because of these things. I know the people who walk through those doors are interested in learning. They are interested in art and thought. The Athenaeum encourages this. And it feels good to work with a group with similar values to my own.


Since people can’t see the exhibition now, how would you describe it? What is it about?


I was so excited about this exhibition. Daniela asked me about hanging the work and what order in which to place the pieces. I was excited to share the story that is unfolding with each series of work that I’m making. It starts with a few pieces from Crossroads. Crossroads is about turning away from what we are facing and looking to new directions for something new. It’s about hope or opening up new avenues. In a way, it is an act of defiance in the face of the choices we’ve been given. I see it as hopeful and necessary. Then the exhibition transitions into the two new pieces, Take a Look Inside and How to Make a Country. This work is about remembering who we are, where we’ve come from, and the contributions we’ve made to this country. This series is new and ongoing. These are the first two in this series with more to come. The exhibition then goes into The Golden Age which is all about the realization of self – acknowledging the beauty, power, and magnificence we carry within us and allowing it to come out. It’s about reclaiming our power and abundance and sharing that outwardly for the world to see so there is no denial of our belonging and worth.


Walk us though your process of developing the idea, researching, deciding what materials to use, what size to make the works, and other considerations that were important for you.


The process is a very organic one. A lot of artists I speak to talk about their ideas being very connected to their thoughts. They think of an idea and then go through the process of laying it out in their heads. I wish I could work like that. I actually have to work in the exact opposite way which is frustrating sometimes because I don’t have much control over how things happen. My ideas come in through emotional inputs. I have certain things that I am really hung up on, for example, more than anything in the world, I want people to understand they are more powerful than they think (or more than we have been told to believe). I believe if individually we can see what we are capable of, then collectively we can bring about great change. This belief is oversimplified a bit, but I’m pretty obsessed with this idea and a lot of my work revolves around that. I feel compelled to counter the messages we get that are so negative and awful. It’s a hard thing to have to overcome as a child figuring out the world doesn’t like you in it. This is a very challenging thing to overcome and requires the knowledge and understanding those are just stories fabricated by people whose interests to keep us down are purely economic. So, my ideas stem from the emotions I experience around this. Sometimes I feel defiant and want to take action. Sometimes I just want to hold up a mirror and remind people the lies they hear in the media about us are not true. Images will come to mind. Sometimes they come fast and I’m scared of losing them. Other times, an image will come in slowly and reveal itself as I work on it. But no matter what, I need to try to keep my brain out of that part of the process. My job is to feel into what is being given to me and create it, flow with it. I’m more like a co-pilot. Deciding on materials is more where I get to experiment. I try to choose materials that I’m excited about using and that help to tell the story. Recently, I’ve been welding my own steel frames and working with resin. I’m also really excited about the new process of varnishing The Golden Age prints. It adds such a beautiful texture and depth to these prints. It makes them look more painterly too. I’m always experimenting with new materials and ways to share these stories. As far as sizing goes, I originally started printing in a size no smaller than 24x36. I choose that size because I was able to make the size of the portraits similar to the size of a real human head so when you are looking at these portraits, you’re looking at them eye to eye. For some people, it’s the first time they’ve every stared into the eyes of a Black man like that. And I wanted that to have an impact that feels as close to reality as possible. I still prefer that size for a lot of my work because it just looks good on a wall. But I also have work that is as around 14x20 and work that goes up to 40x40. It all depends on the story being told and if the work lends itself to that size. I let the work determine the size. 


Is this new work or continuation of series that you’ve been working on?


How to Make a County and Take a Look Inside are two pieces in a new series. I’m so eager to get back to it but the shelter in place has made it difficult for shooting right now. I have two new photos for this series, but I still need to find sitters for them so it’s on hold for now.


Tell us a bit about your background and how it shaped or influenced you as an artist?


I grew up with three brothers and a father who was an artist. Being the only girl, I had to make my own fun. I would sit for hours watching my father draw and paint. And then I’d go back to my room and spend even more hours creating people. I’d draw them, cut them out, give them names and backstories. I would also make people out of walnut shells or other found objects. But they were never people I knew in real life, yet they all had their own stories and lives. Looking back at it now, it seems weird. But it kept me occupied and I would get lost in those worlds. It wasn’t until I started using photography as a medium that I realized I had a fixation with people’s faces. I loved photography as a medium, but it bothered me that what I loved photographing the most was people. What would I do with a hard drive full of people’s faces? It almost seemed like a curse. But it was the utter frustration I felt for how people are treated in this country that pushed those two parts of me together and then it made so much sense. I feel less frustrated when I’m able to have a voice and express myself and what better way to do that than through holding up a mirror so people can see who they really are. They can then drop all the false narratives and lies we hear all of the time. And it’s not just for other people. It’s for me too. I need those reminders myself. No human is immune to hatred.


How are you affected by Covid-19?


Ok, I’m going to work this out here so bear with me. The first couple of weeks were novelty. I was disappointed that exhibitions, lectures, and studio visits were being postponed but I assumed we’d set new dates and get back to normal in not that much time. Going into the third and fourth week, those postponements turned to cancelations with no end in sight. The weird dreams started creeping in and a lot more pacing around the studio. It’s been harder to get materials I need to make work and I can’t photograph people in my studio. A new project I have been planning to work on in North Carolina has been put on hold until we can travel again. This was a project that is very, very close to my heart and important for my family. So, I am currently mending a broken heart over this and working out what’s next and what to do with all my creative energy right now. I have a bunch of test prints I’m playing around with so maybe something cool will come out of them. I’ve been doing some virtual studio visits and lighting demos over Zoom. But honestly, I’m feeling a lot of excitement bubbling under the surface because there’s a lot of emotions swirling right now and a lot of space to create work. And I can feel it coming. I just need to have patience and allow it to work its way through. Other than that, I’m taking it day by day just like everyone else. I hope we all stay safe and healthy through all of this.






Lori Mitchell: 10 Women

ART EXHIBITION at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights (inBetween Gallery)

March 17–26, 2020

Opening Reception: Saturday, March 14, 6-8 PM


Lori Mitchell, a California native, has been drawing ever since she could hold a crayon. She graduated with honors and a BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Lori wrote and illustrated the award-winning children’s book “Different Just Like Me”, for which she appeared on Oprah and the Today show. She has illustrated numerous other books, including “Bal Yoga for Kids”, which won a San Diego Book Award.


Lori’s work has been exhibited at the Cannon Art Gallery in Carlsbad, the California Center for the Arts Museum in Escondido, Art Walk San Diego, The Boehm Gallery in San Marcos, and the La Jolla Athenaeum.


Lori loves to travel and sketch and has taken students on sketching tours to France and the Netherlands. She taught Drawing and Composition at Palomar College for 14 years and currently teachers “Pen & Ink and Watercolor” at the Athenaeum.


Collection of Works by Students of Katie Ruiz

ART EXHIBITION at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights (Schhol of the Arts Gallery)

March 17–26, 2020

Opening Reception: Saturday, March 14, 6-8 PM


Althea Brimm and Kirsten Francis: Collages of Brilliant Moments

ART EXHIBITION at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights (Print Studio Gallery)

March 17–26, 2020

Opening Reception: Saturday, March 14, 6-8 PM


Althea Brimm
Born in Los Angeles, grew up in Flintridge,
outside of Pasadena.  Began doing art
age 5 at a homemade easel.
Graduated from the University of Rochester,
Art History major.

I find beauty in worm-eaten pages and stained 
fragments that have the spirits of former owners
and other uses preserved in them.  Making something
from nothing is endlessly fascinating.

When my grandson was about 4, he was asked
‘What does your grandmother do?’    His answer
'She tears up little pieces of paper.' 


Kirsten Francis is a mixed media artist living in Encinitas, CA. She received a BFA in Printmaking from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland OR and was a printmaker for many years. Francis creates colorful and intricate collages using a combination of found images and her own drawings. Working with images cut from magazines and books, Francis explores her experience of today’s suburban American culture. Her collage and mixed media art have been featured in solo and juried exhibitions throughout Southern California. She also creates collages for branding and corporate commissions and teaches collage workshops.


Hilary Brady

ART EXHIBITION at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights (inBetween Gallery)

April 14–30, 2020

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 11, 6-8 PM


Collection of Works by Students of Sibyl Rubotttom

ART EXHIBITION at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights (School of the Arts Gallery)

April 14–30, 2020

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 11, 6-8 PM


Barrio Art Crawl

Every second Saturday of the month, 6–8 PM

March 14, April 11, May 9, June 13, 2020

Athenaeum Art Center (AAC)


Join us for the Barrio Art Crawl, a self-guided art tour throughout the Athenaeum Art Center and participating art venues. View our exhibitions, check out a printmaking demo in our Print Studio, meet artists, participate in an art-making activity, and get to know the neighborhood as you also visit other galleries and local businesses throughout Barrio Logan.