The State of the Art at the JVS WorkSource Center, MDR

One doesn’t necessarily notice the appearance of, say, a doctor’s waiting room, but it helps if you’re a little anxious about being there and the office space doesn’t contribute to your anxiety. In fact, the look of a space should instead be working to make a visitor feel better, more comfortable. Which brings me to the anything-but-bare walls of the JVS Marina del Rey WorkSource Center, and the intent behind all those colorful new pieces of art.

If you go, you will see mosaics, water colors and acrylics. Lots of them. These works of art are accompanied by identification cards that label them and give information about what the artist was trying to achieve. Not included is the fact that - in the case of the mosaics – many of these artists were once homeless. Very recently homeless, in certain cases.

These mosaics, several which were recently in storage, are part of an arrangement between JVS and fellow nonprofit Piece by Piece which employs professional artists to teach classes and workshops to impoverished and under-served populations of Los Angeles including those living on Skid Row. Using entirely recyclable materials, the Piece by Piece clients produce these colorful works

JVS’ Elisa Taylor had worked with Piece by Piece Managing Director Nicole LaBeaud before either woman joined their respective agencies. Davis saw the bare walls of the WorkSource center as an opportunity not only for inter-agency collaboration, but for some client inspiration.

The mosaics are for sale, with the artists and Piece by Piece each getting a share of the purchase price. While they hang on the walls at JVS, which they do through Taylor’s Artist in Residence (AIR) initiative, the art helps JVS job seekers feel like they are in a more comfortable environment. JVS MIS Technician Nazrin Khatibi also has 15 acrylics and watercolors on display.

“The goal is to inspire people when they come in so they feel that they are at home in a clean and beautiful place with beautiful art," says Taylor.

The folks at MDR tell me that clients are taking notice, studying the work and occasionally writing an appreciatory e-mail. As one client named Barbara wrote: “The beautiful pieces of artwork make me happy when I look at them. Thank you so much for having them here; what a difference it makes in the ambiance."

Khatibi is the first of what Taylor and Director of Workforce Development Director Marguerite Womack expect to be many Artists in Residence represented at MDR in the months to come. But the entire WorkSource Center staff will get in on the artistic action during a different kind of initiative.

Womack invited every member of her staff to bring in a photograph or some sort of representation of an inspirational image. This could take the form of a self-portrait or a photograph, anything they chose. Most people went the photo route with a few pulling images of the Internet rather than snapping the shot themselves.

The pictures ran the gamut: pets, scenery, favorite places…

“A lot of sunsets,” says Gennifer Wecker, a photographer as well as a JVS a Career Development Specialist who was assigned to generate enthusiasm and collect the images. “I know that every single person who gave an image is from California.”

Wecker and JVS Information and Referral Specialist Kristin Orellana mounted the staff art in a beautiful set of frames which had been donated by Allan Marion of Allan Jeffries Framing

. In the weeks to come, JVS staff will probably have an impromptu gathering to match artists to their art, a process which will allow the co-workers to learn something new about each other.

“We don’t know much about each other,” Wecker says of her fellow work mates. “We know who likes to go out to eat and who brings in lunch. But as far as our interests, a lot of us don’t know unless we talk about it all the time. Everybody knows my picture is a picture of my dog because I love him. But we might look at someone else’s and say, ‘Wow, really? Who knew?’ It’s a morale builder.”

Art can have that effect, both on the creators and the viewers.