- Andrea Serna
By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer
Angels Gate Cultural Center announced the selection of Amy Eriksen as its new executive director.
This fills the vacancy created by the departure of the previous Executive Director Deborah Lewis in March of this year. Amy was chosen from a very competitive field of candidates. Throughout the extensive search process she simultaneously served as director of education and interim executive director. The board of directors of the nonprofit organization made a decision to hire from within, which facilitates a smooth transfer of management.
“My commitment is to see Angels Gate expand and grow in a way that has a meaning to it,” Eriksen said. “We can always come in and add more classes and programming but this place needs a direction. I appreciate that [previous director] Deb gave us a view of that direction and she brought in the staff for the job.”
As previous director of education for three years, Eriksen’s vision for Angels Gate is deeply rooted in education and outreach to schools. The plan is for her to remain in that position for the time being.
“I am staying in the director of education role for a few months as we make this transition,” Eriksen said. ”I know that department very well and in order to accomplish our goals it only makes sense for me to stay in that role, with a little help from the staff”
On the day I visited, the center had a bus full of elementary school children touring the facility, which brought joy to Eriksen.
“My favorite days are school tour days,” Eriksen said.
One of her pet projects is the Artist’s in Classrooms program. The program provides in-depth instruction in visual and performing arts to students in the K through 12 range. Professional artists teach through ongoing classroom residencies. Angels Gate is in 88 elementary classrooms across the Harbor Area with this project. The program focuses on third third grade in order to train teachers in Visual and Performing Arts, or VAPA, standards.
“Last year, and now this year we have added a new component called the Model School Program,” she said. “We have fostered that program at Taper Avenue Elementary School. Every grade, from first to fifth grade, gets art in the classroom. My goal is to change our grants in order to have this program in all the Harbor Area schools in the next five to 10 years. [At Taper Avenue] first grade gets multi-arts, second grade gets dance, third grade gets our visual arts program, fourth grade gets music and fifth grade gets creative writing. So, there is a series of learning that is built around the arts. We had students that were in kindergarten [at Taper Ave] and they are now in fourth grade. Within the next two years we will be able to see what kind of impact this program has had on students coming out of elementary school and going into middle school.”
Angels Gate Cultural Center is one of the oldest cultural institutions in the Harbor Area. It is also one of the most hidden art spaces that we have. Eriksen is aware of the great divide that exists between the downtown area and the center at the top of the hill. With the small five-person staff at Angels Gate, marketing and public relations are high on the list of goals to improve connection within the community. Ericksen expressed a need for volunteer at the center. Their website lists opportunities available for people interested in becoming involved in the arts. Landscapers, office assistants and docents are all needed.
Most people are familiar with the Studio Artist’s program at Angels Gate and their annual Open Studio tours. Situated on the bluffs overlooking the Point Fermin area of San Pedro, Angles Gate Cultural Center has provided studio space to artists living in Los Angeles and Orange County for nearly 30 years. Guided by the mission to unite art, community and culture through creative discovery they offer studio space to artists of all disciplines. Filmmakers, playwrights, musicians, printmakers, photographers and ceramicists all occupy studios n this historic place.
Angels Gates compound has been in existence for more than 80 years. The buildings that house the studios were built by the military with the goal of lasting only five years during World War II. Long after the threat of invasion from across the Pacific has passed, the bunkers are dormant but the buildings continue to be used for artistic and community endeavors.
Eriksen’s resume includes more than 15 years of administration, communications and programming experience in the arts nonprofit sector throughout the West Coast. She earned a masters in organizational management. A lifelong Long Beach resident, she is a recent graduate of Leadership Long Beach’s 25th Anniversary Silver class.
“I look forward to continuing to serve and partner with our artists, students and the
community,” says Eriksen. “I am dedicated to Angels Gate Cultural Center because it provides cultural and artistic expression as a unifying force in our diverse community. We nurture art advocates and create a place for community members to re-imagine the San Pedro and Harbor Region. ”