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Talking Art with Marka Burns, Part One: in the Community

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

We had the chance to meet with Marka Burns, president of the Long Beach Creative Group, a non-profit community-based organization. Marka shared with us about the origins of the Long Beach Creative Group, their vision, her journey as an artist, and the importance of art and its development in the community.

Text reads: Gallery, LBCC, Long Beach Creative Group. Artwork of a colorful skyscraper with artist's name Rod Briggs underneath.
Art by Rod Briggs


Learn for Life (LFL): Welcome! It's lovely to meet you, Marka. Thanks for joining me!

Marka: Well, I'm looking forward to it!

LFL: I thought we could have a conversation and talk about your art, about what you do in Long Beach. And basically, share your journey with the community. It's always wonderful to meet new and creative.

Marka: Well, I read the interview with the flight attendant. That was really interesting. To see how she could manage with her disability. And thrive.

LFL: I was wondering if you would just tell us a little bit about yourself, and maybe how you got started in the arts?

Marka: Well, I'm a Long Beach native. I went to Cal State Long Beach and got my Masters in Fine Arts. I taught there in the art department, specifically art education and liberal studies. So, I have a split appointment. I really love teaching. I did retire in 2012. But I continued, you know, luckily. Once I retired, it wasn't such a big leap. I started curating art exhibits. The first one I had was at the LGBTQ Center, and I curated seven artists in a show called the space between Illusion and Reality. Then I went on to curate a couple of shows at the Long Beach Playhouse and different venues around Long Beach. And then, I guess the big event of my, or fateful event that determine the next almost four years of my life was founding in the Long Beach Creative Group Gallery. Prior to that, I a part of a six-member group of artists. And one night, I'll never forget it, when artist Moira Hann introduced me to Cameron Briggs. It was at a reception for a show at Long Beach Playhouse. And he said, "My dad has a studio, would you guys like to use it for a gallery?". So, I said, "Oh, sure". Did I expect what would happen? No. We went to the gallery, it's at 2221 East Broadway. And we walked in and we were thinking, oh, a small little storefront or something. It was this amazing studio, probably about 2500 square feet. And he said, "Would you like to use it for your group to show art and then my dad [Rod Briggs] will use the, we use the front gallery for my father's work? And you guys can, you know, have art exhibits." We've had about 13 shows. And we're going into our fourth year. There must have been some kind of luck involved here. Without a benefactor, we wouldn't be able to do this.

LFL: Sounds like quite a gift of fate.

Marka: Right. He's the owner of the building, but he allows us to use it. And it wouldn't be something - and galleries are difficult to maintain anyway. It's a hard business to be in, in the world. Say, “I'm gonna grow up and become a gallery owner”, and parents are usually worried.

LFL: I mean, community galleries are maybe a little easier than a regular for-profit gallery.

A Reception at Long Beach Creative Group's Gallery, Room full of people talking and looking at paintings on the wall.
A Reception at Long Beach Creative Group's Gallery

Marka: We are a community gallery. We have, you know, no rent, basically. We do, you know, some things, but we also get grants from the Port of Long Beach. We've gotten a number of them from the Port, and we've gotten quite a few from the Arts Council. Yes. And we are a 501. C. And, basically, do you have a question for me?

LFL: I do. I'm just enjoying listening to you explain what you do.

Marka: So, let me tell you a little bit about what we're doing what our relationship with you, Able ARTS Work, is what we're hoping it to be. We have a silent auction coming in July for well, about six people who were professors at Cal State, a number of them and other people whose heirs have allowed us to auction their work off and we are planning, we are going to donate 10% of our proceeds to Able ARTS Work, so we want to make a good connection and outreach with you.

LFL: We're very excited about the auction. And I love hearing about your Long Beach Creative Group. It sounds like a collaborative community. How do you choose who joins or is it all the same founding members?