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The Ojai Jail Arts Initiative will feature ceramic artwork by Vanessa Wallace Gonzales.

Senior Reporter
Photo provided
The Ojai Jail Arts Initiative will feature ceramic artwork by Vanessa Wallace Gonzales.
A weeklong, site-specific group art exhibition based around the historic Ojai City Jail is set to open on Saturday, Oct. 8.
The Ojai Jail Arts Initiative (O.J.A.I.), featuring new commissioned works by six interdisciplinary artists, coincides with Ojai Day on Oct. 15.
For the exhibition, co-curators Matt Henriksen, Teddy Nava and Elizabeth Herring wanted to re-imagine the long-decommissioned jail as a creative space, “in an attempt to bring together emergent, contemporary artists who have strong ties to Ojai,” Herring said.
The artists reacted in a conceptual way to the jail’s history, to the jail as an object or however they felt they could respond, and every piece is original, according to Herring. “Each one of these works is a totally new and specific work designed for the jail in some way, shape or form,” she said.
A related thread the curators wanted to follow was “drawing attention to how so many talented, young artists are from this region and go off other places to make careers for themselves,” Herring said.
The free exhibition features an experimental composition by sound artist James Whipple, ceramic works by Vanessa Wallace Gonzales and an original painting by Brett William Childs.
Archivist Hailey Loman designed a coloring book based upon a story about the jail, while internationally exhibited artist Annette Heully created a 40-foot-long weaving that will be suspended over the walkway to the old jail.
Author and journalist Sarah Mirk created an Ojai Jail Graffiti Zine, which shows graffiti from the walls of the jail and reflections from people currently incarcerated in California.
The jail, designated Ojai Historical Landmark #12 in 2000, was built in 1928. Each of the four tiny cells was designed to hold two prisoners. More than 650 inmates were housed within the jail’s concrete walls during its five decades of use.
One of O.J.A.I.’s goals for the project was to make the space come alive, according to Herring. “It’s a nice way to create an entirely new idea with resources that are already there,” she said.
Half of the funding for the project came from a grant by the Ojai Arts Commission. The other half was raised during a sold-out fundraiser at Bart’s Books in July.
Fiscal sponsor of O.J.A.I., the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation/Ojai Institute, will host an opening reception for the exhibition on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. at 248 S. Montgomery St. in Ojai.
The foundation will also host a closing reception with LUM Art Magazine on Sunday, Oct. 16, from 3 to 5 p.m., featuring an artist panel consisting of artists Loman, Heully and Wallace Gonzales.
Exhibition hours for O.J.A.I. are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends, through Oct. 16.
For more information, visit https://ojainitiative.com.
Senior Reporter
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