ESMoA is an "art laboratory" located in El Segundo, California,. Its mission is to spread the spark of creativity through the display and education of visual arts. Rather than a classical museum, ESMoA has functioned as a catalyst for creative thinking offering three unique Experiences per year. The Experiences present a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, works on paper, performances, and photography. The Experiences are thematic and conceptual, rather than chronological. Transdisciplinary, International, Dynamic and Open are key elements of ESMoA’s DNA.
ESMoA focuses on art education for students, families, and adults, and admission, is free. These activities range from school programs, drawing workshops, art talks, lectures, family days, cooking, yoga and dance classes, movie nights, etc. ESMoA is run by Artlab21 Foundation, a non profit 509(a)(1) public charity.
Artlab21 Foundation is the operator of ESMoA. Artlab21 Foundation is a non profit 509(a)(1) public charity. In 2011, two fine art exhibitions were held at the old El Segundo Fire Station. Stemming from the success of these two exhibitions plans commenced for the construction of a permanent art laboratory, known as ESMoA, in the heart of downtown El Segundo. In January 2013, ESMoA opened as a functional and experimental art space with a focus on education.
ESMoA rises from a previously vacant lot in the restaurant district of downtown El Segundo. It is designed to be provocative, fresh and agile – a functional art space, as well as a partner in the community. The Experiences are based on the three pillars of artistic exchange: an artwork dialogue, a cultural exchange, and an ongoing artist in residence program.
In October 2014 ESMoA was listed by Artnet News as being one of America’s Top 10 Private Contemporary Art Museums.
The modern building occupies a 25' x 140' footprint and features material such as stainless steel and white concrete blocks. It was designed by Eva Sweeney with John Milander Architects, and built by Specialized Construction. The main gallery has been designed to hold sculptures and paintings over two stories tall. The illumination of the ESMoA gallery is provided by adjustable skylights that filter natural light and create a light-filled atmosphere that changes with the external meteorological conditions. The interior space can be broken up into individual galleries allowing the Curator to build a different setting for each Experience.
ESMoA’s exhibitions are known to public as Experiences. ESMoA’s philosophy is embedded in this choice of terminology: visitors are invited to experience art rather than passively read about it, such as on a label in a traditional museum setting. ESMoA uses innovative art display methods and challenges typical museum conventions. ESMoA displays art by theme and has exhibit works across centuries and from all materials. The themes that ESMoA chose to highlight in its first 10 Experiences were environment (DESIRE), nudity (TRUTH), fame (FAME), political (Cuban) conflict (STING), abstraction (SILENCE), street art (SCRATCH), architecture and art in the home (HOME), creative process (SPARK), artist workplace (STUDIO), and the LA art scene (TOUCH).
Together with Experiences organized inside the ESMoA space, the art laboratory is also creating Experiences in the community. In the first three years ESMoA organized an oceanfront installation on El Segundo Beach (ANTI-ARK), a one-day body painted installation (OBJECTIFIED), a competition of Elvis Presley’s impersonators (ELVIS WHO?), a video projection on the tower facade of El Segundo High School (PRIDE CONSTELLATION) and two still standing murals on the former El Segundo Post Office and former El Segundo Fire station (PHYTOMAGNETIC and FIREWATER).
ESMoA has become a valued member of the cultural scene in Los Angeles, forging collaborative partnerships with some of its leading museums.
The Getty Research Institute curated SCRATCH and displayed 18 of its rare books, pairing them with LA graffiti artists to explore the theme of artist collaboration over the past 5 centuries.
ESMoA paired with The Wende Museum for the FAME Experience to explore the ambivalent soul of Los Angeles.
The Experience SPARK explored the collaboration between world known writer Cornelia Funke and the multiplatform storytelling company Mirada Studios.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) curated the STUDIO Experience, exhibiting the work of Norbert Tadeusz in the United States for the first time.
Edward Goldman, art critic and host of KCRW’s “Art Talk” curated TOUCH, showing the Los Angeles art scene over the last four decades including portraits of artists in their studios by photographer Jim McHugh and a selection of original artworks by these artists like Carlos Almaraz, John Baldassari, David Hockney, Ed Moses, Noah Purifoy, Ed Rusha, Alison Saar, Patssi Valdez and many more.
ESMoA is in discussion with these museums and others regarding future projects and has been selected to participate in the upcoming Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA project, organized by the Getty Foundation.
Although ESMoA does not provide labels next to the art on display, visitors can gather information through four different learning tools:
ESMoA Virtual Gallery Grid. Each artwork is associated with a number that visitors can find on the floor. iPads located in the gallery space provide visitors with the ESMoA Virtual Gallery Grid: a simple numbered grid containing basic information about the art piece, such as title, artist, date, material and size and a link to learn more about the artist or art movement. Additionally, every number in the Grid contains a provocative question that encourages visitors to think outside the box and leave a comment in the system. This is consistent with ESMoA belief that everyone contributes to the interpretation of art. The ESMoA Virtual Gallery Grid is also available on the home page of ESMoA’s website, www.esmoa.org, making it possible for visitors to explore the Experience using their mobile phone or to research more about the single art pieces when at home.
ESMoA Education Specialists. During open hours Education Specialists are always present in the gallery space to provide visitors information about the current Experience and to answer any questions they may have. Visitors are free to explore the space alone or with the guidance of an ESMoA Staff member.
ESMoA Experience Library. For each Experience there are always tables and chairs in the gallery space where visitors can sit and consult the books on artists or artistic movements on display.
Scavenger Hunt. For each experience ESMoA Education Specialists tailor ad hoc scavenger hunts to engage visitors of all ages though a series of questions and activities that encourage them to explore the different parts of the Experience.
School programming - ESMoA educators have developed age tailored programs and classes that stimulate creativity and interest in art. Among the activities, school students are invited to sketch their own version of the art piece and to create their own piece of art inspired by the experience using various materials like clay, paper or water color pencils.
Adult programming – ESMoA teams with dining and drinking establishments to host events that inspire creativity in adults. Select evening programs may also include talks, cooking classes, workshops, performances, and screenings.
Family programming – Select Sundays are dedicated to Family Fun at ESMoA, with the art laboratory inviting every generation to pop in for free programming led by its experienced art educators. Programming puts creativity and enjoyment on equal levels to engage growing and mature minds alike. Programs may include tours, family activities, sketching, and scavenger hunts.
In addition to the exhibition space, a full artist’s work-live studio exists on the second floor of the ESMoA building. The Artist-in-Residence (AIR) space contains living quarters and a studio where artists can create works. Artists living in the space have the opportunity to collaborate with ESMoA staff and the El Segundo community on innovative artistic projects.
There is currently no application process. For the choice of artist in residence candidates, ESMoA established cooperation with Otis College of Art and Design (Spring period) and with London’s Royal Drawing School (Summer period).
In the first two years, the ESMoA Artist-in-Residence Program has hosted artists from Germany, Iceland, Taiwan, Cuba, Lithuania, United Kingdom France and South Korea.