Prominent art school’s 100% festival encourages locals to unlock their own creativity

By Christina Campodonico

The exhibit “Some of our Favorite Things” celebrates 100 years of the Otis community

Sometimes one day is not enough to celebrate a milestone birthday. So for its centennial, Otis College of Art and Design is throwing the 100% Festival, a two-day bash this weekend packed with panels, workshops and a maker’s mart that invites the whole community to come onto campus.

“It’s a celebration plus a kind of introduction, introductory lessons in art and design for anybody,” says Otis College President Bruce Ferguson. “Here, you get a chance to make a pot and do stuff that our students do every day. It shows that our education is not just for people who get a degree.”

On Saturday and Sunday, members of the public can learn how to paint ceramics by hand, code a digital fire extinguisher or learn how to take professional-style photos on their smartphones, in addition to perusing artisan wares in a maker’s marketplace or hearing from the likes of creatives such as KCRW’s Garth Trinidad or DeviantArt’s Chief Creative Office Justin Maller.

Joan Takayama-Ogawa, a 32-year member of Otis’ faculty, will lead ceramics workshops and moderate a discussion with bodysuit designer and Otis alumna Bao Tranchi.

“I’m going to teach very traditional ways of painting clay,” says Takayama-Ogawa. “And then my students will also be working simultaneously. So people can visit the clay studio and see every stage of the process, from working with moist clay to glazing.”

Opening up the creative process to the community is one mission of Otis’ 100% Festival and Find Your 100 campaign, which includes an open call to artists and creatives to submit their artwork for display in a digital gallery called “100 Projects” (next deadline is Dec. 1), and a monthly #FindYour100 social media challenge that anyone with a smartphone can participate in.

“In the public eye, there’s a sense that artists and designers are a bit separate from the general public, where our sense is that everyone is creative and it’s about finding their creativity,” says Ferguson. “We want to be seen as a place that’s approachable. We’re not some large institution where you have no reason to
be there if you’re not faculty or a student. We see ourselves as welcoming the public … not being Ivy League, so to speak.”

Coinciding with the festival is the centennial anniversary exhibit “Some of Our Favorite Things” in Otis’ Ben Maltz Gallery. The show compiles an assortment of treasured objects from Otis’ community of artists, faculty, alumni and supporters, including contributions from the Hammer Museum’s Ann Philbin and Venice artist and Otis alum Billy Al Bengston, to name a few.

Some of the more novel items in the exhibit include a collection of egg dolls from the family of Japanese-American artist and Otis alum Masami Teraoka, a hybrid Bonsai plant, cast iron elephants, a “dance wand” from rural Mexico, and a rolled up canvas of paintings that one Otis grad hauled with her from studio to studio, across countries and continents.

“There’s a real sentimentality I think that comes out of these works,” says Kate McNamara, the Ben Maltz Gallery’s director. “Like it may be something that gets overlooked visually, but we were able to tie in these beautiful stories that lend a new light in which you might look at these works.”

For instance, a ’50s-style silver-painted kitchen table believed to have belonged to celebrated California conceptual artist John Baldessari as well as famed Weima-
raner photographer William Wegman is among the more historical (if seemingly ordinary) objects within the gallery.

“A lot of art was made on it,” writes Otis fine arts department chair Meg Cranston in a description of the piece. She ultimately inherited it after a stint with pop fine artist Thaddeus Strode.

In all, says McNamara, the exhibit shows the warmth and reach of the Otis community.

“Otis has over the last 100 years really built community. You know, for a small school on the far Westside, it has a much larger reach,” she says. “I think everybody who participated in this exhibition has a very thoughtful relationship to Otis. … They all pay homage to a certain kind of heartfelt relationship to the world. … Whether they went here, were teaching there, or have a collegial relationship to the school, there’s real love at Otis.”

“We’re sort of working for Los Angeles and Los Angeles is working for us,” says Ferguson of the school’s legacy, role within the city and future. “All of our artists and designers and faculty really give 100%. … It’s the way we
do the school.”

Otis College of Art and Design hosts its 100% Festival from noon to 4:45 p.m. Saturday and 12:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 10 and 11) at 9045 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester. Free. Visit for more information and to RSVP.