Downey Arts Coalition founder Andrew Wahlquist was unanimously elected president of the Downey Art League as part of a slate of candidates that hope to use the League’s history and not-for-profit status as a way to keep pushing art projects in the city.
The election at Furman Park was essentially a merger of the two organizations.
“What the Downey Art League gets out of it is a whole new influx and exposure,” Wahlquist said. “And what we get is the not-for-profit status and more than 50 years of history.”
The Downey Art League was founded around 1955 by a husband and wife and at one point in the 1970s had more than 250 members, Wahlquist said.
“Then they took the turn, as most of the great Downey organizations did,” he said. “The mid-80s did not treat them well and they have barely hung on since the 1990s.”
Even through the hard times, former Downey Art League President Eddie Aguirre maintained the League’s financial documents and held regular meetings, Wahlquist said.
The group’s main activity of late was to hold an art demonstration every two months, usually in cooperation with the Paramount Traditional Artists Guild.
Historically, the Downey Art League has served older artists who paint with their free time, Wahlquist said.
“We want to continue it the way it’s been going,” Wahlquist said. “The basic idea of the Downey Arts Coalition is we want to act like an umbrella for people who want to start art initiatives. Anything we do. Art on the Vine, theater, they’re all little teams we set up to operate independently.”
The Downey Arts Coalition has been active the last year, including the hosting or coordinating of monthly art shows, monthly poetry readings, music acts and, most recently, a series of theater productions.
Wahlquist, his wife Lana, painter and art lover Don Lamkin and several other artists are trying to bring a more art to residents of Downey and give local artists more opportunities to show their work.
- Caption: Oil painter Joseph Iantorno demonstrates his work Tuesday at Furman Park during a Downey Art League meeting