Beneath the Surface Art Residency


HOLA students using their creativity to reflect on the future of water in Los Angeles.


HOLA visual arts students have been learning about the drought and its impact on their city, and have been creating art to explore their findings.  Beneath the Surface is a public art workshop organized byJonas Becker, artist-in-residence at HOLA and interdisciplinary visual artist who uses art to explore our cultural hopes, fears and beliefs.Bringing together guests with valuable expertise, including Lisa Bechtold (archivist), Caitlin Craggs (animationist), and Avishay Artsy (KCRW radio journalist), Jonas asked his students to use photography, animation, journalism and filmmaking as tools to explore water and drought in Los Angeles. MacArthur Lake became the epicenter for their imaginations. How can light, photography, and community help us imagine the future of water in Los Angeles?

In order to begin answering these questions, students first received hands on training in the technical elements of photography and basic filmmaking.  They constructed pinhole cameras out of cardboard and film as a way of understanding how light makes an image. Artist-in-residence Jonas Becker describes this as lesson as one of the most rewarding.

“I got to see the kids slowly wrapping the tentacles of their minds around what it takes to create an image,” he says.  “As an instructor, that’s the best part, to see the moment when they connect all the dots of what you’re teaching them.”

Throughout the workshop, the students interacted with their neighborhood, and developed a greater understanding of the way water (and lack thereof) has formed our city. But, as Jonas describes, many of the students already had some realistic ideas about this subject.

“The kids were not terribly optimistic about the future of water in LA,” he says. “ They were also much more interested in showing what was there than imagining an alternative future. I had assumed that they would be into science fiction but they were very focused on reality, and preferred documentary over fiction.”
Their seriousness was tempered by the art, sometimes too. As Jonas reflects, “Art gives you an opportunity to do things you don’t usually do, like cutting up books. The first time we learned how to shoot video, I bought a bunch of vessels that can contain water. They had fun with that, there was such a spirit of play in their art-making. Fun makes you invested in your work.”

The final product is a photography and video project imagining MacArthur Lake as the main character in a futuristic film depicting their hopes and fears about water in Los Angeles. 


Avishay Artsy from KCRW visited HOLA to teach students ethnojournalism skills.


“The kids worked really hard,” Jonas says. “I had a great time with them and I think that the video that they made is really awesome. If there’s anything I want my students to take away from me it’s that art is fun but it’s a lot of work, and there’s a process. That in the end, if you’re dedicated enough to the process, you’ll get an awesome product.”

The work will be premiered this Friday during HOLA Visual Art’s show opening, suh ree uh liz uh m: explorations of the subconscious. You can follow the progression of the project by checking out our HOLA public art blog and by coming to our art show on Friday, April 22 from 5-7 p.m. This project is supported by a grant from the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation.

Artist-in-residence Jonas Becker leads an editing workshop for his workshop, “Beneath the Surface.”

Artist-in-residence Jonas Becker leads an editing workshop for his workshop, “Beneath the Surface.”


April 21, 2016