Don Lamkin is a Downey native that is proud to still be a part of his hometown community.
Educated in the Downey Unified School District, he went to Dixie College in Southern Utah before returning to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a firefighter. After attending Rio Hondo College and completing the Fire Science program, he was hired as a firefighter for the Santa Fe Springs Fire Department, where he served the community for 30 years.
Growing up playing sports in Downey was a big priority for Lamkin and he is still active, playing hockey in the LEAF League here in Southern California. He is also nationally ranked with AHRMA in their national Thruxton Cup motorcycle road racing series.
When it comes to the arts, Lamkin has no education or formal training but has always been interested in many forms of art, culture, and design. Although uncomfortable referring to himself as an artist, he has experimented with acrylic and water color painting, pen and ink art, graphite and pencil drawing, porcelain tile mosaic work, metal sculpture, wood carving, graphic design and architecture.
Getting involved with the Downey Arts Coalition and other local arts organizations has reinvigorated Lamkin's passion and in the arts. His first solo exhibit opens at Stay Gallery on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m.
Q: Why is art and culture important to Downey?
A: I think art and culture is important in Downey because it nurtures creativity and involvement in one’s community. Cultivating creativity, especially in our youth, means fresh and vibrant ideas will help development and sustainability for our city. Being a destination for events featuring art and culture will not only motivate the best and brightest to stay here, but it will also be an invitation to quality visitors to play and stay in our city.
Q: What is your role in Downey’s art scene?
A: I have always been interested, on a personal level, in art, design, and cultural activities. Five or so years ago, I found a Facebook page that had just started up inviting locals to join a group called the Downey Arts Coalition. I attended the first meeting and soon we had a small group discussing our desires to improve art and culture in our city. Soon after that, I was introduced to the Downey Art Vibe [the group that manages Stay Gallery] folks and got involved with them as well. It didn’t take long before there was a sizable number of people interested in the arts.
Eventually, I found myself involved in leadership or support roles with just about every arts group in town, including DAC, DAV, Stay Gallery, the Downey Art League, and the Downey Museum of Art. In all of these organizations, I have promoted and implemented ideas and events.
Q: Why did you decided to ‘Stay’ in Downey?
A: Simply put, I love my hometown. For all but some time out of state for education and a short try at living in Orange County, I have been a Downey local. I choose to stay because I appreciate the people we have here. We have a sense of community and pride here that is very rare to find elsewhere. We know and care for our neighbors. We have a special situation where we have fantastic diversity yet still operate as Team Downey first and foremost. Our local police and fire departments are as good as it gets and our Downey Unified School District is producing unbelievably impressive kids that want to stay here and continue our trend of community improvement… and we are now finally getting to a point where we have dining, art, and entertainment choices right here within the city limits. What’s not to love?
Q: Where is this arts movement going?
A: I actually see a nice future for our arts scene here in Downey. The constant challenges to a vibrant art and culture scene are funding and involvement. We have a handful of very effective groups that have found ways to get the community interested and engaged. With modern day social media outlets, I think there is great opportunity to continue the outreach as well as creating funding sources to ensure sustainability in programming that will keep residents within city limits on weekends as the favored entertainment option.
Q: What is education’s role in all of this?
A: I have personally seen the results of Downey Unified’s interaction in our arts scene and community. As a product of Downey public schools, I am so proud of today’s Downey youth! I spent a couple of months on Downey Avenue late last year working on a mural and after interacting with high school students walking home from Downey and Warren high school each afternoon, I was compelled to write a letter to the Downey Patriot about the positive behavior exhibited each day by these kids. Clearly, Downey Unified is doing something very right.
I have also been featured in Stay Gallery’s youth initiative programming with the Downey Doodle-icious program which pairs community history along with art lessons for third graders. That really created a spark within these kids for art and community pride. A partnership between the school district and the art and culture groups can only create an even better experience for our community’s youth.
Q: What’s your vision for the future with our arts scene?
A: I think our path to success is to continue to create alliances between organizations in our community. We have an extraordinary amount of groups that do fantastic things with and for our citizens. The common goal for all of us is to promote an ever improving quality of life for all Downeyites.
If I were to have a wish list for the arts, it would look something like having a symbiotic relationship between our city leadership, the Downey Unified School District, our city service clubs, and the various arts organizations to promote art and culture at all levels. I’d love to see more public art installations around the city. I’d love to see progress in the downtown district in regards to a pedestrian-friendly square with a stage and lighting for entertainment of all kinds. The development of a 99-seat theatre with city and private sponsorship would invite more sustainable entertainment on a regular basis. We have a fantastic 738-seat civic theatre that serves larger and more infrequent events so a 99-seat space could fill the gap for smaller and more frequent events.
Most importantly, I would like to see more and more of our community getting hooked on art and culture and getting themselves immersed into our community and involved in positive ways.