DOWNEY - A toy drive at the new Stay Gallery in Downtown Downey attracted more than 400 people throughout the day and resulted in 350 new toys donated to True Lasting Connections, the non-profit organization operated by the Downey Unified School District. "They were really cool toys too, not just anything," said Gabriel Enamorado, the gallery's creative director. "We wanted to keep some; it wasn't easy to let them go."
"It was a great event with a fabulous turnout," said Dr. Robert Jagielski, a DUSD administrator who oversees the TLC Center. "I predict next year's will be twice as big."
The event featured live performances by the Warren High School choir and Father and Suns, a Long Beach-based band performing rock, '60s pop and folk.
There was also a live art presentation by Kris Black. The piece can be seen and is for sale at the gallery.
Former mayor Kirk Cartozian won the contest for having the ugliest Christmas sweater.
"Too bad he didn't even know we were going to be having an ugliest Christmas sweater contest that night," quipped gallery executive director Valentin Flores.
Many of the people in attendance also donated cash to Stay Gallery, which has raised $17,200 since its grand opening Oct. 11. It needs $2,800 by the end of the year to reach its $20,000 goal.
"We are usually at the gallery from 9-6 p.m. If we are gone, it's usually for lunch or coffee," said Valentin Flores. "Once we finish building the gallery, we will have regular open hours. However, if we are in here working, please come in and say hello. We love company."
According to Flores, all money raised during this initial fundraising campaign will go to capital improvement projects. The space will eventually become a multi-functional art and culture gallery capable of hosting art exhibits, movie nights, live music, art workshops and classes, pop-up restaurant concepts and clothing brands, fashion shows, banquets "and basically any concept that brings community together through art and culture," gallery officials said.
"This is too much fun. The ideas are endless," said Enamorado. "As each day goes by, we realize that the community is behind our vision. We'd like to thank all those that have attended and enjoyed our first few events. And quite frankly, if you have enjoyed Stay Gallery up to this point, you are not ready for what the space is going to be like once we finish building our dream gallery - it's going to be the jewel of Downey."
Stay Gallery is targeting late February to finish construction. Future but tentative plans call for a loft office concept that would add nearly 400 square feet to the gallery that could be used for storage.
The concept was designed by Alvarez Design Studio, located a block away from the gallery on Downey Avenue. Western Allied Construction is donating the labor and expertise.
"Since everything is based on donation, the rate of building the gallery is beyond our reach," Flores said. "Every company and individual that is helping us build the gallery is terribly busy but yet has the time to guide us as we make progress. This is just the type of community we have. They understand that we are doing a good thing and want to help."
"If all goes according to plan, we want all of Downtown Downey to experience the good energy and fun that we are experiencing at Stay Gallery," added Joseph Manacmul, the gallery's operations director. "We want to make this place jump."
The gallery is in the midst of planning a New Year's Event, where it hopes to meet its $20,000 fundraising goals. There are also plans to reveal a J. Arthur Morris Collection on Feb. 8, with details to be released next month.
To make a donation to Stay Gallery, log on to stay-gallery.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
********** Published: December 20, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 36