How Faye Orlove created Junior High, a space for marginalized voices in the arts
Whether it’s explore page-worthy pop culture illustrations of the Kardashians or creating music videos for artists like Mitski and Palehound, Faye Orlove has her hand in a little bit of everything – which is really apparent through the work she showcases at the nonprofit art space she runs, Junior High.
“The work we do at Junior High is intended to be community oriented and charitable by giving marginalized voices access to the arts,” Faye explained. “I hope people can hear perspectives they aren’t often exposed to and can walk away feeling more empathy for those they perceive as ‘different.'”
Before I stopped by Junior High to sit down with Faye, she mentioned that her little sister was in town and that she’s “basically the reason she does anything”. Faye’s commitment to young artists has paved her way to the front of the art world and continued to keep every gallery and event at Junior High relevant af. In 2017, a safe space for expression is everything.
Read more about it below!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m an absolute perfectionist and have a really intense attention to detail. This persists in everything I do. From binge watching Arrested Development to planning art shows that raise money for organizations I care about, most of the stuff I do is super thought out to the point where I can get pretty manic. I’m not big on resting or taking time off, which I need to work on. I love to draw the Kardashians, read Wikipedia pages about serial killers, and ask strangers about their astrology.
So when did you get the idea of opening a non profit art space? What was the hardest part about starting the project?
I’ve had the idea since I first volunteered at Girls Rock Camp back in Boston and knew I wanted to create a similar space but one that empowers female-identifying youth through visual art in addition to music. As I got older and developed the idea into something more tangible, the status of being a non-profit felt applicable.
The work we do at Junior High is intended to be community oriented and charitable by giving marginalized voices access to the arts. The hardest part has been my own mental health, feeling the enormous responsibility of acting as a conduit between representation and an entire community that isn’t afforded enough spaces to be heard. Shoutout to my friends and to Prozac for making my daily life bearable and diminishing the crippling pressure of feeling not-good-enough.
The name Junior High is really reminiscent of being a teen/figuring yourself out/being awkward and not fitting in. Why did you choose it?
I’d love to say the name was really thought out, and harkens back to a time I felt the most out of place and insecure, but really it just came to me and I liked the way it looked, the way it sounded, and the way it reflected a more teen-centric vibe. It only occurred to me later on how perfect it was, how for me it’s like re-doing a time in my life that felt especially horrific. A time where I wasn’t embracing my identity, fighting oppressive constructs, or supporting other girls.
A lot of the art you display in the gallery is centered around taboo subjects that make being a girl in junior high school incredibly tough. What do you want young people to take away from seeing an exhibition about tampons or mental health or body positivity?
I hope people are exposed to new narratives through the space and take away the idea that all identities are incredibly complex. I hope people can hear perspectives they aren’t often exposed to and can walk away feeling more empathy for those they perceive as “different.”
The space is dedicated to amplifying marginalized voices. How do you navigate through the challenges that that might present without potentially silencing a voice?
I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is no way to be wholly representative of the scope and spectrum of womanhood, of feminism, of any single identity. My priority is to offer the space to as many intersectional voices and communities as I can in an effort to feature a diverse array of experiences.
I try to veer away from vagina-centric merchandise and shows so as not to alienate trans artists. That iconography can definitely feel exclusive.
And when we have group shows it is important to me to feature artists of different backgrounds, races, sizes, and status. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I know no matter how hard I try there’s always more I can do. I’m trying really hard to accept that truth as a positive thing, a way for me to grow, instead of letting it make me feel defeated.
Junior High has a really strong online identity. It definitely connects so many young artists with access to the world they want to be involved/accepted in. What have some of the highlights been for Junior High so far?
In that same vein, a lot of highlights have been people coming in from all over the world saying they came to LA and made it a priority to visit the space. Personally, I’ve made lifelong friendships through artists who have reached out to teach flower arranging workshops, curate shows on personal space, host readings by immigrant artists. Man, the list goes on. I’ve always been drawn to people as ambitious as I am, so it’s very rare that when someone takes the time to reach out, we don’t connect. Maybe it’s all just a long con to make people hang out with me.
Do you have anything to say to young artists that are trying to find their place in the art industry?
My advice for young artists, and honestly just people in general, is that things do not happen to you. If there’s something you want, you need to make it happen for yourself and that if you work hard, no one out there is more equipped or more deserving than you are. I think we delude ourselves into thinking that other people have all the answers, but the truth is, and what helps me, is knowing that every single person is just figuring it out as they go. Even Rihanna is winging it.
How can we stay updated on what Junior High has going on next?
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Photo by Jacqueline Kulla