It was the Summer of 2012, and my best friends and I received the keys to 11140 Downey Avenue. Fueled with excitement, imagination, and a ton of energy (which, aside from the white hairs, has not ran out), we embarked on a mission to build a creative space for our community, otherwise known as Stay Gallery.

Prior to that moment, we had spent several years building the roots of our organization, through pop-up art exhibits held within various businesses and gaining traction as a respectable arts group from the City of Downey.

At first, we had no idea how impactful our efforts would be. It was as if a sleeping giant had been awaken and it was now running rampant, sparking a fire within the minds of creatives, young and old alike. What we did know, was that we were contributing to the greater good of our community - something much bigger than you and I.

Enter Don Lamkin, whom we had met through various organized art events put together by the Downey Arts Coalition. Don's involvement in the arts dates back to his childhood, having grown up within the community, his mother was a member of the Downey Civic Light Opera, and witnessed what he considers the rise and fall, and rise again of the arts in Downey.

 

The three of us instantly befriended Don, and he took on an "older brother" role with us. As we shared stories and ideas, his input and guidance proved to be invaluable. He also devoted a lot of his personal time to the initial build out of Stay Gallery. In fact, Don was the one who spearheaded the installation of the stainless steel signage on the gallery's facade.

His contributions don't stop there. Lamkin has played a huge role in bringing the arts back into focus through his involvement with the Downey Arts Coalition, Downey Museum of Art, and as a current member of the City of Downey Public Works Committee. As if he hasn't done enough, Lamkin is the artist behind the big, beautiful, and very vibrant “Downey Doodle-icious” mural located on Porto’s Bakery parking lot wall, which was painted in just shy of 6 weeks with the helping hands of Liz Moran, Jorge Del Toro, and Hector Beltran, dedicating all but two days to the oversized, vivid representation of the places that have impacted Don during his livelihood in the City of Downey.

In honor of all of his accomplishments, we will be dedicating Stay Gallery's 3 Year Anniversary to Don. This is an open invite to the entire community to join us on Friday, October 23 from 7pm to 11pm for a very special celebration with drinks, food, and live performances alongside the opening reception of CATCH 22, a solo exhibition featuring art work by Don Lamkin.

It feels like yesterday we were cutting the grand opening ribbon alongside our city council members, giving our ‘thank you’ speeches to everyone who contributed to the initial build out of Stay Gallery. In just three years, our organization has touched the lives of thousands of local students, inspired hundreds of local artists, and showcased nearly every form of art - it is our mission to civically engage our community through the arts to build a vibrant sense of place where people can live, work, and play.

Stay Gallery has embodied the possibilities of what a community is capable of when it comes together. From my team, our board of directors, staff, and volunteers, we want to thank our community from the bottom of our hearts for the continuous support.

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