|Peter Mays, Executive Director, LAAA|
Peter Mays is the Executive Director and Board Member of the Los Angeles Art Association and Director of Gallery 825 which is the exhibition space for the association. Since I am a past member of the LAAA, I can speak first-hand in saying that for emerging artists the association and gallery is fertile ground for artists to develop their work, tap into the LA creative art community and to link to contacts for galleries. Mays seems to seamlessly navigate between artists, curators, board members, collectors, and the community to achieve the organization’s mission - to provide opportunities, resources, services and exhibition venues for Los Angeles artists. Originally founded in 1925, the gallery found its home in 1961 when benefactor Baroness Helen Wurdeman, a long-time arts advocate and writer for Art in America bought the building at 825 S. La Cienega Boulevard.
|Gallery 825, Gallery Opening|
Mays hasn’t always lived in LA. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. His father and brother are engineers but Mays naturally found his way into art and began drawing and painting when he was 5 years old. In school, he found that he was good at rendering objects and people and often got the approval and praise of teachers and peers. He received a B.A. in Studio Arts from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to get an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Indiana University in Indiana, Pennsylvania. His art combines printmaking, etchings and lithographs which encorporated highly rendered images with an expressive style. In graduate school Mays gained experience with curating shows, working alongside his professors as well as with community arts associations. When he graduated, Mays worked as Gallery Director at a Pittsburgh gallery which exhibited a mixture of traditional fine art and where he gained experience managing the gallery and curating shows. Encouraged by a family friend/mentor, Mays moved to Los Angeles in 1993. His mentor helped him learn the business and leadership side of the arts. His first job in LA was working as a product designer for a giftware company and after he realized it wasn’t a great fit for him, he went on to pursue non-profit management. At the Tierra del Sol Foundation in Sunland, California, Peter oversaw an expansive arts program that served the needs of hundreds of developmentally disabled adults. In his 5 years there, Mays launched fundraising campaigns, wrote grants and managed the program that sometimes included working with individuals in the program. While consulting for the Electronics Art Academy, a federally funded program for children, he helped develop the curriculum. He also began working for the Galef Institute, another non profit that pursued grants for educational programs at community centers. Part time at first, Mays was asked by the CEO to take over the job as the Director of Development and Supplemental School Services where he did fundraising, oversaw school contracts and curriculum development in the arts. In 2005, board members of the LAAA asked Mays if he was interested in becoming the Executive Director of the association. After a six month process, he was formally offered the job.
|Annual Auction Night, 2010|
In his 8 years as Executive Director of LAAA, Mays sites several areas where he has made contributions. He has implemented cultural exchanges with Switzerland (Basel), Korea, Germany and China, initiated collaborative programming with institutions like Harvard, MoCA and Otis, as well as with artists Tim Hawkinson and Lita Albuquerque, and secured well known curators to jury LAAA exhibitions. He also enlarged the LAAA's career development programs and created LAAA's public art program which was selected as one of the top public art works completed in 2010 by Americans for the Arts. He implements the annual fine art auction which is the association’s biggest fundraiser as well as developing a mentoring program for member artists. Mays believes that perhaps one of the greatest developments he has seen over the years is the close knit friendships, and in some cases, married couples that have met at LAAA and the overall community of artists that has grown and been nurtured over time. One thing is certain – if you want to meet and talk to Peter, you will always find him at one of the monthly Friday night openings at Gallery 825.