Compound, a new cultural complex to open in Long Beach this fall

Compound also announced the appointment of Executive Director Airrion Copeland

Compound%27s+facade+features+You+Belong+Here+%28Blue+%231%29+by+artist+Tavares+Strachan

Photo by Laure Joilet

Compound's facade features You Belong Here (Blue #1) by artist Tavares Strachan

With community and equity at the forefront, Compound, a new non-profit cultural complex is set to open in the Zaferia district of Long Beach this fall and will be dedicated to art, culture, and wellness, according to a press release from the complex.

On Wednesday, August 19, award-winning film producer and activist Airrion Copeland was announced as the executive director in a press release from Compound.

Award-winning film producer and activist Airrion Copeland was announced as the executive director for Compound, a new non-profit cultural complex on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
(Meghan McGarry)

Some of Copeland’s past work includes being the Program Director for UCLA Health System and in 2011 producing one of his many award-winning films, a documentary titled White Wash, which focuses on the history of African-American surfers. Copeland is also a writer and director and has over 15 years of leadership experience, in the health and wellness sector, the press release said.

“It means everything to me on a lot of different levels,” Copeland said of being appointed executive director of a place that aligns with not only his values but experiences. “First and foremost, it’s such an important space for the city of Long Beach because it is very unique in how art and wellness affect the community, I don’t think there’s anything like it in the city.”

Copeland continued, “Just to be able to serve the community is my strongest intention. Secondly, I’ve been in the wellness space for over 20 years and I’m really passionate about yoga, mindfulness, meditation and practicing those things for quite some time, so to have that part of the experience at Compound that serves the community in that regard is really really important.”

Bringing the Community Together & Inclusivity

The executive director believes that Compound will be a space where art will bring the community together at a time where the public is not only dealing with the pandemic but also social justice issues.

“[…]Contemporary art right now is so transcending, I think especially this year with everything going on, COVID and social injustice, all of that being heightened, to have space where we can engage, it’s just really powerful,” Copeland said.

Copeland acknowledged the exclusivity of museum culture for many years, but it’s a philosophy Compound will not adhere to.

“I think what makes Compound unique is that it is for everybody,” the executive director said.

Copeland is enthusiastic about the community being able to have an opportunity to encounter the artists that will be part of the Compound experience. That enthusiasm extends to the wellness community, who Copeland hopes will be able to experience an opportunity to connect.

“I think [to] connect is the ultimate goal for me, to bring in not only, just a certain type of individual that may be interested in art or wellness, but just everybody. I want the whole community to have access, equity is so critical.”

Compound has a Policy of Belonging, which according to the cultural complex’s website, originated from cultural arts advocate and Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Oakland, Roberto Bedoya.

The policy states that Compound will be an all-inclusive experience and all individuals are welcome.

According to Compound’s founder, Megan Tagliaferri, the policy describes the actions staff will take to engage the community at large.

To ensure the policy is in place, Compound will self-evaluate and meet with a group of advisors, community stakeholders, and neighbors to review the cultural complexes’ interaction within the community, Tagliaferri stated.

“We want our community to know that these words hold true now and over time looking into the future of the organization,” Tagliaferri said.

The Concept of Compound

Compound’s founder is a Long Beach local, who is also the creative director. According to the Compound’s press release, Tagliaferri started this space to “promote empathy, social equity, and well-being, both spiritual and physical, through shared community experiences.”

These philosophies will translate into the cultural complex in the form of public program classes, workshops and events.

“The concept for Compound came over years of dialogues with artists I admire,” Tagliaferri said in a statement to the Signal Tribune.

Tagliaferri continued, “Now more than ever we need a place where people can learn about themselves, learn about their neighbors, learn about the world. Our goal is to unite the mind, body, and spirit into a feeling of profound connection with the self and community through our wellness programming.”

Compound’s Curator and Artistic Director Lauri Firstenberg referred to the cultural complex as part laboratory and part cultural think tank, mentioning that collaborations include artists, activists, thought and community leaders.

Compound’s home base in Long Beach was chosen by Tagliaferri because of the sense of freedom and acceptance that this community fosters.

“The sense of inclusion provided by Southern California anchors Compound’s efforts to create an equitable space for all,” Tagliaferri said.

Firstenberg added, “We are proud to be based in Long Beach and look forward to producing newly commissioned works of art with leading local, national and international artists.”

Programming this fall

Glenn Kaino’s installation, “Tidepools,” will be among the inaugural presentations, when Compound debuts in the fall, according to Firstenberg.

“In a darkened gallery, viewers will drop coins into a wishing well filled with bioluminescent material, which will glow as the coins fall to the bottom, illuminating the room with visitors’ wishes,” Firstenberg said of the installation.

There will also be rotating exhibitions, Chaos To Cosmos being one of them, which will feature various artists addressing hope and belonging, nature and beauty and mysteries in the universe, the press release detailed.

Other programming this fall will be focused around wellness activities and education, community talks and art for everyone, Tagliaferri said. “All of these engagements are rooted in supporting radical empathy and interconnectedness within the Long Beach community.”

Currently, Compound has a partnership with Artist Relief, a national emergency grant organization to bring free wellness resources commissioned by artists, keeping in mind artists affected by COVID-19. The series can be found every Monday on both organization’s social media platforms.

One of the program highlights, as pointed out by Compound’s press release includes an educational program by Slanguage, an artist collective that dedicates itself to connect and bring a sense of empowerment to underserved youth.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Compound will be mindful of its visitors. “We will ensure that our visitors feel comfortable and at ease with full compliance to COVID-19 safety standards.”

There will be a hybrid model that will limit in-person attendance of the complex but there are plans to stream events live, according to Compound’s founder.

Programs will take place in the open courtyard of Compound, which stands alongside a sacred sculpture garden.

“We understand and recognize some of the challenges that we are all faced with in dealing with the pandemic, social injustice, and political upheaval,” Tagliaferri said. “Compound is a sacred space for us all to reflect, support and heal together as we move through these challenging times with hope and compassion.”