A Los Angeles Residency Envisions a Radical Future for Experimental Art

LOS ANGELES — In 2019, my fascination with experimental music led me to the nonprofit Coaxial Arts Foundation during Nikita Gale’s EMPTY/OPEN residency exhibition. I was captivated by the immersive, multichannel sound works on view and the interplay with architecture, and have since followed Coaxial’s evolution. As the organization nears its ninth anniversary, I discussed its journey and impact with Founder Eva Aguila.

An artist and community organizer, Aguila decided to move back home to Los Angeles from Oregon in 2013. “I was having a hard time finding space for myself and my own art,” she told me. “I had a free studio in Portland where I created an online public access TV show called Experimental Half Hour. When I moved back to LA, I didn’t have the free studio anymore, or any equipment.” 

Aguila began by holding a fundraiser for new equipment that same year and worked on projects including a collaboration with KCHUNG radio station for the Hammer Museum’s 2014 Made in LA biennial, laying the groundwork for what would evolve into Coaxial. Aguila and her partner Brock Fansler, the current treasurer, started the foundation to address the scarcity of avant-garde art venues and create an alternative to blue-chip galleries.

“It got really hard traveling around with all the equipment, so I wanted to find a home base,” Aguila explained. “Something that wouldn’t just be about my own project.”

1. Coaxial Arts Foundation 2024. Image courtesy of Coaxial Arts Foundation
The facade of Coaxial Arts Foundation in Downtown Los Angeles, with video works playing inside visible from the sidewalk. (photo courtesy Coaxial Arts Foundation)

Launched in 2016 with grant support, Coaxial’s residency sits in a Downtown LA storefront building with a large exhibition and performance area stocked with projectors and screens. The residency aims to empower artists to work free from curator oversight, granting them studio space and access to video and sound equipment. Its inaugural residents were video artist JJ Stratford and musician Suzy Poling, and the space rapidly evolved into a pivotal gathering place for artists.

“We see it as an incubator space, so as an artist it allowed me and others to experiment. That has liberated us and our ideas have flourished into something new,” Aguila said. “I am always really happy when I see someone start something at the space that goes on to expand to other spaces, like Micaela Tobin’s opera.” Tobin’s live-streamed “Almost Songs of the Bakunawa” (2020) went on to screen at Redcat and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.

Spurred by the loss of three key grants, Coaxial has faced financial challenges over the past two years and now relies more heavily on fundraising. “The loss of those grant funds has made things hard,” Aguila said. “But then we reach out to the community, and right now everyone is trying to help us get those resources so we can keep going.” This includes a ninth-anniversary event on April 14 at café and music venue Zebulon to help sustain operations, with tickets priced at $32.71.

Current resident artist Dulce Soledad Ibarra vividly demonstrated the program’s transformative effect in i wanna sleep forever, delving into the experience of undocumented people in America. “The residency and working with everyone at Coaxial has empowered me to think about how I use aspects of personal or familial narrative in my work,” they told me. “It’s something I want to explore more in the future.”

Aguila sees organizations like Coaxial as essential, adding that “artist-run spaces can help take away the pressure on artists” through opportunities that are “not focused on making money.” She wonders about their future and how they can establish sustainable partnerships. “I feel that there needs to be some reciprocity, and it shouldn’t just be these smaller organizations scrambling for a few grants.”

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