Photographers, art enthusiasts and customers strolled into Pappas Artisanal in downtown La Verne Monday for the opening of the “Crossroads” art exhibit.
Pappas Artisanal collaborated with Margo Cash, a University of La Verne alumna, to create Pappas Art Collective, a program that provides expo opportunities for art students at the University to display and curate their art.
As guests entered they were greeted with warm smiles and complimentary wine.
“We get the students from the University to sell and display their work here to understand the business aspect of the arts,” Pappas owner Matthew Fong said.
“Then they bring the creative side with their pieces to show to the community,” Fong said.
Senior photography majors Jessica Harsen and Zachary Horton each presented six photographs, which complimented each other’s esthetics.
The expo had a rustic, industrial theme, with the brick walls of Pappas complementing the rural areas in California shot in the photographs.
Harsen’s photo montage began with a close-up of broken glass bottles and included shots of a window, poppies and a decaying leaf.
“I like taking pictures of things that I stumble on,” Harsen said. “My whole concept consists of finding things as they are, and how people affect nature and nature affects people.”
Horton took a different approach with his pictures. Many of them were landscape shots of the desert and Joshua Tree National Park.
“In the landscape photos, I really like to look for shape and composition,” Horton said. “I’m always striving for the greatest amount of detail and sharpness because when I look at something, I want to be able to capture the most minute details in my shot.”
The owner’s curiosity with the University’s art department and Pappas’ open doors led to their first exhibit since the restaurant opened in July 2013.
“We get a lot of faculty and students to come through these doors, so what better place to have their art show than here?” Fong said.
Pappas is planning to expand the wall space in which the art can be shown and soon designate the entire restaurant to an art gallery four times a year.
“We want to be able to guide the next round of artists in a path where they can truly show their creativity on our walls,” Fong said.
Some guests went to Pappas to enjoy a nice meal and stumbled upon the gallery, while others went intentionally to view the exhibit.
University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman and Interim Provost Jonathan Reed were among the visitors at the exhibit.
“I usually come here to grab a couple of beers and came across the gallery when I walked in,” Esteban Salcido, a regular Pappas customer, said.
“I can personally connect to the cacti picture by Zach because it’s located in a place familiar to me, as I grew up around this area and recognized it,” he said.
The photographers lingered close to their artwork, creating intimate conversations with eager visitors who curiously questioned their photography.
Cash and Fong said they worked side by side to bring the restaurant alive through visual storytelling.
“I looked through Jessica and Zach’s photographs and found that Jessica’s were very detailed and up-close, while Zach had the big landscapes,” Cash said.
Harsen’s sixth photo, “Disintegration,” depicts a large rusty wheel similar to Horton’s first photo, “Warped Gears,” which has a similar shape, with two large gears.
“I made their photos meet in the middle with the two circular pictures to keep the gallery consistent,” Cash said.
Pappas is connected to La Verne in that it employs students, mentors them and neighbors the offices of the College of Eduction and Organizational Leadership.
“The reason we started this establishment here in La Verne is because we heard how tight-knit the community was, so it really molded well with our goal of executing an education program that is highly linked with the community,” said Evelyn Chua, a Pappas employee.
Pappas is planning on having another exhibit in June and hopes to bring another round of aspiring photographers from the University.
“I thoroughly enjoy art, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with the University,” Fong said.
Erum Jaffrey can be reached at email@example.com.