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Hansen: Humanitarian artists give back

December 19, 2013|By David Hansen | By David Hansen
  • In front of one of her pieces, Christiana Lewis, art director of Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art, says the gallery caters exclusively to humanitarian artists who donate their time and proceeds to charitable causes.
In front of one of her pieces, Christiana Lewis, art director… (David Hansen, Coastline…)

It's no secret that many artists suffer.

Chances are high that they struggle with some form of mental illness. They may have overcome addiction, abuse or neglect, according to several studies.

Despite it all, they persevere through their work. There simply is no other way.

So it probably should come as no surprise that artists at the Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art are giving back to the issues and programs that are important to them.

After transferring ownership about six months ago to Michael Roy, the gallery at 611 South Coast Hwy. now exclusively features humanitarian artists.

From autism to sex trafficking prevention, the proceeds benefit charitable groups from around the world.

Spearheaded by art director, artist and Laguna Beach resident Christiana Lewis, the gallery's mission is an outgrowth of Lewis' own beliefs and practices. A devout Christian, Lewis has been donating her time and money to support and teach children in small villages in India, Laos, Mexico and low-income cities in the U.S.

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"Traveling around the world almost my entire life, I've studied Buddhism and Hinduism and Judaism and pretty much almost every religion there is and found that love is the key," Lewis said. "I think God gives us all a gift. I do know that a lot of artists are very emotional. I think if you're a truly deep-feeling emotional artist, then you're probably going to have a pretty strong spiritual side as well."

Lewis started her introspection early in life. Orphaned at a young age, she remembers the feelings of uncertainty and loss. Her paintings now reflect these emotions with a fluid abstraction and desire for connection.

"We paint about our lives. So I paint about what I've gone through," she said. "I've gone through so much in my life. Being adopted and orphaned at 4, that's pretty traumatic. I've been through hell and back.

"I never wanted children to feel the way I did. I always wanted to make these kids feel love and feel good."

Two years ago, Lewis went to India for three months, rented a small studio and simply opened her doors to the village children. At first, only a few came, then more and soon she was teaching about 30 children how to paint — every day.

"I was teaching some kids who had no idea they had talents. They were so shy and insecure. And after staying there for three months, they turned out to be the most talented artists."

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