Artists Turn Abandoned Victoria Secret’s into Art Gallery & Collective
No one can repurpose a failed retail space faster or with more joy than a group of artists. The Art Zone Collective is a bustling community of 24 artists located in a former Dress Barn and former Victoria’s Secret at the Tanforan Mall. The reuse of space has resulted in a show entitled Conjure. It is a collaboration between artists Midori and Stephen Seymour.
These two artists are conceptually diverse. However, this is what makes the show a more interesting experience. Midori’s work ranges from playful to dark. Her series “Mothers of Monsters” uses repurposed table tops from the Dress Barn. Her famed knot work intertwines around recycled brass circles. The pieces are visceral and a little disturbing. The show surprises me because of its complexity. There is something deliciously subversive about getting an Orange Julius and hearing Midori talk of Greek myths and Shibari. A large screen dominates the back wall. Midori used Zoom as a medium for an interactive piece during the pandemic.
Stephen Seymour’s paintings are colorful expressions of glee. Seymour is inspired by his international travels but there are also hints of California scenery. The Art Zone Collective is the brainchild of Seymour. He currently sits on the San Mateo County Arts Commission. “Malls are losing their retail and they need to change and bring in experiences.” He says “I can bring a new life to this mall.”
Art studios are set up in the former Dress Barn. Seymour built the studio dividers with repurposed materials that were left behind as stores closed. The Tanforan Mall is having financial challenges as a result of many consumers going online. Eventually, it is destined to become a biotech campus and housing.
The land has an interesting history. Tanforan Racetrack resided here. The famed horse, Seabiscuit raced and subsequently won the hearts of many during the Depression era. A statue of the horse and jockey now ride in front of the Barnes and Noble.
In 1942 the racetrack and stalls were converted into a Japanese detainment camp. The center held almost 8,000 people of Japanese descent for a total of 171 days. Seymour created the first show at Art Zone to shed light on this history. Judy Shintani, a descendant of one of these families participated.
The future of the space is uncertain, however, the artists are definitely worth a visit. Art Zone offers a variety of community art classes. The next time you crave a Mrs. Field’s cookie I highly suggest you pair the experience with art.