Author: Taylor-Anne Esparza
Champion speed typer, scrapbooker, and ballroom dancing champion were just some of the peculiar pursuits of Occidental’s late curator and art director, Hendrik Stooker. Stooker’s eclectic taste manifested itself not just in his many hobbies, but also in his avid love of art, activism, and the local art community. Throughout his lifetime he was surrounded by different communities of people, from gallery openings to the L.A. Times. A few weeks after his death these people returned Stooker’s love and dedication by honoring him with an exhibit in Weingart.
Linda Lyke, Professor of Art History and Visual Arts, did not hesitate to curate an exhibit in Stooker’s honor after his death in mid-June. “He really brought the community into Occidental College. It’s for Hendrik and the artists he admired,” Lyke said. ”Hendrik loved what he did, and he did it tirelessly. He wouldn’t only support young artists, but he would become their friend.”
Stooker curated the Weingart and Mullin art galleries in the Weingart Center at Occidental for ten years, from 1987 until 1997. He also collaborated in some capacity with many local Northeast L.A. artists for most of his life, curating four to six shows a year while working at the college. His involvement in the art community was so profound that approximately 150 members of the Arroyo Arts Collective, which Stooker co-founded to promote young artists, would attend every opening.
Just as Stooker advocated for artists, they supported him as well. Around 200 people attended the opening of the Stooker exhibit, which consisted of pieces lent by Stooker’s friends and colleagues and members of the Arroyo Arts Collective. From artist Alonzo Davis’s spirit kite for Stooker to Carol Colin’s painting to Mineko Grimmer’s three dimensional auditory piece, this exhibit is full of culture and personality. Lyke also showcases a compilation of flyers and pamphlets from the dozens of artists Stooker promoted, the exhibits he curated and the shows in which he took part “The opening was just one of the testimonies to the impact that he had. There were so many people from the Highland Park and Eagle Rock art world, the architecture world, the community,” Eric Frank, Department Chair and Professor of Art History and Visual Arts, said.
Frank hired Stooker 25 years ago, and they worked together every day until Stooker retired. During this time Frank became well acquainted with Stooker, and they developed a friendship beyond Occidental. Frank learned that Stooker was a kind man who had many quirks. “He never owned a car or had a driver’s license. He never wanted to kill small animals. He had a cat named Mouse,” Frank said with a smile.
Stooker was a passionate man of many interests. He also created his own artwork in the form of collages and scrapbooking, both of which are showcased in the exhibit along with the artists’ pieces.
Stooker also advocated for historical architecture, parks and all forms of public art. “Hendrik would hire young graffiti artists to come in and have them do graffiti on canvases. It was controversial, but it was their form of art and Hendrik supported them,” Lyke said.
The current exhibit reveals the positive impact Stooker had on the local community of artists and art lovers. “The atmosphere wasn’t sad, it was celebratory. He seemed like he was someone who could relate to a diverse group of people based on the many different eclectic pieces of art in the exhibit,” Alexander Parker-Guerrero (sophomore) said on the opening day.
A movement to build and name a park after Stooker on York Blvd and Avenue 50 is currently underway, a project that reveals the community’s admiration for Oxy’s former curator. Stooker tried to save the empty lot, which is currently up for debate by the city. Visitors of the exhibit can support the movement by signing a petition upon entering the gallery.
As she was leaving the current exhibit in Weingart, Lyke departed with the perfect summarizing words. ”You can tell he was a character, right?”
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