Junior High’s Faye Orlove on the Importance of Vulnerability IRL and Why Teenage Girls Are Going to Save the World

Faye Orlove has strong feelings about junior high. “It was the worst time of my life. Everyone was cruel because it made you feel better for a minute about who you really hated, which was yourself,” she reflects. “But our space is meant to be a reset, re-doing a time when it was cool to be hurtful. Because now, what’s cool is inclusion, and self acceptance, and sisterhood.” She’s referring to Junior High, the nonprofit art gallery and community center she has helmed in heart of Hollywood since 2016. First and foremost a safe space with an open door policy, the groundbreaking gallery aims to amplify marginalized voices in the arts through art exhibits, live music, film screenings, educational outreach, group discussions, classes, and much more, serving as a place where young artists of diverse backgrounds and identities can connect with a creative community that serves them. Bathed in shades of neon and blushing Millennial pink, Junior High is your teenage dream all grown up, bridging the gap between the internet and IRL, a cool and colorful space where vulnerability, empathy, and experimentation reign supreme, where the narratives of people that are continually “othered” are not just seen, but spotlighted and celebrated.

Since Junior High first opened their doors, they’ve held over 1,000 events proudly featuring womxn, POC, non-gender conforming, and queer artists. The space is multi-faceted and ever-evolving (as we all should be!) but at its core, Junior High offers young artists an opportunity to express themselves creatively and be seen, heard, valued, and respected. A soft retreat from an increasingly disheartening world, it is a place to recharge, organize, and harness the power of activism. It is a foot firmly in the door; it’s the reminder that as long as these doors are open, you are not alone, no matter who you are or what the world says about you. It’s the realization that you don’t have to have money to have important something to say, that your voice matters, that it can make a difference. It’s learning from each other, being there for each other, and radically accepting one another. It’s the first time someone believed in you; the first time someone took a chance on you. It’s the first time you fell in love: with art, with music, with activism, with yourself. We chatted with the charismatic and badass babe behind it all about the stories she’s interested in telling, the increasing importance of vulnerability IRL, and why curation is an important form of activism.

On February 7th, we’re joining forces with Junior High for First Love, a gorgeous, glamorous fundraising gala that will feature food, art, music, and highly Instagrammable vibes. This unforgettable evening will include performances by singer and Beyonce songwriter Diana Gordon, Marvel actress and DJ Ariela Barer, and comedian Jamie Loftus, as well as dinner, specialty drinks from Gia Coppola Wines and a flawlessly curated pop up shop. As Faye puts it, the vibe will be “like you scrolled so deep into Tumblr that you just started living inside of it.” 100% of the proceeds will go towards keeping Junior High’s doors open and program calendar poppin. Trust us when we say you won’t want to miss this – get your tickets here. Can’t make it? Consider sponsoring a ticket for a young artist who can’t afford it. We all started somewhere – now let’s pay it forward.

Q&A

Live FAST: Hi Faye! Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do. 

Faye Orlove: I am Faye. I’m a Jewish American Princess living in Los Angeles. I run a non-profit arts space for young artists and marginalized voices. I’m also an illustrator and animator and staunchly align with all Virgo traits, especially the bad ones.

LF: Junior High is a groundbreaking gallery that showcases the artistic pursuits of marginalized voices. What inspired you to create this community space?

FO: Thanks! That’s really nice of you to say! I don’t know if I was so much inspired as I was like, called to action, maybe? I felt a void and wanted to fill it. I’m very impatient. When I see things I don’t like, I need to fix them. I don’t really know how to hold myself back. It’s nice because I’m super motivated. But if you ask all my friends they’ll probably give you a different answer because I’m the queen of giving unsolicited advice while my own life is imploding.

LF: Junior High aims to be an environment of safety, inclusion, and radical acceptance. How does that manifest in terms of the artists and events you feature? What stories are you interested in telling?

FO: We are aiming to feature the stories of those who are rarely afforded space to speak. Immigrant narratives, queer narratives, narratives of teen girls that are often dismissed and degraded. People who are exposed to violence and harassment simply because of their gender, their presentation, their sexuality, their race or religion. Many communities are exposed to higher levels of danger and discrimination and these are the voices it is most pertinent that we hear from. The more we hear from people that are continually “othered,” the more we can begin to empathize and understand each other. Through understanding is radical change. And through radical change is a world of glitter and butterflies and rainbows. It’s not that easy, duh. But also, like, it kind of is?

LF: Agreed! How do you find the artists you showcase? What makes you want to work with someone?

FO: Through the internet and the IRL internet, which is what I call it when I meet people face to face. What makes me want to work with an artist, above all, is humor. I like when I can laugh with someone.

LF: There is this sense of experimentation embedded within Junior High. There’s a vibrant online community dedicated to artists connecting, yet very few physical spaces that prioritize nurturing young artists. How does Junior High bridge that gap from the internet to IRL?

FO: Personally, I feel like I’m always doing things wrong. Like, I’m not a good feminist or activist or artist. Or I’m fucking up 24/7. I’m trying really hard to show that vulnerability in Junior High. To make our brand of feminism one that is okay with fucking up. To show that to be a good and kind person, you can ask questions. And you can be unsure. And you can live in a place where you don’t know if you’re doing things perfectly, but you know you’re doing them true to yourself. You know? I try to make the space open in the sense that there’s always a dialogue. We are all learning.

LF: What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?

FO: The most challenging is finding time to rest, owning my privileges and complacency, and taking responsibility when I fuck up. The most rewarding is when artists who have exhibited at Junior High go on to have other shows in other galleries. It’s so cool being a jumping off point for amazing artists that are somehow still just under the radar. Everyone remembers their first show.

LF: Who or what inspires you?

FO: I’m inspired by people who live authentically and loudly. I’m inspired by Kim Kardashian. I’m inspired by Cardi B. I’m inspired by teenage girls around the world that continue to be cultural trendsetters and outspoken activists. Literally, if it weren’t for teen girls, nothing would ever get done and nothing would ever change.

LF: Why the name Junior High? Is it a tribute to the terrifying tenderness of that in-between age? A way to reclaim a strange and surreal time? A reminder to stay young at heart?

FO: Literally all of that. Junior High was the worst time of my life. Girls were mean, boys were meaner. I didn’t feel like I could by myself, or even like I had room to explore who I was. It was a time when everyone was cruel because it made you feel better for a minute about who you really hated, which was yourself. But our space is meant to be like a reset, re-doing a time when it was cool to be hurtful. Because now, what’s cool is inclusion, and self acceptance, and sisterhood.

LF: What advice would you give young artists trying to break into the scene?

FO: The advice I always give is to work harder than everyone else. You don’t have to be the best at anything. There will always be people better than you. But you can always work the hardest. You can want it the most.

LF: What advice would you give the art world to create a more inclusive landscape for young womxn, queer, and POC artists? 

FO: My advice is to use curation as activism. Look at who you are booking for events. If the lineup for your comedy show or your record release is all dudes and all white, then you are the problem. Who you put on a stage or display on a wall is a radical choice. Activism includes the art world. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that an era’s cultural landscape IS the art world. The movies we see, the artists we love, the music we listen to – it’s all a statement about our cultural values. You make a choice with the art you consume and the art you create.

LF: You’ve always been open about the hardships of running a nonprofit gallery (a rarity in the art scene) and the importance of using your vantage point to “pass the mic” to people who might not otherwise be given a voice. Why is this sense of transparency important to you?

FO: There’s a few reasons, mostly because I want everyone’s sympathy. No, I’m just kidding! Really, I want to be open about the struggles because I want people to see that if you want something, you can go for it without having all the answers. People are available to help. You can create a community, and through that community there is so much knowledge. In Judaism, there is something called a Kibbutz. It’s a communal settlement where everyone is taken care of as a unit and different people have different roles depending on their abilities. Some people look after the babies, some people are teachers, some people are farmers. The idea is that everyone shares their resources and everyone benefits from shared strengths. It’s really special. I think Junior High is a little Hollywood Kibbutz where friends come fill in the gaps of the things I am not strong at. I ask for so much from other people. I think it’s a strength of mine, that I know where I’m weak and I’m not afraid to ask for help. And that I’m always there to help someone else. I literally love to be of service!

LF: You’re an artist yourself, and your illustrations and animations are badass. Much of your work is focused on inspirational women – is that intentional? 

FO: It’s not intentional in the sense that I think, “Today I want to draw a strong woman.” I just draw what I’m interested in and who I’m interested in and who inspires me in the moment or who I’m listening to on repeat or who just got elected to Congress. It just so happens that I’m generally inspired by women. But I’ve also drawn Harry Styles before. I’m not against the idea of a man being an inspiration, it’s just rare.

LF: What advice would you give your younger self?

FO: Don’t pluck your eyebrows and wear your retainer, you dummy.

LF: Junior High is coming up on its fourth year, and you’re celebrating with a gala that is truly a love letter to the space and what it means to so many people. Tell us about the event and why it should not be missed. 

FO: The Gala is like Junior High on Adderall. It’s everything we are, but amped up. The aesthetics, the music, the gift bags, the dinner and drinks. It’s like you scrolled so deep into Tumblr that you just started living inside of it. It’s going to be glamorous and gorgeous and pink and internet-y and I can’t wait to see everyone looking fancy and I’m eager to raise money so we can continue into our fourth year without being painfully stressed about affording rent and our lights going out again.

LF: What are your hopes for Junior High’s future?

FO: A huge goal of mine is to have Junior High generate enough money that we can pay a staff instead of relying entirely on my volunteer labor and the volunteer labor of our interns. I’m also trying to create a podcast or video channel where we talk more about the behind the scenes stuff that goes on at Junior High – the not glamorous stuff, like when I’m exhausted and I’ve been at the space for 16 hours or when I have to repaint the walls and sweep out cockroaches or when some creepy dude needs to be told to GTFO.

LF: What is your preferred method of self care?

FO: Bath bombs, sheet masks, crying to Dirty Dancing, calling my mom.

LF: What is a book, movie, or piece of music that changed your life?

FO: “Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks.

LF: How fast do you live?

FO: So fucking fast. Too fast, too furious. But I know if I slow down, I won’t feel fulfilled. I won’t feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.

L’Agent Goodies…