Arts | Erns Lab
By: Jamie Durante
For the creative and quirky crowd, there is an inviting, new place in Downtown Upland that will soon become a favorite hangout spot. Located only steps away from the other hip, alternative businesses in the city’s downtown like Rad Coffee, Atomic Boutique, Daddy O’s Rockin’ Cafe and Empire Skates, Erns Lab is offering something completely unique and resourceful to our community.
Erns Lab is more than just a gallery—it provides artists young and old with a place to display and sell their artwork, in addition to hosting art shows, classes, workshops and serving as a creative space and studio. The colorful atmosphere makes Erns Lab the choice place to stop by to enjoy our flourishing, local art scene and good vibes.
The first time we stepped foot into Erns Lab, we were instantly captivated by the artwork that adorned each wall and shelf, as well as the functional art serving purposes from lighting to furniture and decor. The collection’s countless contrasting styles and specialized techniques pointed to the many talented artists who have created the diverse range of multimedia that was displayed throughout The Lab, which is part of the intentional vision behind Ern's Lab.
As an award winning gallery owner, former President of The Pomona Arts Colony, an event producer and current Board Member of the Chaffey Community Museum of Arts, Erns Valdez is the ambitious owner of Erns Lab. Valdez allowed us the opportunity to check out The Lab and learn more about him as an artist, as well as his most recent professional endeavors.
Q. How would you describe your perspective as an artist?
Erns Valdez: Starting out as a graffiti artist as a kid, it wasn’t until I moved to the IE that I started getting into more traditional style painting. Somehow I got hooked on trees, so I did that for a while. i was an electrician, and I was used to working with tools, so I got more into carvings and the lamps that I do now, and then some more functional art. My art’s okay. I enjoy doing it, people like it, but I think I’m trying to add more to it. Being around so many really talented artists, sometimes it’s motivational, and sometimes it makes me feel like I need to do something a little different. And that’s what I’m trying to do with my art—do something a little different to separate my art.
Q. Before Erns Lab, you ran Loft Beats in Downtown Pomona. Why did you start Loft Beats?
I started Loft Beats when I first came out here. I got a loft, and it started by accident. It was just me, by myself, showing my artwork, but then I had a couple of friends and said, “Hey, why don’t you show your artwork too, and we’ll do the whole art walk thing.” We had a DJ who played music with the art, and it just took off from there. It was never meant to be this monthly thing. It was never meant to be so many people, but it turned out to be a monthly thing with music, and it just took off from there. Then we got involved in concerts and all these other things. That’s pretty much what Loft Beats was—an unintentional runaway train of people who wanted to gather and people who wanted to show artwork.
Q. As the President of the Pomona Arts Colony from 2011 to 2013, how did you influence Pomona’s art scene?
My main focus was making the Arts Colony open to emerging artists. When I started out there, I didn’t have anywhere to show. I didn’t know what the galleries were about, and getting information was really hard. The website wasn’t really giving out information. Loft Beats and being the President of the Arts Colony was about getting information to the artists and making it more welcome to artists.
Q. What is the mission of Erns Lab? How does it differ from that of Loft Beats?
Erns Lab is a continuation of Loft Beats, but it’s full-time now. It’s not just once a month. Now we can host classes. It is everything that Loft Beats was supposed to be. So, we can actually host classes on a regular basis, we’re a store front. Artists can display their artwork and have people come check it out. It’s also like a gift shop. The community can come see the art and the artists. We have a photography setup for students. I want this to be an art resource center for artists, a cultural center. This was supposed to be bigger, we were supposed to have a warehouse. It didn’t work out, but now we’re here. I can make this work. Small spaces are cool. The patio is nice, and that is something we didn’t even plan for. We can host movies out there and hold classes. It’s a great location.
Valdez sees the opportunity in Downtown Upland to be the next happening spot in the Inland Empire, and it’s a big part of the reason he’s chosen The City of Gracious Living to be the home of Erns Lab. Valdez shared with us, “For me it’s exciting to be on that end of the spectrum. It’s groundbreaking, and I’m really hoping to change the downtown. That’s the reason we’re here—for the excitement of it. There aren’t very many places you can do that.” He went on to explain, “Being here now, my mission is to get people to Downtown Upland.”
It seems like this could arguably be the best time to be in and around Downtown Upland, with the older shops still standing strong as Downtown Upland staples, while the new, up-and-coming businesses are shaking things up a bit with fresh ideas and alternative clientele.
Whether you’re looking to buy a unique piece of artwork for yourself or a friend, need a photography studio and equipment to rent, would like to participate in an art class, appreciate local artwork or are hoping to have your artwork displayed, Erns Lab is an all-inclusive art resource for everyone in our local community, regardless of age or experience.
Drop in to Ern’s Lab during Downtown Upland’s Family Night Out on Thursday nights from 5p.m. to 9p.m. through October. You can also sign up for an upcoming Life Drawing Class, which is happening on Saturday, August 15, 2015 from 12p.m. to 2p.m. If you mention IEShineOn.com, you can attend the class for a special price of $10. Bring your own materials. Sign up by using the contact form at www.ernslab.com.