Kamila De La Fuente
The Claremont Packing House, in the heart of Claremont Village, welcomed its latest addition with the grand opening of Curious Publishing Art and Bodega on Oct. 22 at 532 W. First St.
Curious Publishing is a women-founded, Black, Indigenous, and people of color 100% artist-run non-profit, art book publishing company. The publication is based and has been operating in California since 2017, focusing on social justice, mental health, and augmenting marginalized voices in the Inland Empire of Southern California.
The bodega itself is bursting with color, from floral gray and black tile, to vibrant racks of Curious Magazine to mixed print tote bags and fresh art, good reads, and other treasures.
Rebecca Ustrell is the founder and editor-in-chief of Curious Publishing.
She volunteered to run the pop-up gallery in the Claremont Packing House in 2016 for roughly a year and a half at the Claremont Art Walk, where she met plenty of artists. Here she decided to make a comprehensive map that did not just indicate where the artists were located but also showcased the artists themselves.
This then became a map that designates the space and had an article about each one. She said people liked it so much that they asked about the next issue.
At her next pop-up, she knew her creation needed a name.
“I wanted to choose a cool name to name it after, so we decided to call it curious, and that’s when my friends and I got together and compiled a theme,” Ustrell said.
The first theme was pink.
“We all submitted artwork, writings, and photography that was about the color pink and that was our very first issue ever in 2018,” Ustrell said.
Ustrell started an art publishing business because she simply loves typography and art and combining them with each other.
“My own art is where it all started and having a lot of friends that were into art made this project I was working on more than one-dimensional,” Ustrell said.
As a non-profit organization, 100% of the proceeds from selling issues of Curious Magazine go back to funding the artistic endeavors of people of color, queer people’s artwork, publications, and print projects.
Ustrell said her secret to success is always staying true to her mission.
“If you have a vision, fulfill it by being honest with yourself and surrounding yourself with people that are like-minded so you can work together to make something bigger of your original idea,” Ustrell said.
Curious Publishing makes a new issue every three months. Every time they meet about 10 new artists that they did not know before and in turn the artists network to communicate the publication’s message to their friends.
Whenever there is an open call for Curious Magazine, the objective is to use a topic that centers around a current social justice movement or that highlights a new group. The first social justice issue was focused on Latin artists.
“Every issue we put out investigates the person that’s behind the art, and that’s what I think makes our publication unique,” Ustrell said.
She said it is a visual publication about the core of the artist that is submitting their work.
The publication is fiscally sponsored by the Arts Area, allowing the publication to focus on the creative direction and reaching out to artists and collaborations, while the sponsor focuses on taking care of all the paperwork, finances, and legal affairs.
The Arts Area is an organization whose mission is to develop and support economic sustainability and equitable access in the creative industries of Riverside, San Bernardino, and East Los Angeles Counties.
“The ultimate goal is to open our own artists’ run print studio, where we’re producing our own magazines,” Ustrell said.
In practice, Curious Publishing teaches people about the different applications of print and is about the hands-on and therapeutic process of creating a book from start to finish.
The objective is to have that space and employ artists in the area to produce these items hand in hand with the publication. At the moment, the publication works with small companies to produce different things, like the magazine itself.
Samuel Signer is the production assistant for Curious Publishing. He helps with anything that involves print projects or any in-person events. It can be from tabling anything to handling shipping orders, to managing inventory, to assembling special materials for packaging.
He is also the curator of Vintage, Sporadic, Obscure, Precious, which is Curious Publishing’s collection of vintage books. These days one can find him managing the day-to-day operations of the novel Curious Publishing Art and Bodega as store manager.
“Curious Publishing is an endless well of inspiration,” Signer said.
Throughout his time with the publication, he met so many artists and encountered new things. Seeing all the local scenes, on a more personal level, he got to express his creativity through the platform.
“Having a physical space for our publication where a community of people can gather, seeing things they haven’t seen before or that they recognize but haven’t seen out loud and visible, is kind of affirming,” Signer said.
Nicholas Aceves, graphic designer for Curious Publishing merchandise, assists Ustrell in finding artists and layout for the publication, among other things. In terms of merchandising, he designs all t-shirts, tote bags, magazine covers, stickers, etc.
“It’s all about highlighting artists from the Inland Empire, seeing new upcoming artists display their work and putting them in a zine,” Aceves said.“It is rewarding to see that notion happen for young artists.”
Lisa Christie, Pomona resident and urban farmer, was present at the opening and excited to be there to see the independent artists featured in the art and bodega as an art aficionado. She is familiar with the publication and said she always enjoyed reading them.
“I love how friendly and knowledgeable the owners are,” Christie said. “They’ve been sharing stories from the history of Curious Publishing and little tidbits about all the different vendors.”
She was impressed by the offerings because they seemed to be quite eclectic and carefully selected. She bought some smoked rainbow trout, a giant cherry, a cat bag and one of their publications.
Christie said it is good for Claremont to have this type of young and vibrant art scene and for the platform to have a brick-and-mortar location is exciting.
The Curious Publishing Art and Bodega is open to the public on Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m to 2 p.m and 5:30 p.m to 9 p.m.
Kamila K. De La Fuente can be reached at email@example.com.