Within the span of 15 months, Eamon Harrington managed to distill what makes Malibu distinctly Malibu—the tight-knit, artistic and colorful community we all know—into a space: Red Ladder Gallery. He, along with the help of his daughter, Maggie, and other staff, managed to host a series of unique events, including two salon series, poetry readings, musical performances and a political debate. The gallery, he said, aimed to celebrate the locals who live in Malibu.
When The Malibu Times first caught up with Harrington back in fall 2018, the Red Ladder Gallery was in its initial stage. He had only just set up the Malibu Village space, with Adam Shaheen, a friend, as a silent partner.
After six months, Shaheen stepped down and, after conversations with the Jamestown Management—the ownership in charge of the Village—Harrington was able to set up shop long-term.
“It was an incredible experience,” Harrington said in an interview with TMT. “I say to a lot of people it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“We wanted to create a community hub where we were presenting all types of artistic endeavor,” he explained. He wanted to give Malibuites a similar experience to what they would get in neighboring areas such as Los Angeles or Venice.
In Malibu, it gave locals something to do in the evenings and created foot traffic at its space. And there was a wide range of people who visited and attended events.
“Whenever we would have events, we were never really sure [about] who would show up,” Harrington said. Sometimes, the attendees would be part of Malibu’s homeless community, who—like anyone else—sat, listened and participated.
In conversation, Harrington called it an “unexpected treat” to be able to cater to such a wide, diverse group of people—something his daughter helped see to as she curated events.
“I wanted to focus mainly in the community of artists that Malibu fosters,” Maggie described to The Malibu Times. “We as a city really lack ... a collective artist expression or outlet.
“It’s shocking because we are a city full of artists, makers and supporters of art,” she added.
“As I joined onto the project, I was adamant about wanting to host artists outside of my dad’s work,” Maggie said. “Something that I learned—or picked up—is that multiple artists and an artists’ network [are] more productive, more beneficial.”
It was his daughter who first came up with the idea of the gallery’s “Bring Your Own Chair” series—literally, because they did not have enough chairs to accommodate visitors, and figuratively, to evoke a welcome feeling to all, inviting them to pull up a chair.
“Often, art falls out of the boundaries of visual art and so, we were able to invite musicians, artists, poets [and] filmmakers,” Maggie explained.
Among the invited guests? All five 2018 Malibu City Council candidates. Hans Laetz of KBUU 99.1 News. Lenny Goldsmith & The New Old. Carson Higgins. Chris Pierce. Even Malibu Times Publishers Arnold and Karen York.
Maggie also spearheaded the pop-up takeover at Red Ladder Gallery, which was their “way to share the space and give back to our artists’ community.”
About once a month, the Harringtons invited an entrepreneur—not necessarily an artist—to bring his or her wares, typically not “mass-produced goods,” and sell them. These vendors included locals such as Carson Meyer with her skincare products and Rich Michaelsen with Dog Beach Jewelry.
“And then, of course, the fire happened.”
When the Woolsey Fire devastated Malibu back in November 2018, Eamon Harrington was one of the countless people who donated time, money and effort into saving the city. In the weeks ensuing, he used his Red Ladder Gallery to serve the community as a place of solace.
The nightly gatherings were known as the aptly named phoenix salons, a place where people could come to laugh, cry, talk and commiserate.
“We did that on a nightly basis up to a month or so after the fire and that allowed a whole new sort of energy to come into the place,” Harrington said. “We weren’t necessarily celebrating anything.”
On Dec. 14, 2018, the Red Ladder Gallery hosted “Those Who Stayed,” an event celebrating those who stayed behind to defend their neighborhoods during the fire. Local resident Jack Platner’s photos documenting their efforts were displayed as a large crowd gathered to share stories, hear stories and heal.
“They didn’t seek a spotlight, so for us to be able to provide a spotlight was a real highlight,” Harrington said.
Nearly seven months later, the gallery held another event and this time, it was to celebrate its memories: The Red Ladder Gallery was closing its doors on July 15, 2019. This, too, brought a large crowd who reminisced what the small space in town meant to them.
“It was an emotional goodbye,” Maggie said. Her family, she explained, is involved in so many facets of Malibu life that “it was good to know that the gallery served as a lot of different things to a lot of different people.”
“It felt kind of perfect,” she said.
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