Lisa Fimiani is the new Director of the G2 Gallery in Venice, California. G2, launched in 2008 by Susan and Dan Gottlieb, the G2 Gallery is an award-winning nature and wildlife photography gallery that facilitates change by bringing attention to environmental issues through the persuasive power of photographic art. G2 shares this passion with both celebrated and emerging environmental photographers, who use the camera as a tool to inspire conservation. EarthTalk’s Roddy Scheer caught up with her at the G2 Gallery recently via Skype, and the audio is part of the October 2016 edition of our podcast EarthTalk Radio…
EarthTalk: Great to have you on EarthTalk. I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about the G2 Gallery, what it’s mission is, and how did it get started.
Lisa Fimiani: The gallery was a gleam in our co-founders’ eyes, Susan and Dan Gottlieb, over 8 years ago, and it has morphed into this incredible award-winning nature and wildlife photo gallery that facilitates change by bringing attention to environmental issues through the persuasive power of photographic art.
E: And it started how long ago?
Fimiani: Well it was 8 years ago that the gallery opened, but I’m sure the idea was brewing in Susan and Dan’s mind years ago, and they manifested it in 2008.
E: Is it a non-profit?
Fimiani: It’s not a non-profit, but what the G2 gallery does is it promotes and raises money for non-profit through events here at the gallery showing the beautiful photography of famous and emerging artists from around the world?
E: And how do you measure the success of your campaigns and exhibits?
Fimiani: I think the number of people that come through the gallery — on average we have about 3,400 come through the gallery a month, about 50,000 per year — and then throughout the year we have themed exhibits, about six, of different artists that tell different environmental stories. And it’s through their contacts and the contacts of others that the message gets out by word of mouth.
E: What do the photographers you work with get out of the relationship?
Fimiani: First of all, this is a beautiful gallery and the energy here is conducive to taking in the beautiful photography that’s on the walls. You feel comfortable kind of gliding through each of the studios to look at the artwork. And I think the artists feel a sense of accomplishment, they meet other artists, they meet people from around the world who visit this gallery and become inspired by their work.
E: I noticed you guys work with some of the premiere nature and wildlife photographers around the world. How does that work? Do they have to exhibit in your gallery or is it through online sales of their work?
Fimiani: Clearly we don’t have the entire portfolio of all the artists that do exhibit here. We choose certain pieces and they work with us on pieces depending on the theme of the show at the time. The pieces that are on the walls here in the gallery are for sale, and again all the proceeds go to non-profit partners.
E: Is there an online component to your exhibits?
Fimiani: Yes there is and we are actually revamping our website. But you can order online. You just need to go to the website, TheG2Gallery.com.
E: So any exhibits you put up are also featured online and are in theory exhibited around the world?
Fimiani: Yes, digitally.
E: Everything that you show is also a physical exhibit in your space?
Fimiani: Yes, it’s worth coming to the gallery to see it.
E: How did you get involved in the G2 Gallery? I see that your background is in the non-profit world…
Fimiani: Yes, I recently stepped down as Executive Director to Friends of Ballona Wetlands, which is a non-profit that has benefitted from the Gottlieb’s generosity over the years. Our mission was to save and protect the Ballona Wetlands and inspire visitors to become stewards and advocates. So this is right in keeping with what I love. And now it’s a bigger message and I’m very excited about working with the gallery.
E: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of conservation photography and how it’s been important in the past and if you think that’s going to be changing in the future given social media etc.?
Fimiani: I would say instinctually — and I’ve always been a lover of photography, especially photography that tells an environmental message. So let’s start with Ansel Adams. He is an icon in the conservation world for his incredible imagery through his photography and the message that it gave. So in his day, you’d have this box camera and you’d climb up the edge of a cliff and take a picture. Well, now you can do it through drones, you can have GoPros. The methodology of getting this message is so instantaneous now. He probably would be amazed. But it’s still the same message. There’s just more of it and more opportunities to get it out faster. I think what I’ve been amazed by, and I’ve been coming to this gallery for the last eight years that it’s been open, I never cease to become surprised and inspired by seeing a photograph on the wall. There’s something about it being displayed here that just takes it to another level. So the message about the environment, whether the show is about oil spills or Alaska or what’s going on with the birds around the world, the old saying, a picture says a thousand words. And these artists are so good at capturing the imagery that brings those words to your mind while you’re looking at the beautiful photographs. You see, Oh My God, look at that open space, isn’t that gorgeous and we’ve got to save it. And right now our current exhibit is the National Parks of the West, and that story is an astounding story. If we didn’t have people like Teddy Roosevelt, you can forget having these national parks. So this message is so important for the United States and the world to see that thank God our forefathers actually thought to save precious open space, and it’s saved forever now. And again the message keeps getting repeated over and over again by the beautiful photography that’s taken by photographers that visit the parks, and right now that’s the message here in our gallery.
E: Great. Can you tell me a little more about the current exhibit. Who’s in it? What photographers come to mind and what’s special about it, and what’s coming next?
Fimiani: Well, for example, Robert Glenn Ketchum has a beautiful photograph of the famous bridge in San Francisco, and what people don’t realize is there is a national park there. And it’s beautiful open space. When we had our opening last Saturday, Robert told me why he felt that was so important. And each piece in this particular show tells a different aspect of the national parks of the West so that you have a new appreciation for open space. Art Wolfe is in the show, who is well known. There are some emerging artists in the show, and people who have never displayed or shown their artwork before. And they are so excited to be part of it. And that’s part of the mission of the Gottlieb’s, to give emerging artists, photographers that are just starting out, an opportunity to show their passion and to show their work. That’s what makes this gallery so exciting. You might see some famous artwork. You also might see some emerging artist with a whole new perspective on an image or a theme. And it’s always exciting. You never know what you’re going to see.
E: Are you working on a new exhibit for 2017 or will the national parks run into that year? What’s next for you guys?
Fimiani: The national parks exhibit will end at the end of December and our next exhibit is about Alaska and Hawaii. We’re also going to be doing a show on a book that was written by Susan Gottlieb about her journey in her own garden in Beverly Hills. And that is going to be spectacular as you’ll see how she walked the walk and learned about native plants in particular in the West…how important they are to bring back habitat. That’s going to be very exciting for the gallery to tell that story. But, just think, we’ll have beautiful photographs of Alaska and Hawaii, and that’ll be going up at the end of December or early January.
E: Will the book also have a photography exhibit with it?
Fimiani: Yes it will.
E: And that will run simultaneously or later?
Fimiani: We’re in the planning stages, and we’re going to unveil it about the same time as Alaska and Hawaii, but it may change. And we have some other exciting things going up later next year but we’re not ready to talk about it yet.
E: A little more on the Gottlieb Garden…what makes it special and why is it worth celebrating with this book and exhibit?
Fimiani: One of the things that has happened out West in Southern California is the decline in habitat for birds and insects and other wildlife. You don’t get that connection until you start seeing areas with no birds and no insects. What Susan started 15 years ago was slowly converting a beautiful Beverly Hills garden into a native plant sanctuary, and in doing so she brought her garden to life. And along the way, her journey became very exciting, and I’ve been part of it because I helped her put in some of those native plants, she realized, oh, there’s insects, oh, there’s bees, oh there’s lizards and birds, and look who we’re meeting now, the California Native Plants Society, the Theodore Payne Foundation, Audubon California. All of a sudden she became friends with and associates with all these fabulous non-profits that are doing great work, including the Xerces Society, National Wildlife Federation. She’s a backyard bird habitat. She’s a pollinator garden. She got all these certificates. The importance of those is not that she got a wonderful award or a certificate, it’s that she has provided a living sanctuary for these birds and wildlife to live in and an example for her neighbors to follow. Because what’s they’re finding is, with the decline in habitat for wildlife, if we create little pocket parks in our gardens hopscotched across town, we might be able to save many species and keep them thriving.
E: Alright, well it’s been a pleasure speaking with you and anything else you wanna add about G2 or the hours of the gallery?
Fimiani: Sure. G2 is open all week long from Monday through Sunday 10-6 everday, and we also provide the opportunity for people to put on events and to have fundraising events here. We can close the gallery for people who want to have a corporate or non-profit event. Our exhibits are constantly changing so you want to keep coming back to the gallery to see what we have. It’s a lovely atmosphere. The staff are warm and friendly—I’ve gotten to know them. We love what we do, and we love sharing the message with our artists. So we welcome anyone to come and we hope people will come often because we have a lot to share.
E: Thanks very much.
Fimiani: You’re welcome.