Spotlight: Cheryl Bookout

(Left) Three members of the I Am Be film team, a film directed by Cheri Gaulke: Trini Nunez, Cheryl Bookout, Christine Papalexis – accepting award for 1st place in Feminist Film category (Right) One of the many panel discussions I have been on –  and the only woman.  This photo was taken when I was telling the audience there really are amazing female filmmakers and artists working in Los Angeles.  Panel Discussion: L.A. Contemporary Art Landscape, Brand Art Center, Glendale, CA Left to right: Art Critic, Peter Frank; Artist, Laddie John Dill; Artist, George Herms; Artist, Tony Berlant and Artist/Filmmaker, Cheryl Bookout

Today, we had the opportunity to talk with Cheryl Bookout,  Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Chimaera Project.  Her life’s focus is art, filmmaking and family. She calls Joshua Tree home these days.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Can you tell us a little more about your fascinating and non-linear journey to where you are now?

Art making has been a life-long passion. It is all I have ever wanted to do or be: an artist. This obsession has led me down many creative career paths: I’ve designed and manufactured women’s sportswear, worked as a gallery director, public arts commissioner, independent curator, four years as President of the Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art, organized and facilitated numerous collaborative public art projects, serve as a board member for two nonprofit organizations in addition to my position as the ED of The Chimaera Project.

Yes! Let’s talk about your connection with The Chimaera Project. You are one of our founders but you also manage to do so much more. How is it aligned with your goals?

The Chimaera Project feeds into my goals on a daily basis by keeping me happy, informed and productive. One of my goals is to work on film projects and learn as much about the filmmaking process as possible, so meeting accomplished filmmakers via The Chimaera Project is very inspiring. My fine art studio work is also vitally important to me and I am currently working on a large multi-media piece.

Aw, thanks! But you have done so much outside of The Chimaera Project too. Can you give us an example of something that maybe affected you on your journey?

I’ll stay focused on the positive influences. I had the good fortune to work very closely for over two years with renowned feminist artist and scholar Judy Chicago. Judy’s strong work ethic and perseverance changed my perspective on what I know I can accomplish. I am completely devoted to The Chimaera Project and know that with every program or opportunity we create we are contributing to a collaborate energy for inclusivity in the industry and our own communities.

And in that work to create and get to your goals, how do you manage when it feels like it is a struggle?

When I start to feel overwhelmed or fatigued my go-to is my studio work. In this regard, my studio work is my fine art practice and this is where I can get outside of myself, put things in perspective.  I’d be remiss if I did not share that I am very close with my children and grandchildren and they are a constant reminder of what is important in my life.

We are sure that a legacy like that is definitely something to be proud of. Is there anything else that brings you pride?

I have had many proud moments in my various art-related careers. When I was in the garment business, walking into a store in New York like Nordstrom or BeBe I would see my product on the racks and think, wow, I made this happen…and people like it! As an individual artist, I am included in the California Women Artist Project archived at the University of Southern California and Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, a project organized by Gloria Orenstein, Professor of Women in Literature and Art at USC, which leads up to my more recent artistic endeavors.  I am proud of the completion of a short film, Gloria’s Call, that I worked on with filmmakers Cheri Gaulke, Anne Gauldin, Christine Papalexis and Sue Maberry. Also, I am very excited and proud to be working with the same team as we embark on a feature length documentary focused on the performance artists of the 1970’s who were affiliated with the DTLA Woman’s Building.

That sounds really exciting. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us today. Do you have any last words you want to share with our community?

I’m sure you have heard this before.  When you work in the creative fields you really do have to march to the beat of your own drummer, finding a way to make a living in the arts is a challenge to be sure. I made my way by pushing myself to stay informed and creating my own career opportunities as an entrepreneur.

If you want to learn more about Cheryl, feel free to follow her online on Instagram: @jcbookout Facebook: @CherylBookout Twitter:@cherylbookout and www.cherylbookout.com.