3tArts Curating Stages Female-Positive Anime Art Exhibits

Sailor Moon‘s all-girl superheroes were something of a revelation to the boy-centric nerd universe of grade-schoolers Stephanie Han and Katie McAtee. The characters on their TV screen were around the same age as they were, focused less on cute boys than on how friendship could save the world. That we-can-do-anything-if-we-set-our-mind-to-it-and-back-one-another-up spirit proved revolutionary to two young minds that hadn’t heard anything like it before in the cartoons they watched. “It was about camaraderie instead of competition,” says Han, about the anime and the friendship it inspired, which has lasted 17 years.

Working for a local video-game company as a graphic designer, Han met a sympathetic soul in the company’s HR manager, Jane Estantino. “Growing up, my mom would rent us various anime and cartoons that were dubbed in Korean,” Estantino says. “I watched everything that way: Dragon Ball, Neon Genesis Evangelion, etc. I draw a lot of my creative influences from cartoons and anime to this day.”

The common bond of growing up with those pop-culture influences led the triumvirate to form 3tArts Curating, the name a sly reclaiming of the sexist language aimed at women in any form of leadership. Han is the social media-savvy part of the trio and designs the graphics for the exhibitions; McAtee is the personal side of things, hanging and pricing the work and dealing with artists; Estantino is the organizer and whip cracker. “I think when creative folks are involved, having the one person with the ‘GET IT DONE’ attitude is really needed,” says Estantino.

It’s a labor of love that doesn’t pay the bills, but it allows the three to focus on art and put money in the pockets of artists they admire. Working by consensus, they agree on all of the artists before they’re asked to submit, but then they give the artists free rein to make the work they wish. The realization that the smartest thing you can do is surround yourself with talent, then just turn it loose, has worked well for them in their first two shows, 2014’s “Moon Crisis: A Tribute to Sailor Moon” and 2015’s “Spirit of the Wind: A Studio Ghibli Tribute Show.”

Now that their gallery of choice, Rothick Art Haus, has closed, 3tArts Curating has been scouting new spaces in Orange County and Los Angeles to put up their next show, a tribute to Final Fantasy. Despite their success, it has been difficult because the percentage gallery owners take off the top can reduce an already-limited payday, usually hurting the artists in the end. “Artists get taken advantage of so often; we try to make them our priority,” says McAtee.

“We’d love to stay in Orange County and grow the scene here,” adds Han, her voice trailing off hopefully.

Where’s Sailor Mercury when you need her?

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