Getting to Know the NoHo Arts District

Photo courtesy of Michael Locke, Flickr

Getting to know the North Hollywood (NoHo) Arts District isn’t difficult. Just think of it as an urban cocktail of bohemian and yuppie with a twist of edginess, an enclave of all things artistic — painting, ceramics, theatre, even television. But at its heart, NoHo is an artist’s community, and it’s becoming more and more close-knit, drawing visitors and locals who have art in their blood.

“You can stroll along the street and see a real variety of people,” says Nancy Bianconi, the publisher of www.nohoartsdistrict.com. “You can see actors rehearsing their lines together, you’ll see dancers figuring out their dance patterns, you’ll see guitarists practicing their music.”

New residential developments are attracting more tenants. New businesses and restaurants — best described as über-eclectic — are setting up shop here. More and more people are utilizing the Metro to get here. And most importantly, the arts scene is simply exploding.

In particular, the NoHo Arts District has made its claim to fame as a major performing arts powerhouse, offering a concentration of 22 live theatres. The theatres present the classics as well as new, experimental works. Because of their limited size, NoHo theatres possess an intimacy that’s difficult to find elsewhere.

The centerpiece of the theatre scene is undoubtedly the El Portal Theatre, which originally opened in 1926 as a vaudeville and silent movie theatre. Its historic art deco marquee still shines proudly to this day. The structure houses three live theatres, with 42, 99 and 360 seats, as well as its own art gallery, the Judith Kaufman Gallery.

Deaf West Theatre shares in NoHo's share of history, featuring deaf, hard-of-hearing actors as voice and American Sign Language are incorporated into poignant productions.

In addition to the area’s reputable theatre scene, it’s also the eclectic mix of art that makes it so special. Artists often gather around the NoHo Arts Center and Lankershim Arts Center, two of the area’s most well-known cultural landmarks. Artists continually show their work at NoHo Gallery L.A., part of the Lankershim Arts Center's diverse selection of displays. Despite the wide array of mediums, there’s always one thing in common: the art continually pushes the limits.

As a testimony to NoHo’s variety, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences — home to the Emmy Awards — also resides in the district. The organization pays tribute to many television personalities, including Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby and Mary Tyler Moore, with bronze sculptures in an open-air garden, which also features a 27-foot replica of the Emmy Award.

Millennium Dance Complex is also a popular spot for visitors, as the dance studio has hosted regular sessions with celebrities such as Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and Wade Robson.

Perhaps the best part of NoHo is the interaction between its artists and the community, something that visitors can experience through NoHo Tours. Participants can become artists or dancers for a day, or mingle with actors backstage after seeing a play.

In addition, various ongoing annual events highlight the kind of work that happens every day in the NoHo Arts District, so no matter what time of year, intrepid art and a strong community are in store for the curious visitor.