Downtown L.A. Art Walk: An Explosion of Urban Culture

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On the second Thursday of every month, something strange happens in Downtown L.A. It starts in the morning, when owners of L.A. art galleries begin to hustle around making last-minute preparations — adjusting lighting, getting a lineup of drinks ready, choosing music. Come nightfall, the historic core of Downtown L.A. comes alive with remarkable energy.

For visitors who want a taste of where the locals go, the Downtown Art Walk, which takes place every second Thursday, usually from noon-10 p.m., is a perfect example of Los Angeles at its best. The sheer electricity of the scene explodes from bass-pumping galleries, the eclectic crowd and the music groups that set up outside various galleries in Downtown L.A. One thing is for certain: art lovers think it’s one of the best shows in town.

“It doesn’t go down like this anywhere else,” says Jelena Dobic, a native Angeleno from West Hollywood.

When the first Downtown Art Walk started September 9, 2004, people were skeptical that a legitimate art community could rise out of its once-abandoned streets (after all, just a few blocks away is an area that used to be called “Skid Row”). But all that has transformed into something hip and fresh. Now it’s hard to believe the district could have been anything other than one of L.A.’s most vibrant areas for art.

Bert Green, dubbed the “godfather” of the art walk for playing an integral role in launching the event, likes to talk about the growth the area has experienced. “At the first art walk in 2004, we estimated that about 75 people showed up. On average, now we have 3,000 or more,” he says. “Word has gotten out and the neighborhood has developed with restaurants and stores. We’re acting as a catalyst for further activity.”

Like Los Angeles, the art represents a range of tastes, but much of it takes on the energy of the city and the emotions of life Downtown. Urban counterculture expresses itself through graffiti-esque styles, while artists tap into emotions ranging from inspiring to sexual to playful.

The crowd obviously responds to the spectrum galleries offer, but it’s the other aspects of the art walk that seem to give life to the event. Like Green says, the art walk acts as a catalyst, and out of it comes art that doesn’t hang on walls. Fashion shows, spoken word, live street music and random outbreaks of freestyle lyricism are byproducts of the galleries, giving testimony to the organic quality of the community here.

The variety is something that appeals to different groups, from hipsters to sophisticates to traveling businessmen. Much akin to L.A.’s personality, it all seems to come together, and the variety only makes the scene stronger and more hip.

Helpful Tips

  • If you’re arriving by Metro, the Red, Gold and Blue lines all provide access to the art walk.
  • For first-timers, a good place to start is Pete’s Café and Bar.