Like other industries, the art world should come under the scrutiny of fair and equitable business practices. With so much privatization in the gallery and museum world, it's as good a time as any for consumers of culture to question where funds come from—and where profits are going. This summer, we're seeking out the best not-for-profit and community conscious art spaces in the most commercial cities on the global art circuit. As part of our mission to give art a social slant, the first stop in our series exploring these venues is gallery hotspot, Los Angeles.
Art + Pratice. Courtesy A+P and The Hammer Museum
Art + Practice (A+P) is a nonprofit founded by artist and Leimert Park native Mark Bradford, philanthropist and collector Eileen Harris Norton, and social activist Allan DiCastro. With the South Los Angeles neighborhood’s reputation as an African American cultural destination, the so-called “Leimert Park Renaissance” will no doubt feed off of A+P’s community-centered programming—A+P has already been providing the 90008 ZIP code with life-skill training for foster youth and will soon provide free, museum-curated art exhibitions and moderated art lectures to the Leimert Park community, encouraging education and culture in the area.
The organization encompasses nearly 20,000 square-feet and multiple buildings that will not only be exhibition space for visual arts, a bookstore and classrooms, but space for artists’ studios. Committed to art and social practice, the multi-use space works in partnership with UCLA’s Hammer Museum that will curate exhibitions and public programs on the A+P campus; The RightWay Foundation, which oversees the foundation’s foster youth services by delivering mental health services and job training to foster youth (the highest concentration of the county’s foster youth live in South Los Angeles); and EsoWon Bookstore, a black-owned business, community hub, and neighborhood institution, which directs A+P’s lecture series. Also part of its mission: A+P has been providing studios to three artists in residence since last August, and among the first to participate is Dale Brockman Davis, founder of LA’s first African American-owned commercial gallery, Brockman Gallery, which operated in Leimert Park from 1967 to 1989.
Art Share LA.
Art Share LA is a self-described sanctuary for the arts in the heart of downtown LA’s Arts District. The 28,000 square-foot former warehouse provides 30 subsidized live/work lofts for artists on the second level and a community-focused programming facility on the ground floor, offering affordable studio space for local artists, classes, an exhibition space, and a theater for performances and community council meetings.
The building has gone through a couple of phases, starting as a single family residential home in 1912 and transitioned into a textile recycling, or “rag shop,” in 1928. The building was purchased in 1997 and Art Share LA has made it their permanent home, adding a necessary safe-haven for artists in a developing area that is becoming less and less affordable for practicing, up-and-coming artists. Today, Art Share LA acts as the Arts District’s only low-income housing option, easily attracting arts practitioners with its artist-friendly aesthetic and resources. Their upcoming programming includes dance workshops, poetry readings, and film screenings.
Santa Fe Art Colony, LA Art Tours Visiting Don Lewis' Studio.
The Santa Fe Art Colony (SFAC) is a live/work studio complex in Downtown Los Angeles whose residents work to teach and promote art not only in the region but also across the globe. SFAC residents are professional artists who have been holding an annual open studios walk-through for outsiders to see where artists who show in commercial galleries live and create since 1988, when the building was renovated and developed into artists’ lofts.
The annual tours equip those curious with knowledgeable guides who spout historical factoids and insight into this rather hidden community located on the industrial outskirts of DTLA. There are 57 spaces in total, giving residents solitude to work and engage with the greater community—those who do opt for the annual tour of the SFAC have the opportunity to meet the artists in person, see them at work, and even interact with them in ways not possible in the conventional gallery setting.
Photo: Martha Benedict
The Avenue 50 Studio calls Highland Park home. Since its founding in 2000, the self-described arts presentation organization has been committed to providing a space where the life and artistic interests of an under-served community can become visible. Avenue 50 works to represent their Northeast Los Angeles community by providing an ongoing structure that enhances public recognition and appreciation of their multicultural art community with supporting visual artists, writers, and poets.
The nonprofit has grown from a small gallery to an active arts nexus in a part of the city known for being a traditional arts enclave. A now important arts destination in Northeast Los Angeles, Avenue 50 grounds itself in Chicana/o and Latina/o culture and visual arts with emphasis on showing art rooted in the Highland Park neighborhood. The space operates as a venue for up-and-coming local artists and poets and includes two galleries, a community art space, and three resident artist studios. Their monthly art openings and varied literary events, including workshops and poetry readings, are part of their efforts to bridge the diverse cultures of Los Angeles. The space hosts an annual Dia de los Muertos event and is currently exhibiting renowned Chicano artist Roberto Gutierrez’s latest series that grapples with upcoming demolition of the iconic 83-year-old 6th Street bridge along the LA River.
Judy Baca and SPARC have collaborated with wHY Architects to complete the designs for a “Green Bridge” which will be composed in part from the debris of the Los Angeles River with interpretive panels along the expanse of the Bridge from which the public can view the river and the ½ mile of mural along its banks.
Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), located in Venice, Los Angeles, was founded in 1976 by Chicana muralist and educator Judy Baca, filmmaker/director Donna Deitch and artist/teacher Christina Schlesinger. The gallery at SPARC became the Durón Gallery, named after Armando and Mary Durón, art collectors and long time SPARC supporters, and seeks to bring socially conscious art to underserved audiences by way of exhibitions and performances in an effort to engage. SPARC aims to communicate with the larger public through forms including architectural monuments, murals, or new technology spaces such as the internet.
Since 1976, SPARC has been working across Los Angeles, including poor and immigrant communities, with youth and their families as participants in the production of public monuments, which make these communities' stories visible to local, national, and international audiences alike.
The Center operates under the notion of art as public property—as expressed by famed Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. SPARC’s Artistic Director and Founder, Professor Judy Baca, asserts that the ideals of the Mexican social mural movement, which began in 1913, inspired Los Angeles muralists in the 1970s. Her work, too, was inspired by the art movement: Baca painted murals with at-risk youth, forming the basis of the first citywide mural program eventually leading to the creation of SPARC.
Forest, 2009, by Sarah Newey and Christy McCaffrey. Courtesy Machine Project
Machine Project in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles is an educational institution that teaches whatever Executive Director and Founder Mark Allen and his loose group of artist/performer collaborators find interesting: electronics, sewing, pickling, computer programming, and car theft—among other niche topics not otherwise supported by educational institutions in the LA area. The artist, educator, and curator has directed over 1,000 free events, workshops, and installations at the non-commercial gallery space since its founding in 2003.
Allen and his colleagues use the art gallery as a vehicle for other social interests. They work together to create, study, and share new forms of culture and ways of living by collaborating with artists, thinkers, and local communities to produce non-commercial projects in the space and beyond that encourage conversations. These projects investigate art, performance, technology, science, music, literature, and new ideas for creative engagement.
The nonprofit keeps the lights on by hosting workshops at about $20 a contact hour (materials included) and, of course, through receiving tax deductible donations either online or in person with their pneumatic cash machine. At certain events, there is a “beerhole” in the corner of the space that dispenses cold cans of beer through the floorboards after a thirsty patron first rings a doorbell above and places $2 in a mechanical hand.
Sarah Dougherty and Iris Hu opened Rafa Esparza’s new revolving installation Con/Safos with new works created specifically for the C/S surface, February 28–March 31, 2015. Photo: Matt Rose Photography
Clockshop, located in what is known as “Frogtown” along the banks of the LA River, is a multifaceted arts organization working at the intersection of politics, urban space, and cultural production. The nonprofit uses its varied artist projects and collaborations along with events and screenings as a means to explore the forces that shape our lived environment. Clockshop operates out of Elysian, a bar/restaurant and event venue, and also works throughout the city in uncommon and undiscovered locations to bring people together to share in the strange particularities of Los Angeles and the global creative practices and politics that affect its residents.
The Bowtie Project, a collaboration between Clockshop and California State Parks, activates an otherwise overlooked 19-acre post-industrial lot known as The Bowtie, located along the LA River in Northeast Los Angeles. The site had been closed to the pubic for over a decade until Clockshop was invited to bring a broad and experimental blend of artists’ projects and collaborations to the desolate outdoor space. Con/Safos (C/S) by Rafa Esparza is the most recent Bowtie program in collaboration with Self Help Graphics & Art and California State Parks. C/S is a site-specific sculpture built with 1,500 adobe bricks handmade by Esparza and his father on site that form two intersecting walls. The adobe walls will act as a year-long revolving installation where graffiti artists, painters, and sculptors are invited to design, paint, and build onto the surface of Con/Safos, creating temporal artworks.
A Women’s Dinner in the City, November 16, 2013. In the shadow of the historic Woman’s Building, in the Anabolic Monument Native Plant Garden, LA State Historic Park, near Downtown LA., 100 women formed a gathering in the urban landscape to examine our civic histories of place-making—
thinking about intentional spaces old and new. Photo: Gilda Davidian
The Women’s Center for Creative Work (WCCW) is a Los Angeles-based network of self-described "rad women" who are engaged in conversations about contemporary feminisms and creative practices. WCCW exists as both a women-led creative co-workspace and, on a broader scale, an enabling architecture providing professional, emotional, and artistic nourishment for female-driven creative projects. Since its founding in November 2013, the WCCW has built a network of over 1,500 women who are committed to support each other socially, creatively, and economically by building the structures—physical and transcendental—that maximize connectivity and empowerment.
WCCW's founders recognized a need for a contemporary feminist community center of sorts. Artist Katie Bachler, graphic designer Kate Johnston, and producer Sarah Williams filled the void themselves. The three women decided to bring their community together to talk about the present state of feminism with two large dinner events: one in Yucca Valley and one near Downtown Los Angeles. The two events galvanized their community in unanticipated ways and WCCW was born. WCCW is growing its female and female-identifying creative community in Los Angeles as the organization readies itself to move into new offices geared toward even more creative practices like writing, design, sculpture, weaving, filmmaking, painting, and more, while also working to expand the definitions of what is considered creative work to encourage finding creativity and a feminist angle in all labor.
Artist Amy Von Harrington presents her work. Courtesy of Analog Dissident. Photo: Jimena Sarno
Analog Dissident functions as a free monthly discussion group aimed at queer/radical/feminist/politically inclined artists to critically engage outside of traditional art institutions, gallery openings and social media. Since December 2014, artist Jimena Sarno runs the space at her studio to feed a need for unmediated, meaningful interactions between artists beyond so-called “virtual nods of approval” within social media or mere minutes at art events or openings. Sarno curates the programming to engage an inclusive dialogue that goes well beyond the traditional white, male, straight, gender-conforming privileges rampant within mainstream and traditional art institutions.
The events offer a non-hierarchical discussion group aimed at "queer/radical/feminist/politically inclined" artists and curators that features two guest artists in an informal, open studio visit. Guests are encouraged to bring work in progress or that is being completed for a specific exhibition and all in attendance engage in the discussion.
Analog Dissident is being displaced due to DTLA’s rapid development, which is kicking out low-income artists and residents. The space will host a group show in August to bid farewell to its current location and will continue its monthly gatherings at a TBD location that Sarno hopes to eventually expand into an exhibition space.
PAPILLION, founded by Michelle Joan Papillion, moved into historic South Los Angeles neighborhood Leimert Park in 2010 and was the first gallery space to contribute to the area’s so-called “renaissance.” The contemporary art gallery’s decided focus is on emerging artists and includes a project space in Downtown LA called P.I.A. Projects, which serves as an artist residency to start or complete a new project.
The space has some historic roots in the noted African American cultural hub: brothers and artists Dale and Alonzo Davis opened the Brockman Gallery in 1967, where PAPILLION’s pink neon sign now stays lit day and night. The neighborhood was once home to iconic African American figures like Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, along with many important black LA artists, like David Hammons, Samella Lewis and A+P founder and artist Mark Bradford. Up next for PAPILLION is performance artist and filmmaker Terence Nance performing Black boys 1-18 and Black girls 1-18 to a live soundtrack. The gallery is currently closed for the summer.
Image courtesy Papillion
(Image at the top: Art +Practice, Map of Leimert Park, LA)
Tags: art space guide, LA art guide, Art + Practice, art share LA, santa fe art colony, art galleries, avenue 50 studio, SPArC, duron gallery, Machine Project, Clockshop, Women's Center for Creative Work, WCCW, Analog Dissident, PAPILLION, leimert park, los angeles art spaces, non-profit art spaces