But then, this was not an invite-only party, this was the 8th annual Frogtown ArtWalk.
The streets here—south of Route 2 and squished between the 5 Freeway and the L.A. River—are long and don’t provide a lot of room for turning, especially when one’s car has an absurdly narrow turning radius and the street’s lined with parked cars, pedestrians, and food trucks.
We did succeed in backtracking—driving the long length of Coolidge Avenue, deciding not to go back the way we came as every open space turned out to be another driveway as the houses are fit hip to hip, and instead we turned right onto Ripple Street (our friend still laughing that we’d initially read our badly handwritten directions—interior light on, long distance glasses perched on top of head, paper held at arm’s length—and declared it Nipple Street).
We found a stretch of open curb and quickly, maybe a little too desperately, pulled into a teeny tiny driveway to manoeuvre another too-many-point turn to secure our spot. The long walk back down Coolidge introduced us to dogs big and minute, all behind gates, standing guard and barking, probably having done so for the last four hours and desiring a cease to the constant threats to their master’s domain—and in need of a good, long, undisturbed nap. A food truck selling icees and drinks indicated the northern most edge of the art walk; a lit path led us into the first studio: Treeline Woodworks loaned out to Cactus Gallery for the evening.
On the one hand, the space was warm and inviting with golden, rough cut plank walls, an exposed ceiling, and offset rooms with white walls covered in art. On the other hand, the space was warm, as in hot. Stifling. But the small rooms exhibited works by artists Ulla Anobile, Maggie Turner, and Mavis Leahy with whom we are familiar, as well as those to whom we were introduced such as Ashley Fisher and Rasa Jadzeviciene. Not associated with Cactus Gallery, but exhibiting alongside them, was Pamela Taguinot with her abstract paintings (see below).
Our friend needed to escape the heat by stepping outside, while we soldiered on, wandering into the back room, catching up with Cactus Gallery owner Sandra Mastroianni. She gushed about the location and about Treeline’s recent renovations—wishing it could be her gallery’s new home rather than a one night show (Cactus needs a new home since there storefront on Eagle Rock became too expensive; anyone have or know of affordable space in the SGV?).
We continued down Coolidge, following the lights, joining a few people coming, past some people going, to find many people milling about and others listening.
We didn’t see a sign indicating into where we had wandered, but our conclusion from all of the computers and images of structures was a design studio (RAC Design Build). Paintings lined the brick walls, as well as photography, and some sculpture stood on display, though more often than not, we couldn’t find any obvious nameplates telling us which artist had created what.
The middle of the room was filled by two mammoth tables covered with drawings and paintings, and which turned out to be artwork submitted by kids for a juried show. Amidst all the “professional” work which somehow feels as though it should be analyzed and judged, it was enjoyable (and relieving) to see instinctive impressions and creations by, literally, the young at heart.
The romantic French lilt of Jessica Fichot’s voice drew us out into the back patio area—the stage area with extra large white paper lanterns and triangular cuts of canvas hung overhead created a wonderful visual—where a small and enthusiastic crowd had gathered.
The only way out, rather than back the way we came, seemed to be through a flowering plant and garland-lit archway, finding ourselves on the walkway paralleling the L.A. River. The riverbed was below us, cement riverbed walls angling down to flourishing full-blown bushes, grasses, and trees. Rushing water, even stagnant water, wasn’t readily evident in the dark, though we assume it’s existence. We stood for a moment, enjoying the ambience before following the few people heading towards what we believed to be more studios.
The map Frogtown ArtWalk published online indicated that the river walkway was the way to get from one destination to the next, but walked past the next street as nothing “artsy” appeared to be going on, though we noticed several available parking spaces (if only we’d known; file data away for next year). We continued to Knox Avenue. It was hard to consult the map in the near dark, so we walked down into a small park-looking space where people seemed to be packing up even though it was not yet 8:30 and the event was supposed to continue until ten. (We found that happening several places along the way—sites of pop-up tents with the remnants of what was a few hours earlier an artist exhibit, performance, or food stop.)
The place to be was at the intersection of Knox and Blake. The northwest corner had people selling agua frescas, chips and salsa. The southwest corner had residents set up with tables filled with dolls, jewelry, crafts, and knickknacks to sell.
On the southeast side (the industrial side, versus the start of the residential neighborhood), we walked into a large room with white walls, an exposed wooden ceiling, and frequently-placed wooden support beams. Our forward movement stopped immediately upon entering so as not to run into other viewers who were hoping not to step on the art work. Artist and architect Jennifer Gilman created “Liminal Drift” out of dyed sawdust and it was swept and “rope-ed” into a design on the floor, leaving only a 3 or 4 foot edge on one side. It was a little dicey walking further down the wall, as a man kept repeating “Watch out for the painting (on the wall); it’s still wet.” Two large papers with black paint, abstract images, that hung on the wall were another Gilman creation. Unfortunately, this man and the artist had to be vigilant and spend a considerable amount of time making sure no one backed up against them.
Gilman told us that her floor “sculpture” was in response to the architectural space.
I am using drawing as a way of inhabiting space, and space as a way of inhabiting drawing. I work with a continual responsiveness to the room, its shape, its character, its detail, the light, the redness and texture of the sawdust, the sound and feel of the rope and broom, and the marks they leave. Making and re-making, adjusting, transforming, the drawing continues to evolve over the course of the installation.
An interesting side effect of having this art walk in an industrial area that sidles up to a residential one is that the residents have chosen to participate and take advantage of the opportunity; garages were transformed into temporary galleries, narrow porches became makeshift cafes with long lines of people waiting for tacos and tamales; a driveway held a folding table with drinks and homemade coconut and date snow cones. The corner of Newell and Blake had the set up for a band with spot lights.
Across the street, the courtyard of Damon Robinson’s NOMAD Print Studio & Art Gallery had a jazz band playing and restaurant booths placed outside for lounging. Inside was an array of books (part of Book Show, open Tues.-Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and cubby installations, as well as Frogtown ArtWalk t-shirts for sale from the silkscreening workshop.
Upon exiting NOMAD, we looked further up the road. Not seeing or hearing any activity, we headed back the way we came passing Tracy A. Stone Architect with a lit-from-within game table around which kids were gathered, and, next door, adults getting their hoola hoop on.
The walk back to the car was almost an art walk itself, many of the homes with intriguing, awkward, quirky, wonderful, and lovely accents—fences of cheap plywood horizontal beams creating a simplistic, fine-lined design; an old fashioned iron fence but with rough wooden boxes made into planters, placed at irregular intervals, along the seams of the fence, with multiple cacti or a single cactus popping up their stubby heads; a house with a turret; colorful, organized gardens; raggedy, overgrown gardens; rusting chairs, a toddler’s outgrown push car, and other front yard clutter; alluring paths to imaginable (or unimaginable) oases.
Our visit was short but our enjoyment high. We do feel we missed the majority of what was to be seen and next year plan to arrive closer to 4 o’clock. Our Frogtown ArtWalk experience was an interesting and unexpected miscellaneous juxtaposition—the fraternizing of the artists, musicians, performance artists, and designers who inhabit the industrial spaces with the residents emerging to offer their own attributes—their art, crafts, music, and cuisine.
More pics from of the neighborhood…
Back at RAC Design Build:
Back at Treeline Woodworks & Cactus Gallery pop up: