Over the New Year I had an opportunity to revisit the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District and for the next few days, I will be presenting a series of 360° panoramic images of some of the neighborhood’s murals.
The area initially was used to grow grapes and by 1849 was the largest producer of wine in California but by the turn of the century oranges and grapefruit became the staple produce. In fact, in 1909 DW Griffith filmed parts of In Old California, Hollywood’s first feature film, in the area’s citrus groves.
By WWII, factories and the rail freight industry supplanted the groves. But the area morphed again during the 70s when the artist movement began to take root and the creation of illegal live-work spaces was developed at a time when space was available at a mere nickel per square foot.
Recognizing the need to regulate the housing situation, the City of Los Angeles passed the “Artist in Residence” or “AIR” ordinance in 1981 that legalized the residential use of formerly industrial buildings for artists.
It was during this period and throughout the 90s that the area was known for its raw and edgy art scene and the crown jewel, such as it was, was Al’s Bar where punk-rock and alternative bands including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, the Fall, Sonic Youth, Beck and the Misfits performed on the dive bar’s stage before making it big.
Real estate prices were still affordable by the turn of the millennium when many of my San Francisco artist friends relocated to the area after the dot bomb as prices for properties were still dirt-cheap.
Today the community has made a noticeable shift as wealthier residents and up-scale businesses have increased property value. Notable residents (past and present) include George Herms, Paul McCarthy and Shepard Fairey, writer filmmaker Frank Miller, singer Meshell Ndegeocello, actors Forrest Whittaker, Jenna Fischer and Dave Foley to name a few.
Needless to say, the real estate here has become exorbitant and community leaders are struggling to balance the economic opportunities offered by gentrification with the need to preserve the essential tone and character of the Arts District as a true creative community.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting panoramic images specifically located at the heart of the art’s district.
Today’s mural by B. B. Bastidas entitled “Pluto” measures 15′ x 30′. Located on Garey Street at 3rd.