My take on Artwalk (in response to Downtown News)

Everything is changing; Art Walk is no exception! For years it was a kind of grass-roots organization without a formal structure, but with thousands of people coming to the corner of Spring and 5th every second Tuesday Thursday of the month the Art Walk was ready to take a step forward. For quite some time the Artwalk was a joyfully decentralized effort led by gallery owners, with additionally wonderful (and successful) stakeholders stepping up to be supportive and a part of the action.

The only thing was, people had grown frustrated with the problems presented by the crowds and other kinds of problems, and some of those frustrations had gone unresolved for so long, that the BRAND NEW Artwalk Board was blamed for all the OLD problems.

Richard Schave, Kim Cooper and Chinta Cooper came forward to organize a Board of Directors, and it was the Board who led to incorporate the Art Walk as a 501-c-3 non-profit entity. The Downtown L.A. Artwalk as an entity was born on July 8 2009, with a group of community leaders dedicated to resolving the crowd logistics, supporting and promoting the galleries, promoting other local business, and helping to curate public art and performances for the second Tuesday of the month.

People don't know how hard Richard, Kim, and Chinta have been working to create, print and distribute maps, get a logo, get a great website going, and work with LAPD, and other groups to help make ARTWALK great. And, they are doing it all as volunteers for the time being.

Instead of working together, a small group of frustrated people have blamed the new Art Walk board for problems that have been on-going for at least a year and a half.

I say, let's move forward! End the bitterness! Get behind our community and work together so we can have a fun Art Walk that benefits our community. Two examples of great new things that are happening:

Richard got the owners of the Spring Arcade building to open up the arcade between Spring and Broadway for September's Art Walk. There was a band and some performance artists there. At first there were only a few people, but in about forty minutes, the arcade was full of people, and lots of people came from Broadway to Spring. That's the kind of creative, pro-active work that is being done now.

And, Nick Cha Kim's website, up for three years has been updated in the past month or so and it looks great! It's a way for Gallery Row to break out from the once-a-month Art Walk label and get people thinking about visiting the galleries all month long. That just shows how once the Art Walk board came in to handle the once-monthly events, galleries can now focus on themselves.

Are there problems? Of course. But we can only solve them if people work together, instead of just complaining and being bitter.

And let's see how we can get the galleries who now close at 6pm to open up again for all of ART WALK!


shannon said...

Thursday...not Tuesday. Iolani keeping you up at night? ;)

Ginny-Marie said...

:-) yes. hence 6:30 a.m. posting

bgfa said...

Ginny, this is not true. The Downtown News article manufactured a controversy that does not exist. Nobody is blaming Richard for any crowd problems, nor is there a "schism" between the gallery owners and the DAW management. All that is happening is that the gallery owners have decided to work together to promote the gallery district outside of the Art Walk day, something that I had always done when I ran the Art Walk but which is not really a part of what the new group is doing.

Prior to Richard's management I worked closely with the BID, DLANC, and the police to monitor and solve any problems, none of which were ever ignored. We addressed the issues of public drinking, we found a solution to the street vendor problem (the Downtown Art Park), addressed the police response to traffic and pedestrian safety, etc.

Other than simple numbers (too many people clustered in some areas), the remaining problem we have is alcohol being served by venues which are NOT a part of the Art Walk, who set up just for the night and illegally give out free drinks and allow people to walk the streets with drinks. The police will cite anyone who does this, but they have been very willing to be lenient as long as things stay under control.

Your implication that Richard is being blamed for things that are legacy problems is insulting to me, because it implies that I did not address them.

Ginny-Marie said...


I apologize for the implications. It was obvious that you worked to address issues as they came up. I think what I really wanted people to know is that the Artwalk is experiencing growing pains, and at the same time trying to put together a new organization.

The intent of my entry was not to offend you or dismiss the very hard work you've done through the years. The intent was to highlight the Downtown News article seemed quite one sided.

But, I got to thinking...there are a couple of things about our favorite monthly event: People aren't buying art...but what are they spending their money on? There's the pop-up galleries, the restaurants, and bars - I know I'm only talking about one night in a month.

At the end of the day - I do apologize because I didn't mean to offend you.

bgfa said...

Thanks, I appreciate that.

Basically it comes down to this: The Art Walk was NEVER about buying art, nor was it created for that purpose. It was designed to make people feel comfortable coming downtown, because just a few years ago, people dissed downtown entirely. This is where it has been successful.

The gallery business is NOT a walk in business. I have art on my walls for $10 and $20, and the art walk crowd could not care less. Also, fine art is not a popular pursuit, so there is no solution to the dilemma of galleries closing early on Art Walk because as long as it is a game of large numbers, it won't work for us.

Let me provide an example for comparison: Let's say 2,000 people came into Pete's Cafe every Art Walk night but refused to spend any money. Don't you think Pete's would be closed tight at 6 pm? That's what's happening here. When it was just a few hundred, no problem. Once it hit 2,000 I needed 4 employees and a security guard, and the crowd would not even spend $20 on a catalog, print, or small artwork. I can't afford to lose $500 a night. I would go out of business very fast.

What the DT News ignored in their biased hit job is that the gallery owners met months ago to discuss MOVING Art Walk to a Saturday afternoon. While that did not happen, it was proposed for this very reason, and as a way to save the galleries' relationship to it. The outcry against this from other people in the neighborhood (and some of the galleries themselves) was loud, because they still saw benefit from it and were unable to see the coming storm, so the decision to continue Thursday night was a decision that actually works against the galleries, in favor of the restaurants, bars, and one night pop-ups (many of which have no permanent stake in the neighborhood).