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Art in the Heart of LA (Language level B1-C1)

Marzo 2018
L'arte contribuisce a costruire e a valorizzare comunità. Questa è la visione di Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, una società che organizza visite guidate a piccole gallerie, così come escursioni a piedi attraverso i murales del centro città.

di Talitha Linehan

File audio:

Quathryn Brehm
Quathryn Brehm

Art is everywhere in Los Angeles: indoors and outdoors. It is in every neighborhood gallery but also on buildings, on sidewalks, on telephone poles, on buses and on cars. Perhaps the biggest concentration of art is in the heart of Los Angeles, in an area called Gallery Row in the city of Downtown LA (DTLA). This is the location of one of the biggest monthly art events in the city, the DTLA Art Walk.


In a city infamous for its terrible traffic, the DTLA Art Walk is an easy-going walking tour that takes place on the second Thursday of every month. When it began, in 2003, it had about five participating galleries. Now more than 50 galleries take part in it, which stay open late for the occasion, attracting about 15,000 visitors. The galleries specialize in everything from traditional paintings, sculptures and photography, to video and digital art by emerging and established artists. Many buildings here and in other DTLA areas have enormous murals, including ones by internationally-renowned artists Christina Angelina, Kim West and Tristan Eaton.


In the late 1970s, DTLA had a primarily transient population; people went there to work in the day and left in the evening, and the area was associated with homelessness, crime and drugs. But in the last ten years, DTLA has become a top cultural destination, the streets have become a lot safer and the population has almost doubled, to more than 50,000. This has had positive and negative consequences for artists who live there.





Speaker: Molly Malcolm (American accent)

Quathryn Brehm is the executive director of the DTLA Art Walk. An established artist, she has lived in Downtown Los Angeles for over forty years. She says that the area, known as DTLA, has improved significantly thanks to the artists who live, work and ran galleries there. Yet the area has become fashionable and now many are being forced to move out. Speak Up met with Brehm in LA. She began by talking about the origins of Art Walk that held its first event in 2003.

Quathryn Brehm (American accent):

When I first moved Downtown it was really spread out. Then, all the galleries started locating in the historic core, because the rents were inexpensive. Downtown had such a bad reputation for so long: it was dark and desolate. That’s how Art Walk started, basically. There were some people who started Gallery Row… Then Art Walk started getting really crazy busy. When someone does finally come Downtown – and Art Walk sets that stage for someone to have the excuse to come down here – they realize they’re discovering something: the architecture, the older part of Los Angeles. Every second Thursday, it would increase tremendously in numbers. I remember when we went to a thousand… and I was showing as an exhibiting artist through those years, I remember the time it hit  five thousand and then ten thousand...


One of the great things about the event, says Brehm, is that it makes art accessible to a wide public. 

Quathryn Brehm:

It has ethnic diversity, age diversity, all varieties of incomes. That’s the beauty of it and, a lot of times, it’s the first cultural experience for younger people. They don’t feel comfortable maybe going to a gallery or a museum, they think they have to buy something. And then when they come to Art Walk, they realize they can walk in and out of galleries and just enjoy the work. Art is all kinds of prices, artists are always looking to sell their work. Again, you go back to education: how do you educate someone to realize they can start collecting work, just like they collect anything else that they own, shoes or jackets or something? One of the things that we’ve done and we want to continue to do is a kinder-walk, where we work with young people… We’ve done a kinder-walk and we’ve taken 60 kids and created their own Art Walk. One of their first questions is: 'What can I touch?'


The presence of artists in Downtown LA has really improved the area, says Brehm. But now they have to adapt to higher prices – or move away.

Quathryn Brehm:

As in most cities the artists are always the first to break ground with the changes: they make it safer, they make  it interesting, and so people follow that. And then, pretty soon, the artists are squeezed out. The restaurants and bars thrive, but they realize they need the art to actually continue to thrive because people can eat, can drink, but the art is really that third component that ads the magic potion. But artists are having to move. As far as exhibition space, people get clever: there’s more pop-ups, there’s more smaller spaces, there’s more second-floor spaces, there’s more downstairs units. But those will eventually become priced out.


So what kind of art can you see in Art Walk?

Quathryn Brehm:

There's photography. Murals. Wall paintings. Digital. A lot of emerging artists. And then because it’s Art Walk, you have people that have a doughnut shop and they are featuring some artist. And we don’t discourage that certainly because there's a lot of artists looking to show somewhere. One of the things that has really taken off is the murals. It’s almost global. And I think it’s a phenomenon. I don’t really claim to understand it. 

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Kinder-walk. Un percorso per bambini. Kinder è una parola presa in prestito dal tedesco, che significa bambini. Da qui arriva anche il kindergarten, ovvero la scuola materna (letteralmente: il giardino dei bambini).

Pop-ups. Gallerie temporanee. Sono delle attività molto alla moda negli ultimi anni: si tratta di una sorta di “negozi a tempo” che aprono solo per un breve periodo per incoraggiare l'acquisto compulsivo o, come in questo caso, le visite. Pop qui non ha nulla a che fare con “popolare” - come la musica pop - ma con il verbo to pop (scoppiare), un modo molto sonoro di riferirsi a qualcosa che appare improvvisamente, come i pop-up sul web (le finestre che si aprono per attirare l'attenzione dell'utente, con un suono), e i popcorn!