Los Angeles, by virtue of its geography and relative cultural nascence has long been an endlessly transitional hotbed of alternative thinking, especially within its burgeoning arts communities. Los Angeles is also unique because of its geography in that art making and certainly exhibiting work, is relegated to distinct pockets of activity, really only accessible by car, unlike New York, the quintessential "on foot" city where the distance between cultural events or art's districts is relatively short, thus creating its own specific cultural unity. Los Angeles, as an art's community, has developed its own cultural ideology, utilizing space and distance to its advantage, creating the framework for several truly maverick and alternative art's districts that appear to continue developing, despite economic hardship.
For the past decade or so, Los Angeles has had its finger on the pulse of fostering both national and international art's organizations dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods and communities that were at one time very active in supporting the initiatives of local artists. A "phantom," like much of the art being made today, is something that possesses an unseen presence wherein people perhaps sense its inherent meaning before fully comprehending its necessity as a cultural instrument to facilitate change within a community. The self-proclaimed mission of Phantom Galleries Los Angeles (PGLA) (www.phantomegalleriesla.com) is to "revitalize and energize communities and pedestrian thoroughfares by transforming unoccupied properties throughout Los Angeles County into vibrant cultural hubs through the 24/7 public presentation of art." Since its inception in 2005, PGLA has produced hundreds of programs, featuring over 2,500 artists and curators, designed to advance a living dialogue between the artistic community and the public as well as provide its collaborators a unique platform for artistic growth and experimentation. True to their word, PGLA began Sixpack Projects, a collective of six LA-based (?) artist/curators (Alyssa Cordova, Jennifer Frias, Lilia Lamas, Jillian Nakornthap, Jeff Rau, and Heather Richards) organizing innovative contemporary art exhibitions and events throughout Southern California as well as in a storefront space at 170 North Promenade in Long Beach. The project began in May 2010, and the collective exhibited a wide variety of eclectic work from around the country. Once again, their goal was to create art events in more industrial communities like Long Beach where people might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience new innovative art being made today.
Other nationally-minded organizations like Artspace (www.artspace.org.) seek to "create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations through development projects, asset management activities, consulting services, and community-building activities that serve artists and arts organizations of all disciplines, cultures, and economic circumstances." Through a comprehensive selection of programs, Artspace supports "the continued professional growth of artists and enhances the cultural and economic vitality of the surrounding community." This organization in particular is dedicated to funding specific art's initiatives including the Los Angeles-based Broadway Art's Center that is currently in the early stages of its inception and promises an independent art's facility that would house creative families as well as a rehearsal space for dancers, musicians and performers at all stages in their careers. Teri Deaver, an appointed commissioner working for Artspace and the Glendale Arts Commission, explained that the organization hopes to have the facility built and up and running to meet artist's needs within 3-5 years. "There is such a huge need for this kind of live/work space for artists in Los Angeles, a space that is both affordable and provides a community environment," she explained recently. LA Councilman Jose Huizar has also proposed through the Bringing Back Broadway art's initiative the reuse and reintegration of historical buildings for affordable artist's live/work spaces as well. The Broadway Theater District in downtown Los Angeles is considered one of the oldest historical landmarks in the country and the revitalization of these buildings will assuredly breathe new life into the downtown art's community as well as provide much needed studio space for low income visual artists.
Certainly, the city of Los Angeles postulates a complicated synergy not only between the landscape and the people who populate this brightly lit City of Angels, but perhaps more importantly, on a more metaphoric level, between the intrinsic human desire to create within the confines and rigors of an alienating cityscape. After all, creating art is an essentially private practice, and leveling that instinct against the expansiveness of a city is daunting at best, yet through these new art's initiatives Los Angeles is essentially calling its artists home again, if only to say come in for awhile from the heat, the traffic, the hot-headed pretenders and cheapshot paranoia that is as much a part of living in this arid, beautiful a city as standing awestruck atop Mulholland Drive at midnight. It's all part and parcel of the Los Angeles experience, which is simultaneously both rich and complicated, but always, always memorable.