Monday, December 30, 2013

Mosaic Art in Parker's Lighthouse

Today's mosaic is an opportunistic piece. p I was going to point out that the Norton Simon Museum facade is, in fact, a mosaic. It doesn't portray a landscape or person, but it is tile arranged artfully, right? And it seemed appropriate, two days before the Rose Parade which goes right by the building.

115,000 glazed tiles is nothing to sneeze at, right? And, not to be repetitive, but that is it, at right. The tiles.

Technically, though, I don't think it's ever been referred to as a mosaic facade, and I was saved (actually, you were saved) from this slip into New Year non-mosaic-ness by the simple fact that some friends invited me to Parkers' Lighthouse in Long Beach for a Goodbye 2013 luncheon.

And Parkers' Lighthouse has beautiful mosaics adorning its lobby. 

This is one set, at left. They are under a chrome counter, and I moved a bench to take this picture. Next to it is another quartet of mosaics, but an easel and daily specials where there and I didn't want to cause too much trouble. 

Rather amazing, and I could not find anything about the artist. But here is a close up picture of the fish on the upper right panel.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Week Mosaic Monday

Went looking for a Christmas-themed mosaic for this week--and found this lovely book of mosaics designed to celebrate the poem, "The Night Before Christmas."

The mosaics are by artist Christine Brallier, and the book can be bought here at Brownian Bee Press for the exceptionally low price (imho) of $16.99.

Holy cow. I know what it costs to produce a full color book (albeit mine is about 8 times bigger, at 250 pgs).  This is a bargain. 15 glass tile mosaics are photographed in the book--here's a shot below of the mosaic itself, not just the cropped version on the cover.

Technically I believe Brallier is in the Santa Barbara area, out of LA County. But she was raised in Los Angeles and went to school here.

 She's done an installation of mosaic panels titled "The Joy of Life" at Rhoads Park in Santa Barbara, and has designed public art at locations in Texas and Kentucky, and even a Steve Irwin tribute mosaic in Australia. You can see pictures of all those at her website.

So enjoy . . . and Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Johnie's Coffee Shop and Dream of Simultaneous Connection

Two items today;

First, Johnie's Coffee Shop on Wilshire has been declared a historic-cultural landmark.

I have two standout memories of Johnie's. The first was in the mid 1970, when I had an hour to kill between job interview downtown. I was lost--the building on Wilshire are nothing if not intimidating to someone who's never worked there. Johnie's was the friendliest looking place around. Big blue and white roof (I didn't know Googie from Gaga back then), totally unsophisticated and unlike all those skyscrapers with their tinted glass windows. I sat at the counter and drank coffee.

The second memory is of the movie Miracle Mile, which I loved. In that film the early morning crowd--really early, like 3 AM --doesn't believe a guy who comes in, all shaken up, saying he just heard that nuclear warheads are heading toward Los Angeles. Until Tasha Yar (well, the actress Denise Crosby who will always be Tasha Yar to me) uses a gigantic cell phone to call her friends in DC, only to hear that they're all getting out of town. And things go downhill from there.

Johnie's has been closed since 2000, but gets leased out for films. I'm told bits of The Big Lebowski and Resevoir Dogs were filmed there as well as several music videos. (Lebowski also filmed at Dinah's in Culver City).

It opened as Romeo's in 1956, but its location was under consideration as a Purple Line Metro Construction staging area, according to the LA TImes. Now, they're talking about it reopening when the Metro Station is up and running.

The second item is a throwback to the previous post about a mosaic sculpture along Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach--the previous post, just last Monday.

Timing is everything, and my timing was off. I drove by the art today and this is what I saw.

Since there was some scaffolding in place on the upper floors of the building as well, I'm assuming the artwork is being protected against stray spritzes from either a texture or paint coat.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dream of Simultaneous Connection Mosaic

Well, it's got mosaic elements like this astronaut, but it might be more properly called a sculpture.

However, Ned Smyth, the artist and creator, refers to it as a mosaic of steel, stucco, stone, and glass, so who am I to argue?

Smyth created this work, titled "The Dream of Simultaneous Connection,"  in 1996. It stands in Victory Park in Long Beach, which is in the downtown area, just off Ocean Blvd.

For the record, it's 26 feet tall, and 288 by 100 feet wide and long. Or long and wide.

RDA funds were used for this, and it cost $300,000 back in the 1990s.

There's a picture of the "Victory Park, Established 1899" sign on this blog, which is interesting in that it's the blog of someone who was--at least in 2010--homeless. And it has many links to blogs of other homeless people, resources, and more. Which probably shouldn't be surprising to me--who says a homeless person can't blog on a phone or an iPad, after all?--but it is.

We don't have much more of Ned Smyth's work out here because he teaches and works in the New York area. And he does not confine himself to mosaics. But here is a photo of a mosaic he did for the entrance of a Firehouse in Queens, just off the Long Island Expressway. It's from the I'm Just Walkin' blog.

Back to Victory Park in Long Beach.

The park itself was named to honor the veterans of World War I, back in 1919, but the original land was deeded to the city in 1899 by the Long Beach Land & Water Company to settle a lawsuit.  The land was actually part of a bluff back then. Today, it's a long, 4-acre stretch along Ocean Blvd, intesected by several cross streets, and it looks more like stretches of lawn than a park, and it sits in front of towers,condos, and office suites. Any vestige of a natural bluff is long gone.

The art pictured here is between Linden and Atlantic on Ocean--in front of the Harbor Place Towers with the helipad on top.

You can see just how large and spread-out an installation this is in this picture from the artist's own website. The pillars with the big gold ball--which is also a mosaic, as it's covered in gold tile--are part of it as well. As is another element out of sight, to the right of those pillars. There are a couple of lines of cedar (I think) that outline a slab, and on that slab is more white mosaic pictures.

In the model at right, also from the artist's website, the slab and trees are the topmost feature.

Here is what the Arts Council of Long Beach says about the artwork on its site:

"Smyth's sculptures remind us of the sometimes confusing daydreams that we all experience. Steel, stucco, stone, concrete, glass, and gold-leaf mosaic have been used to create a fantasy environment Three independent facades suggest the silhouette of a dismantled house with white outlines of various images decorating each wall. At first glance, one is greeted by a profile of a woman's face, resting her head on the grass. Her expression is calm expression, as if daydreaming. Adjacent is a figure back flipping into space, an astronaut, an owl in flight, a man in a suit lifting an enormous hoop and a girl in a bathing suit balancing on a ball. Four black columns stand to the right pointing towards a rotunda containing a large mystical sphere brilliantly covered in gold tile."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Johnny Martinez on PBS

This is a clip from an upcoming documentary on Johnny Martinez--to be shown Thursday, December 12 at 10:30 pm on the ARTBOUND show. For those of us in Los Angeles, that will be on Channel 28, KCET.

Full title: Johnny Chano Martinez, El Padrina Salsero

The producer, Roland Aquilar, is a high school friend of mine who made the documentary after meeting Martinez being invited to dinner with him. He asked about making a documentary of Martinez' life, and this is the result.

I found a 1993 article in the LA Times celebrating Martinez, saying that he'd been performing three to five nights a week with his 10-piece band, Salsa Machine, for about 35 years . . . in '93. One of his regular gigs was at the time was the Sportsmens Lodge in Studio City, but he was also at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello and other places.

You'll have to watch the documentary for more!

Friday, November 29, 2013

New eBook Free Thru December 2

And–the eBook is FREE from November 29 through the following Monday, December 2nd.

Plus, I’ve joined some new program on Amazon where, if you buy the print book ($38), you can get the eBook for .99.

What is this book about? Everything, almost, that Baby Boomers remember from Christmas past:
  • Aluminum trees, real tinsel, Bubble Lites, and all the other decorations
  • The foods! Butterball Turkeys, Green Bean Casserole, Chex Mix and more
  • The songs! The holiday hits of Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Elvis, Alvin and the Chipmunks–and Nat King Cole singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire “
  • More entertainment: The origins of NORAD’s Santa Tracking, the Nutcracker Ballet, and all those wonderful TV specials
  • The TOYS!
Barbie and Ken and Chatty Cathy Stingrays and bikes and skateboards Hula Hoops and Frisbees and SuperBalls Candyland, Clue, Life and more Costumes and Guns and Dummies and Models andPaint-by-Numbers and Rat Fink! and so many other delights . . .

Why Free?
Because I think that once you see this gorgeous, full color book, you'll realize it is the perfect Christmas present for the Baby Boomers you know.

So grab your copy now!

Here are all the links you need:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Old Pictures of Los Angeles

A friend sent me these--thanks, Dan!

Pictures of our fair city from 1898 through the 1960s, on

I have no idea what Imgur is, but there are 33 photos of things like a Jack In the Box from 1964, or Broadway decorated for Christmas in the 1940s. So enjoy.

To whet your appetite, here are two photos: the first at 3rd and Hill in 1898, the second at 2nd and Hill in the 1950s:

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Mystery Mosaics in Long Beach

Today's Mystery Mosaic adorns a building in Long Beach, at 3728 Atlantic--just down the street from the Historical Society of Long Beach. Unfortunately, though, the HSLB was not able to tell me anything about it.

The current tenants, Prudential California Realty, were very nice and apologetic, but had no information either.

Clearly, the mosaic is of an Old Testament story that most of us remember hearing, just because it was so appalling.

And I say "clearly" because the moscaicist thoughtfully included the book and chapter where the story can be found--see it there on the far left? Kings iii or First Book of Kings, Chapter 3 (verses 17 to 28, if you're interested).

And by the way, I'm bumping up the font here just to take up space because I have so little to say. If anyone can tell me more about these mosaics, I will either put that information in here or in a new post, and credit you.

Thanks in advance--

The gentleman on the left is Solomon, of course, the wise king of Israel.

The creepy story goes that two women came to see him. They had a baby they were arguing over.

Lady 1 said the baby was hers. She said Lady 2 used to have a baby but rolled over him while she was sleeping, and suffocated him.

Lady 2 said the live baby was hers. She claimed Lady 1 had suffocated her own baby in her sleep and was now trying to grab her child.

When I first heard this story, I figured I understood why my mother never let me crawl into her bed. I could get killed that way!

Anyway, the wise King Solomon ordered that his trusty swordsman cut the live child in half, right down the middle, and give one piece to each woman.

So of course, the REAL mother cried out "NO! Let her have him!"

Clever Solomon to know that only the real mother would care if a baby was vivisected right in front of her, huh?

When I went in search of an online link for this story, I found that the BibleGateway King James version of the story refers to both women as prostitutes, while other versions do not. Why, and why does that matter to the story?


Was this building once a temple or church? A library?

If you know, or if you remember anything about these mosaics, please leave a comment and point me in the right direction.

I did, btw, look for the address and a few other things in the Long Beach Libraries' collection and in their newspaper data base, but without success. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Forget Turducken; Have Ostrich this Thanksgiving!

Ah, me. Don't we miss the quaint and lovely ostrich ostrich farms of Old Los Angeles?

You know about them. right?


While we all wax nostalgic over Red Cars, Bullocks and their Tea Rooms, and the dirt roads that are now freeways, no one sits back and sighs over the lost ostrich farms of LA. Notice that?

I'm guessing--not having farmed anything, including big birds, I don't really know--that no one could really miss the honking, the dust, the giant droppings, and anything else you can think of that would make living downwind of an ostrich farm less than idyllic.

Los Angeles' history with ostrich farms goes back well over a century. In the LA Library's photo collection I found pictures of the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm, which was in business at least from 1892 to 1941; it's address was 3609 N. Mission--at Lincoln Park.

But the Lincoln Park farm was not unique!

A farm started in Anaheim in 1882 was the first, and spawned a second farm (same owner) at Los Feliz Rancho, soon connected by rail line to 2nd Street and Beaudry in LA. These were  followed by Al Cawston's Ostrich Farm  in South Pasadena (which existed from 1886 through 1935, and which was reputed to be the largest in the country when Edwin Cawston sold it to a syndicate of bankers in 1911). Then there was the Wilshire Ostrich Farm on Grand and 12th and an Ostrich Park Farm in Glendale in the 1880s. Briefly, there was one at 2nd Street Park, and one in Norwalk and even Santa Monica. We were awash in ostriches.

Why so many? Well, ostrich feathers were big at the end of the 19th century, especially in Europe. In fact, after Mr. Cawston bought fifty ostriches from South Africa and brought them to California, he sold plumes plucked from the birds every six or seven months for two or three dollars apiece. Each bird could supply 25-30 feathers. That was big money!

Plumes were the main product of the farms, but vast numbers of tourists also paid to have their pictures taken in ostrich-drawn carriages. The petite wagons held one person and were hitched up to two yoked ostriches . . . there's gotta be a good pun in there somewhere. I must be tired.

We were gonna corner the ostrich plume market!

Cawston likely provided the ostriches for the other farms that spread across the Southern United States. The site of his farm, btw, is now home to the Ostrich Farm Lofts, carved and modeled out of brick buildings that (I think) were part of the original farm.

One fanciful 1914 article claimed that "The boy is now alive who will behold the wharves of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego some day laden down with bales of ostrich feather for import to foreign lands, while through the Panama Canal en route to New York will go quantities for distribution to the crowded centers of the distant East. The ostrich is a first-class multiplier and greatly assisted by the various American ostrich farmers by the scientific methods adopted for the incubation of the eggs. This means an immense American ostrich population in the distant future and consequently much to the glory, honor and profit of the people of California."

Um, yeah. Sure, you bet.

But as these pictures demonstrate, not all visitors came to ooh and aww over the plumage, or to sit in the cute little cart and send a postcard to Aunt Gertrude. Some visitors came to eat ostrich. Did they pick their bird the way we pick lobsters at the pier? Ugh!

If ostriches weren't enough to draw you into Lincoln Heights--and I just can't imagine such a case--there was also an Alligator Farm there, built in 1906 and owned by the same folks as the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm.

It was right next door, which makes one wonder whether any ostriches ended up as 'gator snacks.

An excellent site for more information and pictures is the History of Lincoln Heights website. That's where I learned that the bungalows and parking lot that sit there today are actually residential units for those in treatment for chemical dependency. One ancient pepper tree (a non-native species, ironically--just like the birds) is all that remains of the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm.

The first picture above is from our library's photo collection and was taken at the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm across the street from Lincoln Park in 1929.

The other photos come from a blog post of the California Historical Society, and were digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library. They're part of the Title Insurance and Trust and the C.C. Pierce Photography Collection.

They are also labeled Lincoln Park though undated--but I'd put them at around 1929.

But really, check out the Lincoln Heights History website, and its ostrich page. They have text from the old brochures ("Take the Yellow Car marked Lincoln Park and get off at the farm. Fare 5 cents")and postcards of folks in the little carriages from all over the world.

If you want to see live ostriches, you'll probably have to drive north to Solvang.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Louis Zamperini: The Man, Movie, and the Airport

Torrance's own home-town hero for the past . . . well, 70 years if you want to count from his Olympic career, is pictured below with Angelina Jolie, who is directing the movie based on the book about his life: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (herself a woman with an amazing story).

The book, of course, is about Louis Zamperini, who ran in the infamous 1936 Olympics (the one where Jesse Owens took so many medals and embarrassed the Nazis)and who was expected to be The Man Who Broke the 4-Minute Mile Barrier (at age 17 he was clocked at a 4:21 mile, and in college at 4:12)--but instead ended up fighting in World War II. His plane went down in the South Pacific, where Zamperini and another soldier set a different kind of record: the most days surviving being lost at sea on a raft (47).

Unfortunately, they were found by Japanese forces and ended up in a camp for prisoners-of-war, under the command of men who were often sadistic. And that's just scratching the surface of the story.

Amazing that no one did the movie before, but here are some of the fist photos from it now: one of Jolie & Zamperini, and one of the filming itself, above.

This is all linked loosely to an event at the small airport inTorrance called Zamperini Field (that's the link--the name, honoring Louis Zamperini).

On Saturday, Nov. 16, those who want to sit in the backseat of a T-6 aircraft can pay for a short flight, which is a pretty rare opportunity. The event happens between 10 am and 3 pm; the flights cost $165 for 15 minutes or $375 for 40 minutes.

Col. Marv Garrison will talk about the air war in Vietnam (he was chief of the fighter section of the 7th Air Force there), and there will be events for children too

For reservations on the flights and more information, contact (which stands for Western Museum of or call 714-300-5524.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Airport Mosaics

This post will not be about the Long Beach Airport WPA mosaics, because I've blogged about them before, here and here.

No, today's post is for travelers. We have fifty-year-old mosaic walls along the concourses as LAX.

And travelers who see those walls are often going or coming to other airports that sport mosaics so we'll mention those as well.

But first: LAX.

Interior designer Charles Kratka installed the LAX walls--each 300 feet long--in 1961.

At the time, Kratka was the head of Interior Design for the airport, answering to William Pereira and Charles Luckman,

 His idea was to make pedestrians think of the changing seasons, his daughter said. But as the Los Angeles Times pointed out in his 2007 obituary, tour guides today interpret them geographically. The blue as you start down the tunnel represent the sea, and the gold and brown tones are our nation's heartland. Apparently there is one vertical line of red right in the middle (I don't remember that), then at the other end, blue again: Sea to shining sea.

I've included a picture of that red stripe below, after the video.

Here's a YouTube video of the Terminal 4 mosaic--must be one of the few still open. From the comments I see that the fabricator was Alfonso Pardinas of Byzantine Mosaics in San Francisco.

It's also visible in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.

I haven't noticed them lately, so I was not surprised to read that many of these walkways were closed after 9/11, in the interest of tightened security. Not all are closed though.

In the early and mid-60s, my Grandma used to visit relatives in Utah once or twice a year, and walking along those corridors to take her to the plane or greet her on her return is a vivid memory. (That and her mink stole. She always broke that out to travel in style.)

After the 60s, they looked very dated to me--not bright or curvy enough to compete with more psychedelic designs. But 50s stuff--or more properly, Mid Century Moderne--is very much back in style now, so people can appreciate these mosaics once more.

The two pictures of LAX's mosaic is borrowed from the DesignerNotes blog.

NOTE: I've since learned that these mosaics are claimed by artist Janet Bennett, who worked for Charles Kratka. She is trying to clear the misperception that he designed these walls, and you can read more about that in my later blog post.

Now as to other airports:

A Wall Street Journal piece by Scott McCartney titled "Airports for Art Lovers" pointed out a few mosaics among the sculptures, light shows, and murals that ornament our terminals (LAX's mosaics did not get a mention.--his focus was on art installed in the last decade). He tells how many factors have combined since 9/11 to create areas--large open atriums, for example--that are ideal for art.

So here are some mosaics from airports around the country:

First, at Reagan International Airport in Washington DC, on Concourse C and Concource B, there are several floor mosaics in the forms of medallians worthy of your attention. The pictures are from the Public Art Photo Albums of the Metro Washington Airports Authority. There are man more pictures and more artists, so please take a look.

The first is based on a map of the Chesapeake Bay, by artist Joyce Kozloff:

The second is by Michele Oka Doner: It's called "Flight" and is of terrazzo and cast bronze:

Moving on to Miami International, another work by Michele Ok Doner is titled "A Walk on the Beach," which was done in the early 90s. Two thousand cast bronze images reflect the sea life of South Miami Beach:

Here is one from Lambert St. Louis Airport called "New Village" by artist Alicia LaChance, a native of St. Louis:

This next one is on a staircase leading to the car rental facility in the Kansas City Airport (Missouri).

There are tons more. I may do another post on international mosaics, since airports in Russia, Tunisia, and other countries have beautiful mosaics.
I'll finish with some of the MANY mosaics at Dallas Ft. Worth Airport. More than 20 artists participated in creating mosaics, and you see thumbnails of all the different works (very frustrating, though, because the pictures don't link to more information).

The Dallas-Ft Worth airport is also full of sculpture, glass and much more.

This particular 20-ft wide medallions in Terminal D shows cypress trees and snowy egrets, and is by artist Arthello Beck.

The "Concentric Orbs" are by Ted Kincaid, 22 feet across.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Duck Duck Goose

Warning: woman with camera and a book on birds.

I believe these are Chinese Geese. Both of them, the brownish and the white, match pictures I see. The White Chinese Goose I compare to pictures on Bird-Friends; the darker one I've seen on so many pages and in books.
Bird lovers, perhaps you can help?
These pictures were taken at Averill Park in San Pedro on November 3. There were hundreds of Mallard ducks and quite a few geese. I think they are Chinese Geese but would appreciate corrections.

As for ducks, the non-mallards have me confused. My handy-dandy National Geographic book on Birds of North American seems to have given ducks short shrift. I see no Poofy Ducks, which is how my friend and I referred to these black and white duckies with a big cotton-ball poof of feathers on their head.

They are also called Crested Ducks. Wikipedia says they are descended from Mallards.

They come in a caramel and white variety too, as you can see below. According to the 10,000Birds website, those could be Buff Orpington domestic duck.

Mallards, I read there, are dirty birds, cross breeding like crazy, which may explain some of the other ducks I saw. Like a mostly black duck with the emerald green head of a male Mallard. That's apparently a classic cross of Mallard and American Black Duck
.But Avian Web says that Crested Ducks come from South America, and they have a picture of  a duck that looks a lot like the one below.

November 23 update: please check out the comment from Doug Peterson, who identified the black duck at left as a Cayuga, and the ones at right as a Fawn & White Indian Runner, both crested and none, and the crested duck above with the Mallards as likely a Crested Ancona. His blog provides a lot more information on them! That blog is't know why it's not showing above.

This one is a Muscovy duck, I think.
When it comes to ducks, identification seems a lot fuzzier than identifying hawks or finches. I think it's because of those oversexed skanky Mallards, frankly.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Types of Flight

I mentioned a book titled Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West almost a year ago, and today I heard from one of the authors. The book was named Runner Up in the Great Midwest Book Festival (Regional Literature Award) and also received Honorable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival (Biography Award) and the Southern California Book Festival (Biography Award).

Montgomery--the hero of the book--made the first ever flight in a glider, back in the 19th century, in San Diego . . . twenty years before the Wright Brothers made the first motorized flight.

Flight is the only thing that Quest for Flight and these pictures have in common. I was on the Redondo Beach Pier before sunset last night and the seagulls were posing so nicely.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Self-Help Graphic Arts building in East Los Angeles (& Shrine)

Happy Mosaic Monday!

Today's mosaic adorns a 1927 building in East Los Angeles, although the tile mosaic itself was installed much later--sixty years later.

Address: 3800 E. Cesar Chavez Avenue (once Brooklyn Ave), at Gage.

Artist Eduardo Oropeza, who died ten years ago, applied the decorative facade to the building itself in 1987.

According to the history provided by the LA Conservancy, this building was planned to house the Brooklyn State Bank, but there's no record that the bank ever opened its doors in LA. 1927 was just before the Stock Market Crash and Depression, and my understanding is that even before the Crash, lots of wild speculation and poor investments were affecting businesses all over the country, so maybe the Brooklyn State Bank fell victim to that.

The building was also planned as a four-story affair, but that didn't happen either. It was supposed to have a market as well as a bank on the ground floor, but the Conservancy tells of no occupants until . .

. . . 1944,when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles bought it, and made it a Catholic Youth Organization. The Conservancy website says it became :

"the incubator for the Chicano/East Los Angeles rock and roll sound developed during the 1950s and 1960s. It was the place to go hear local bands – including Thee Midniters, Cannibal and the Headhunters, the Premiers, and the Salas Brothers – who went on to national and international fame for introducing the then-burgeoning East L.A. sound into mainstream rock & roll music."

All that before the mosaic!

Here's more:

"In 1979, it became the new home of SHG&A [Self Help Graphics & Art]. Founded by local artists and community activist Sister Karen Boccalero, a Franciscan nun committed to social change, SHG&A has become the leading visual arts cultural center in East Los Angeles, garnering national and international recognition. Established during the cultural rebirth of the Chicana/o movement of the 1960s and '70s, SHG&A has nurtured the talents of emerging artists through training and has given exposure to young local artists, many of whom have gone on to global prominence such as Patssi Valdez, Willie Heron, Gronk, Frank Romero, and Diane Gamboa.In the 1980s, the upstairs reception hall doubled as the Vex, providing a rare community venue for emerging East L.A. punk bands."

SHG&A--an organization that started out in someone's garage in 1970,  was paying the Archdiocese one dollar a year in rent for the building. But by the 21st century, the place needed repairs that could not be paid for.

Another history is at the Self Help Graphics website. After nearly vanishing in 2006, the institution regrouped and moved to 1st Street in Boyle Heights but is still dedicated to Sister Karen Boccalero's vision.

SHG&A is one of two organizations that popularized the Day of the Dead--Dia de los Muertos--in the early 1970s and made it part of our culture. That's why people my age don't remember all those candy skulls from our childhood! Those candies didn't exist in LA until the 1970s.

Eduardo Oropeza comes into the picture in 1987. He spent three years embedding the ceramic tiles that adorn the older Self Help Graphics & Art building on Cesar Chavez Avenue.

Artist Eduardo Oropeza was very successful and his work is owned by LACMA--though it's not currently on display. Glenn Green Galleries of Santa Fe has the most information on him, and many pictures of his work. They describe him as "A quiet, gentle spirit, with a heart full of whimsy and an overflowing imagination, he speaks softly."

Oropeza seems to have been primarily a sculptor of bronze or metal life-sized images, although the gallery also has drawings and paintings of Day of the Dead figures (appropriate for this week, huh?). He was a photographer, too. The shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, left was the second phase of the Self Help Graphics & Art Building work, done for the community. It has been relocated to the new SHG&A site in Boyle Heights, so it's no longer a part of the old building--which the LA Conservancy still refers to as the Self Help Graphics & Art building. Confusing.

Not sure who is in the old building now.

The first large picture in the post, taken in 2006, is from Wikipedia, which actually has the best and most comprehensive history of the organization. The other two photos above are from, and you'll be glad to know the stage and big ballroom are still intact. The Archdiocese sold the building in 2008; the place last changed hands in 2011. The last picture is from Glenn Green Galleries.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

LA Arts District Tour

What do you know about the Arts District?

If you're like me, not a whole lot. I suppose there's artsy stuff there, right?

Well, yes.

But art and beauty may be in the eye of the beholder.

Or . . . maybe you can't judge art by the cover?

I say that because the lovely ol' warehouse to the right is one of the venues of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Art District Tour on November 10.

The building is the Pickle Works, more properly the James K. Hill and Sons Pickle Works.

When it was built in 1888 of brick, it was the California Vinegar and Pickle Company, and for 19 years it got enlarged because, I guess, back then we ate a lot of pickles (some of us still do.)

Then it got trendy and carried the name Citizens' Warehouse and Art Dock. So it's on the tour--but only the exterior.

Other stops on this self-guided tour are the Angel City Brewery, where you must be over 21 to go in, the Southern California Institute of Architecture shown at left (formerly a Santa Fe Train Depot), and the American Hotel, a seedy-looking-but-beloved, nay, legendary home for artists, built in 1905.

You will also see artist home/workspace lofts on 3rd St, in a 1910 building that once housed the  Southern California Supply Company. Then there will be private lofts to view, elegantly decorated, in the Toy Factory Building, the Challenge Dairy Building, and the National Biscuit Building, all built in the mid-1920s but all deeply refurbished and modernized.

This tour seems ideal for the voyeur in all of us who wonder what our lives would be like had we taken the plunge and bought into one of these lofts a few years ago (before or after the Great Recession, depending on your derring-do).

Well, I wonder, and I thought about it. One of these buildings was offering a Mini-Cooper with loft purchase for a while.

That's the National Biscuit Building to the right, and on top of the wing that juts out is a beautiful long pool for doing laps. It's also called the Biscuit Company Lofts.

Here's the facts on the Conservancy's tour:

Sunday, November 10 from 10 am to 4 pm

Cost is $10 children, $15 students, $30 for Conservancy members and $35 for non-members. All non-refundable.

The tour may take 4-5 hours and you may have to move your car once (or not; I guess it depends on how far you want to walk). Docents will be at the various locations to talk about the sites, and there are some possible restrictions, so please check out the website.