Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013

Creative Placemaking in Downtown L.A.

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Art Share L.A.

With your support, Art Share L.A. will rebuild its organizational plan and restructure its culture to adopt a model conducive to creative placemaking, serving as a case study in the advancements of mixed-use creative live/work centers throughout Los Angeles. As defined by the National Endowment for The Arts, creative placemaking is “when partners from the public, private, non-profit and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city or region around cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.” This process detailed in the NEA’s report on creative placemaking occurred organically and un-institutionalized in the eastern outskirts of downtown Los Angeles during the mid-80’s. Sandwiched between Skid Row, Little Tokyo and the Los Angeles River, artists and creative individuals set up shop and home in vacated warehouses. As the economic and cultural impact of creativity on the neighborhood began to show, more formalized arts organization and institutions began to develop—Art Share L.A. among them. The industrial warehouse area outside Downtown was renamed the Arts District and the neighborhood experienced a major demographic shift: more creative individuals began to inhabit the area, creating a flourishing neighborhood of art, music, culture, and true autonomy. In a typical pattern of gentrification, the migration of wealth and infrastructure development attracted to the area began displacing the creative individuals that had worked to make the community inhabitable, and the informal centers that housed the creative placemakers began to disappear. Property and land developers set their sites on reclaiming the neighborhood, and in a period of 10 years, property values sky-rocketed from an estimated $.25/sq. ft. to over $2/sq. ft. for newly modeled “artists lofts”, in reality simply luxury apartments with creative branding affixed. The need for buildings like Art Share L.A. in the downtown area is high, as is the risk that they will suffer the same fate of many informal art and cultural centers in the area. Our goal is to create a new model of community living, fitting the creative placemaking definition; through education and community engagement we will work to create new live/work centers throughout Los Angeles County. Our first step in this process is rebranding and re-establishing the organizational structure at Art Share L.A. to create a sustainable and equitable community-run model. The second is to produce a public resource document to those seeking to create similar live/work artist run centers. This project will impact Arts and Cultural Vitality by creating immediate opportunities for meaningful engagement in the arts—leading to long-term sustainability. During the 7-month project, Art Share L.A. will create: • 6-10 part-time entry-level and supplemental employment opportunities • A Work-Exchange Program for presenters without access to capital • A formalized Program Board for communal review and assessment of proposed classes, events and partnerships • A team of consultants to work with the staff, Program Board and Board of Directors to assist with coherency in areas of the marketing, development and assessment processes necessary for sustaining the model Projected long-term benefits of the project will include a sustainable, accessible live-work/multi-use facility, as defined by the governing principles of creative placemaking, capable of housing and supporting artists in their professional development, now and in the future. Additionally, sustained activity works to enhance the overall quality and livability of neighborhoods surrounding downtown Los Angeles, most specifically, the Arts District. Art Share L.A. will support its local artists while enhancing the quality of life throughout downtown Los Angeles.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

For over a decade, Art Share L.A. has provided 30-affordable live/work units in the booming Downtown Arts District, supporting hundreds of artists including Grammy Award-winning DJ, Sonny Moore (more commonly known as Skrillex).

In the mid-2000’s, the facilities thrived as a center for at-risk youth—servings over 300 students per year. During this time frame, Art Share L.A. created its FACT program (Families and Communities Together). This program, created in collaboration with Stevenson Middle School in Boyle Heights and the LA County Probation Department, has helped families in crises for 8 years—pairing trained social workers with families in creative and expressive environments to explore conscious and constructive problem-solving skills.

The economic downturn of 2008 hit Art Share L.A. in an almost devastating manner. The organization and its management struggled to make ends meet. By the summer of 2011, all staff had been cut and the agency was operating on a shoe-string budget. Property buy-out offers were on the table, but the new board of directors was dedicated to keeping Art Share L.A. owned and operated by and for the community. The new directors, under guidance of city planner, Elizabeth Peterson, brought the facilities into a new era, complete with new paint job and new staff.

In the summer of 2012, Art Share L.A. ventured on a partnership that would bridge the worlds of outdoor advertising and street art—two sectors who until recently have rivaled for public space and the rights to it. In March of 2013, Art Share L.A. (in collaboration with Casey Zoltan of Known Gallery and 15 of the cities most renowned street artists) launched the second installment of the project. Since inception in 2012, more than two-dozen street artists have legally showcased on billboards through a rotating citywide gallery exhibit.

Currently, Art Share L.A. is pursuing the creation of on going immersive and interactive art experiences through digital augment reality platforms like Aurasma in partnership with ceramic street artist, Zenka. We will create interactive, augmented reality ceramic art installations in the Arts District.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Over the past year, Art Share L.A. has developed relationships with numerous art collectives, presenting organizations and related non-profit groups including contemporary music presenter, Iridian Arts; experimental music collective, the wulf; California Lawyers for the Arts; youth enrichment programs, CitySTAGE and the Academy of Creative Education as well as LA-based ensemble wildUp.

Long-standing community partnerships include groups such as Padua Playwrights, Cornertstone Theater, the Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association (LARABA) and the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space (LADADspace).

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Art Share L.A. will need to first assess its current organization structure and pool information into a central database. We will compile data including: • Current donors (June 2012-present) and prospective donors • Current community partners • Current artists roster • Current number of volunteers, event attendees and students • Current promotional mechanisms • Current outreach mechanisms • Level of accessibility (community survey) • Quality of events (community survey)

Our primary goal is to achieve program sustainability: by compiling the previous 12 months of program data and understanding Art Share L.A.’s current effectiveness and reach, we are better able to gauge project success.

The project will be evaluated by asking the following questions at the completion of the project: • Did the organization achieve its marketing efforts in reaching the number of rental hours and classes needed to sustain the part-time jobs created during the project? • Does our organization have a student base and model for promoting new classes? • Did employees perform well and respond positively to the organizational culture? • Was the organization successful in recruiting and maintaining meaningful relationships with volunteers through the work exchange program? How many one-time volunteers? How many 2-5 times? How many volunteering regularly? • Is there a clear marketing and social media mechanism in place? Is there one person from each management level (staff, program board and board of directors) trained to execute? • Is there a clear development strategy in place? Is there one person from each management level (staff, program board and board of directors) trained to execute?

At project’s end, we compile and compare data sets, and identify trends: attendance, audience feedback, schedule density, and donor participation to gauge our capacity and growth for 2014 and beyond.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

This project serves to enhance the lives of hundreds each year by creating jobs, access to affordable housing, and providing spatial resources specifically for the support of artists and their creative processes. It will keep balance between residents, artists, officials, developers and business owners by giving a common ground for discussion, education, community gatherings, social and commercial connectivity.

The creation of similar centers throughout Los Angeles will disseminate like values and opportunities for other communities, based on their specific needs. This will have a direct impact on each key indicator mentioned in the LA2050 Report.

• Education – Studies conducted by the California Alliance for Arts Education show that arts education engages students in learning and helps prepare our youth to meet expectation of the 21st century workforce. By offering arts education outside the K-12 system, we encourages life-long learning. • Income and Employment – Art Share’s proposed model creates on-going, entry-level jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Proven to revitalize local economies, Art Share L.A. will attract new businesses, new tourists and new commerce—creating jobs across multiple sectors. • Housing – Development of centers like Art Share L.A. increases access to creative and affordable live/work/rehearsal space. Art Share L.A. contributes 30-live/work lofts to the market.
• Environmental Quality – If we can lessen the need for day-to-day travel while increasing public transportation, we will see a significantly stronger impact in our environmental quality. As neighborhoods develop around their respective creative centers, the need to travel for basic amenities and entertainment will decrease. • Public Safety – As people take ownership over their communities and begin connecting with one another through participation in artistic and cultural activities, official or unofficial ‘neighborhood watch’ goes into effect. Studies show that participants in cultural events and activities are more likely to be civically engaged—enabling them to organize and function stronger as communities. • Social Connectedness – Through the Work Exchange program, we encourage volunteerism in the community and give opportunity for everyone to feel valued and involved in the arts. Art is often intertwined with political, environmental and larger societal issues. By nature of association, residents participating in cultural activities will be more aware and more socially connected. • Arts and Cultural Vitality – Creation of such art centers throughout Los Angeles will provide access to physical space for creation and an intangible system of support that nurtures artistic endeavors by providing local touring networks and monetizable opportunities.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In 2050, every neighborhood will have creative live/work community art centers. Those who have dedicated their life to the study of art and refinement of creative processes will not only live among our neighborhoods in designated low-income artist housing, but thrive within them.

Centers like Art Share L.A. will inspire and nurture young artists, provide support for working artists and create community-based educational opportunities—all collectively working to shift a culture where, as Mike David states in City of Quartz, “everyone is either on a corporate payroll or waiting hopefully at the studio gate.”

The arts will flourish and help to unify and strengthen communities across the nation. Local artists will have fair and equitable exhibition space with the opportunity to sell work, teach classes and collaborate on projects in communal workspace. Musicians, playwrights, directors, producers, dancers and other performing artists will have access to a venue at affordable rates (free under the Work Exchange Program), allowing them to generate revenue through their live performances. Artists will have the choice of living in whatever community they choose, with a network of venues to tour and develop audiences county, state and national markets, and the ability to feel autonomy, mastery and purpose in their work. Emerging artists will have places to live while they develop their creative and entrepreneurial skill sets; they will have access to facilities and opportunities to connect with other creative professionals.