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Downtown Art Walk: A Monthly Event in the Cultural Heart of LA


Downtown Art Walk in Los Angeles

Photo © Ed Fuentes

What: Downtown Art Walk
Where: Various gallery and retail locations in Downtown Los Angeles' Gallery Row district
When: Second Thursday of each month
Cost: Free

Plot your next Art Walk on these maps of Downtown Los Angeles

The Downtown Art Walk Los Angeles Scene

As you make your way through the throngs of people at Downtown Los Angeles' monthly Art Walk, you may have to pinch yourself. It’s rare to see that much foot traffic in this driving town. But art fans, Downtown locals, and just plain curious Angelenos with a taste for nightlife and culture, come out in droves for this popular free multi-gallery event.

Taking place the second Thursday of each month, Downtown Art Walk has seen thousands of visitors meander through the Gallery Row neighborhood. Art spaces stay open in the evening showcasing the newest exhibits. Some of them even host free talks and presentations. Art Walkers check out the vibrant street scene with its food stands and plenty of opportunities for impromptu socializing.

For the folks behind Art Walk and the Downtown commercial and retail communities, the goal of the event is to preserve the local history and culture of the area, as well as to spur job creation in the long term.

History of Downtown Art Walk in Los Angeles

Today, Downtown Art Walk is a non-profit California Public Benefit Corporation. The organization/event’s history dates back to 2003 when the area covering Main and Spring Streets between 2nd and 9th Streets was first designated “Gallery Row” by the City Council. At the time, the neighborhood only had three galleries (Inshallah Gallery, Bank and 727 Gallery). According to the Downtown Art Walk statement about that period, “the Historic Core [consisting of desolate blocks rife with drug abuse and dealing] was largely synonymous with Skid Row.” Yet, a small community of artists were living there in lofts fashioned by developer Tom Gilmore. They clearly saw the neighborhood’s potential.

Change, growth and expansion were inevitable for the area. Street signs made Gallery Row official, and the neighborhood got a boost in visibility as a result. By the following year, there were eight galleries in the area. Gallery owner Bert Green was about to open his own art space on Main and 5th when he actualized the concept for Downtown Art Walk.

The inaugural event drew 75 people. By 2005, there were over 15 galleries involved in the Walk. By 2006, the number had surpassed twenty spaces. The boundaries for the event--which had originally included all of Downtown--were narrowed to the Gallery Row zone, creating a more easily navigated pedestrian-friendly experience. By 2007, 30 galleries were participating. By 2009, it was 45 spaces, with a total of 10,000 visitors.

Today, Downtown Art Walk is, according to its organizers, one of the biggest draws in the neighborhood. Anyone that was there from the very beginning and has seen the event’s tremendous growth into a local cultural ritual would say that it’s an incredible example of a grass roots art movement success story.

The event got so big by October 2010, that its organizers announced that they would be forced to make it quarterly as the costs associated with it, and its management became phenomenal. However, shortly after, Art Walk received funding and immediately resumed its monthly status.

Some of the art galleries that have and continue to be involved include:

  • 7+FIG Art Space
  • Arty Bert Green Fine Art
  • Ball Nogues Studio
  • Compact Space
  • Continental Gallery
  • Crack Gallery
  • Crewest
  • Deborah Martin Gallery
  • Downtown Art Center Gallery
  • Downtown Women’s Center
  • El Nopal Pres
  • Federal Art Project
  • FIDM Museum & Galleries
  • Fifty/ 24LA Gallery
  • G727
  • Gallery 1929 at the Fine Arts Building
  • Gallery at REDCAT
  • Gary Leonard Take My Picture
  • Ground Floor Gallery at Santee Court
  • Infusion Gallery
  • Japanese American National Museum
  • Julie Rico Gallery
  • LA Artcore Center
  • Library Foundation of Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles Center for Digital Art
  • MOCA
  • Morono Kiang Gallery
  • Museum of Neon Art
  • Norbertellen Gallery
  • Phantom Galleries LA
  • Pharmaka
  • Phyllis Stein Art
  • PYO Gallery
  • Rooftop Gallery
  • Sara Palacios Gallery
  • The Hive
  • The Landing Party
  • The Last Laugh
  • The Latino Museum
  • Todd/Browning Gallery & Polyester Books

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