By Darlene Donloe
In 1982, a family bought a bunch of decrepit old buildings at the site of the old Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery, located near the Los Angeles River in an industrial section of downtown Los Angeles and had the bright idea to turn them into artist lofts.
With the passing of the artist-in-residence code, artists could rent living and work space in industrially zoned buildings. The organization rented only to artists, which continues to be the policy to this day.
Thus was born a uniquely vibrant and creative community.
In 1984, the Brewery Artwalk was launched, a free, educational, public art event designed to create an alternative venue for artistic exposure.
It allows artists at the Brewery the opportunity to open their studios and connect with the general public, the art industry, other working artists and the community.
Families, children, students and individuals are encouraged to view the artists’ work, meet with the artists in person and engage in dialogue about the art. The event is a unique community service open and free to all.
The Brewery Artwalk Association’s mission is to produce, organize and facilitate The Brewery Artwalk, held twice a year. The next Brewery Artwalk takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 5 and 6.
Kate Hoffman, 59, is the Brewery Artwalk Association’s communications director. An artist herself, Hoffman, who lives in the art walk complex, has been with the organization for almost nine years and has been on the board since 2016.
Working with the Brewery Artwalk Association was perfect for the Michigan native.
“The original intent for the area was to turn it into storage units,” said Hoffman, who earned an art degree from Murray State University. “Thankfully, it didn’t happen. I’ve been here 20 years. I do photography. I also do design stuff like gold-leafing, wood graining, color consulting and more. In this space, I get to be creative.”
The Brewery Arts Complex houses both innovative and pioneering artists in the Los Angeles art world, some of whom have gained national recognition.
The resident artists work in painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, interior design, immersive three-dimensional environments, LED light sculpture, high-tech design, furniture design, contemporary fashion, environmental design, new media, digital art and more.
The Brewery Artwalk is an event for everyone who loves art in all its forms — from collectors, connoisseurs and curators, to the casual devotee who wants to learn about the history of the community or discover how art, science and technology are linked.
What makes the Brewery Art Walk so special is the intimate, up close and personal scenario that takes place between a visitor and an artist inside the latter’s home where they literally reveal their creative process and expose their creative souls. Art enthusiasts are able to ask questions of the artists and gain insight into the creative process. They also are able to purchase works of art at what is usually below gallery prices.
Hoffman said over the years the art walk has gotten “a lot bigger.”
“When it first began, the art walk was the only one in town,” she said. “Now there are many.”
Other art walks include Culver City, Pasadena and Venice.
The Brewery Artwalk is considered one of the world’s largest art complexes. With more than 100 participating resident artists, the 6,000-8,000 expected attendees during the weekend will have the opportunity to see new works, discover new favorites, speak with the artists and purchase artwork directly from the artists’ studios. Attendees are able to buy artwork throughout the event.
Hoffman describes the art walk as “a fascinating peek behind the scenes.”
“Now you literally get to visit artists in their home studios,” she said. “You get to interact and ask them about their process and their personal experiences. Collectors used to come in droves because it was the only art walk. Last spring, after COVID, people sold more work than they ever had. People were able to get out and do more.”
Hoffman advises attendees to “come early.”
“The property is enormous,” she said. “The art walk is a self-guided tour where guests can wander freely. There are a couple of buildings that are four stories high, although most are ground level. There are 500 artists here with unique characteristics. Every space is unique.”
Hoffman said there is also an app that can be downloaded to let people know which artists are open and where they are located. The app will be available the night before.
“There are 16 buildings on a huge number of acres,” Hoffman said. “Wear some comfortable shoes. If someone comes at 3, remember we close at 6. They probably won’t be able to see much. Seriously, come early.”
Hoffman said the art walk is a social thing.
“It’s a great family event,” she said. “I love watching kids walk around wide-eyed around the studios.”
Hoffman said one of the reasons the event is so popular is that people want to personalize their homes with art that is meaningful.
“You can interact with the makers of the work you’re going to buy,” she said. “It feels good when they find a perfect place in your house for some art.”
Hoffman said she would advise people to come at 11 a.m. when the event opens. She said that’s when it’s the least crowded and it’s much cooler. She also suggests leaving pets at home.
“These are live/work studio spaces,” she said. “You’re going into people’s homes.”
Attendees will also be able to dine at the on-site restaurant and at food trucks. Food and drinks will be available at the centrally located beer garden provided by Barbara’s At The Brewery.
Admission and parking to the ArtWalk are free. There is free parking in the UPS lot next door.
Hoffman said donations to The Brewery Artwalk are encouraged and appreciated.
The Brewery is located at 2100 N. Main Street, off the Golden State (5) Freeway at Main Street.
“Spotlight on L.A.” is a feature profiling little known places within the city. To propose a location for “Spotlight on L.A.,” send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.