Photo courtesy of
Sierra Canyon High School

DIY Spaces: LA teens create art, music, life

It’s 8:30 p.m. on the corner of 3rd and Main in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Stretching their legs after 40 minute Metro rides, lines of teenagers curve around the side of a black painted brick warehouse, collaged in an eclectic arrangement of rain-weathered band posters, stickers and street art.

Slowly, blunt-banged adolescents with bobbed haircuts and lanky, guitar-backed bandmates lugging amps half their size, drift into The Smell, a teenage safe haven for the contemplative soul searchers and the lo-fi rockers, the art selling outcasts and beautiful freaks, alike.

Do-It-Yourself spaces like The Smell exist as microcosmic, beacons of kaleidoscope colored light that give teenagers a place to be a part of the creative landscape of Los Angeles. Run by volunteers, The Smell is an alcohol and drug free, not-for-profit space in which youth are able to share their art and music while supporting the lively spirit of DIY culture.

Intimate gigs, benefit events, and the shows held daily for inexpensive admission make it accessible for diverse teens from all different areas of the Los Angeles community to come together and appreciate art.

Amidst the rosy haze of its glowing pink fluorescent sign that reads “Junior High,” this other Hollywood gem’s ethereal aura permeates an energy that fosters appreciation of the teenage experience and the art that comes with it. Through its promotion of the artistic pursuits of marginalized voices, Junior High frequently holds open mic nights, arts education programs, small concerts and events.

As teenagers, we live at the epicenter of so much cultural noise, much of which is fabricated by adults wearing pants suits worried more about status and money than the content or energy of their art. Because we are surrounded by the constant stimulation Hollywood and large record labels hand feed to us, it is easy to sit back and let other people create our culture for us.

Fostered by the DIY movement and its surrounding culture, it is imperative that we, as the future, do not forget about the chance we have been given. As vessels of so many emotions, we must use the electric passion we possess to redefine the different cultural facets of Los Angeles on our own terms.  

Although it may seem like these kinds of spaces are few and far between, it is urgent that we do not allow DIY culture and the spaces to die. It is the atmosphere that these kinds of environments radiate, that allows for the most raw, impenetrable spirit of teenage individuality to persist.

During times in our lives that often feel so scary, and lonely, and wonderful, all at once, the loss of places that see beauty and strength in our experience would inflict irreversible damage upon not only our generation, but generations to come.

If you have yet to immerse yourself into places that are so wholeheartedly accepting of whatever kind of creative energy you choose to impart, I urge you to venture forward and participate in these kinds of experiences.

Step outside yourself and in doing so, you will become instrumental in defining however we, as a generation, decide to transform our culture.