It’s 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month, signaling showtime for team Art Walk. Executive director Qathryn Brehm and director of curation Nat George sit atop the The Last Bookstore’s Mezzanine Level. The two hand out colorful trifold maps to attendees and direct them around the corner towards the Spring Arts Collective, complete with five galleries.
Each gallery in the Spring Arts Collective is completely different from its neighbor.
Self-described “thingmaker” David Lovejoy opens his eventful office, Lovejoy Art & Design, to Art Walkers as the first gallery in the collective.
A few feet down the hall, eight-year Art Walk vet and artist Robin McGeough co-hosts the Dove Biscuit Studio Gallery.
“We do things that are a little different here,” McGeough said.
Stitch pieces, spray paint, pastel and prints cover the walls. The shop also operates every weekend, appointments required.
“When people come here, they are looking for art that’s very unique and different,” McGeough said.
Third in line lies painter Andrea Bogdan, whose Art Walk tenure began in 2012. Bogdan’s vibrant studio serves as a workspace, storefront and space to bring her ideas to life.
Visual artist Liz Huston’s “Studio Shoppe” takes on a life of its own. Anything but mundane, dark walls filled with art showcase Huston’s creativity. She calls her career path “destiny,” and has been showing at the collective for over five years.
Inside the Spring Arts Collective, which hosted the Art Walk’s Lounge for the evening, Fold Gallery highlights L.A.-based artists with its “Handmade in L.A.” section. Vintage cameras, radios, typewriters and antiques surround the store.
7:30 p.m. hits and an Art Walk tour rolls through the Last Bookstore Mezzanine. Patrick Moulton, a Santa Monica native and first time Art Walk attendee, had long been intimidated with the idea of coming downtown.
One tour later, Moulton had a new perspective.
“I don’t know how to describe it, but there’s a great energy down here,” Moulton said.
Changing the perception of what people like Moulton have long thought about downtown L.A. is integral to the stability of Art Walk.
Outside the main lounge, over 20 exhibitions throughout downtown makeup the Art Walk. From Flower to Temple, galleries and studios open their doors.
Nearly a quarter mile down the street from the Spring Arts Collective, the Hive and Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts (GDCA) Galleries sit side by side. The Hive is the oldest one spot gallery in downtown L.A., standing for over 13 years. Each month, the gallery produces a new visionary art show.
“People come here and can get freaked out, but this gallery is really alive,” Hive owner, curator and artist Nathan Cartwright said. “I focus on young and emerging artists, that is generally where art happens.”
Inside the GDCA Gallery, abstract contemporary works primarily lace the walls. The gallery has been part of Art Walk for nine years.
“We’ve been honored to be a cornerstone of the Art Walk experience,” gallery director Petra Wright said.
Throughout all of the galleries, one idea is consistent. Art and community are the focuses. It wasn’t always that way, however.
Art Walk started as a grassroots organization in September 2004. When everything started, the aim was to open galleries and invite people downtown. Property developer Tom Gilmore started working on the area, creating new spaces and bringing more people into downtown. As a result, the Art Walk experienced rapid growth.
A board of directors with bylaws wasn’t established until 2010, shortly before Brehm arrived. When she joined as director of operations, the Art Walk began to reinvent themselves. By the time she took over as executive director in 2013, Art Walk looked completely different.
“At first, it felt like a party bus,” she said. “It was like turning a ship around at sea, trying to manage the fact that alcohol was a big part of Art Walk.”
The organization shifted focus to reinvesting time with galleries, promoting artists and connecting people through programs and tours, but most of all, by their monthly Art Walk.
“Once Qathryn arrived, there was a big cultural shift to make sure galleries did not serve alcohol,” George said. “It contributes to a family atmosphere and has become more about the culture and less about just partying.”
As a nonprofit, Art Walk tries to integrate a diverse sense of family and community into the city.
At the January 2016 Art Walk, Brehm interacted with a 13-year-old valley artist. Brehm asked, “are you going to be an artist?” The girl replied, “I’m already an artist.”
“Next,” the girl told Brehm, “I want to become an engineer.”
The Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk has a monthly Art Walk the second Thursday of each month. Galleries are found at various locations throughout downtown.