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Around the May Art Walk

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, May 18, 2009, at 09:07AM
The Continential Ed Fuentes

Downtown Art Walk attendees study photos by Tom Zimmerman on display at The Continental.

Two minutes before the official end of May's Downtown Art Walk, event founder Bert Green stood on 4th street with artist Richard Ankrom and LAPD Sergeant Kris Werner watching the crowd.

For Green, it was the end of his shift.

"This is my last Art Walk tonight. I'm very proud of it" says Green, who will continue to be involved but now hands over the reins to a new leadership team. "At the first Art Walk, we had 75 very terrified people over 20 blocks all day, all saying 'You're crazy, this is never going to happen.'"

Now the crowds reach an estimated 6,000, offering a rare example of vibrant street life in Los Angeles. Yet, despite it success, the Art Walk has had its critics.

For some, the Downtown Art Walk has become more street fair then exhibition of daring artistic vision. For a set of Skid Row activists, the invasion of art-goers was an example of the privileged displacing the embedded community of Skid Row. Others have said Art Walk is a mere ploy by Downtown boosters that doesn't create real street life since it is only a once-a-month outing. And as it grew last summer, some local residents began to grumble that Art Walk was becoming just a night to tolerate.

Even the idea that people come just for the party is an odd swipe. When you go to the Brewery, or Chinatown, Culver City's Art Walk, receptions at MONA or LACMA, or even national art fairs, you see something similar. Some people are looking at art, while others turn their backs to the art so they can talk to each other.

What Art Walk does is build a new art audience, who may become art buyers. It also became a way to expand art reach, as several non-profits have used art and photography by residents of Skid Row as exhibitions. And local residents have benefited from unprecedented grassroots promotion of urban life that has surpassed many efforts made by developers or planners. Where else in Los Angeles can you see people coming to walk city streets?

Maybe record art sales won't come from this particular crowd, but Downtown Art Walk was also designed to let people know there is a new pulse in the Historic core and give the art enclave visibility.

Just for that very reason, someone should get Bert Green a gold watch. Something, anything, to say 'job well done.'

Richard Schave, who with Kim Cooper guide art goers through the streets of Gallery Row on the Hippodrome, will take over Downtown Art Walk beginning in June.

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