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Downtown Art Walk Names Joe Moller Its New Executive Director

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010, at 02:37PM
Joe Moller Eric Richardson

Newly named Downtown Art Walk Executive Director Joe Moller

Downtown's largest monthly event has found its new leader. The board of the Downtown Art Walk has named Joe Moller its new Executive Director.

The six-year-old Art Walk became one of Downtown's biggest stories in September, when then-Executive Director Jay Lopez announced that the event would be shut down for the rest of 2010. That statement was denied by the board of the Downtown L.A. Art Walk non-profit two days later.

The turmoil led to a great deal of discussion about the event's future and its value to the growth of Downtown Los Angeles. One month after the first events broke, the board announced that Downtown property owners would be contributing $200,000 toward the hiring of a full-time Executive Director.

Moller, an event producer who describes himself as a long-time Art Walk attendee, acknowledges that the event has gone through growing pains. "As an experience, it's still great," he said Wednesday. "My take on what's happened to date is that there have been a lot of people who have their own ideas as to how the Art Walk should grow ... and there hasn't been an opportunity on an organizational level for those voices to come together and converge on a direction."

"The conversations have been about keeping the doors open and keeping the lights on, and that by nature is not a growth conversation."

Moller's events company produced the launch of the new Santa Monica Place, as well as the Hollywood Film Festival and the opening night gala for Outfest. He will continue to consult as Joe Moller Events, but will now turn his full-time attention to Art Walk.

Figuring out how to make the Art Walk organization sustainable is Moller's first priority. "After we've accomplished that goal, we can then direct the conversation to things that are more artistic in nature, things that are less housekeeping," he said. Moller acknowledged that the event has responsibility for the costs of services like trash pickup, but said that it will take time for the budget to be in place to pay for them.

For some residents, the second Thursday Art Walk has become an event seen more as being about food trucks and bars than about art. Moller said that the organization does have a role to play in regulating what goes on at Art Walk, though he noted that there are definite limits to the group's power. "We're not a sovereign entity. We don't have guns or badges, so we're limited in scope as to what we're able to do or not do."

"I think it's our obligation as an organization to help achieve the greatest positive impact to the greater Downtown area that we can through Art Walk," he said. "If that's figuring out a way to work with the food trucks and their hundreds of followers who have helped Art Walk grow and who also spend money at galleries and restaurants and businesses, then we're doing our job."

Moller believes that the Art Walk will grow to involve more of Downtown, but not necessarily right away. "Before we can begin to develop a strategy on how to develop this larger footprint, I think we first need to get it right with where we're at now," he said.

The January 13 Art Walk will be Moller's first in his new job, but don't expect to see much change right away. "I'm going to go with the board and we're going to walk around and take notes and look at the entire playing field," he said. "From there we'll go back to the boardroom and figure out what's working well and where opportunities for improvement exist."

"January to February you may not see a huge amount of changes," he said. "But as we approach the summer and later in the year I'm looking forward to the Art Walk being more rewarding and arts focused."

Just a week after the January Art Walk, Lopez and gallery owner Edgar Varela are planning the first Art Weekend LA, the quarterly event that Lopez said the Art Walk would become in that infamous September announcement.

Moller said that he supports other efforts to bring focus to Downtown and its arts scene. "Any group that's willing to invest their own time and resources in bringing attention and other community members is a good thing for Downtown," he said.


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