This is to officially announce that at the end of June, after 6 1/2 years of loft suite (sweet) living in the same building, 4 blocks from the historic MacArthur/Westlake Park, the time has come to move on to a new location. After a 5 week period of tapping into my Iowa roots in July and August, I shall return to Los Angeles and set my sights on a new home in a new area of the city. I’ve spent the years documenting some of the park environment and surrounding neighborhood as one of its residents, so I thought I would share some of it with you now before I leave. It’s part of what I term ART MAPPING, a creative documentation process thru photography, writing, art, performance, etc. that I think all artists can consider doing for their own community and surroundings.
MacArthur Park has been a fairly good, sometimes infuriating, but always unusual and unorthodox home for me. It’s hard to believe that other than my childhood home in Hills, Iowa (population 500), this location has hosted me the longest amount of time I’ve stayed in one physical building location (I did live in a loft on the 5th floor for 4 1/2 years and then moved into an identical 2nd floor unit that included a large outdoor patio). The question has often been: how/why does a rural white boy from Iowa come to live in the most densely populated, most Latin-American neighborhood in Los Angeles? Well, I suppose there are many answers I can offer up to explain.
I could say it was the relatively inexpensive amount of rent compared to large amount of space that has allowed me to live out my NYC in the 60’s art loft with brick walls fantasy. If I could go back in time, NYC in the 60’s would be one of my top picks. Who knows, my soul may have been reincarnated from one of its participants, which is why I love it so. Certainly the streets around Mac Arthur park have provided me with a plethora of interesting found objects, broken furniture and the like to make assemblage/installation pieces in homage to the 60’s NYC art scene.
I could also say that I chose this location because I wanted to be close to a wide variety of public transportation options. This July marks 7 years of LA living without owning a car! I partly did it to be a more “green” inhabitant, and partly to save money. Sure, I’ve borrowed a lot of people’s cars in order to make functioning in the wide sprawl of Los Angeles fully work (being a performing artist and/or videographer and having to schlep props or camera equipment all around town is very challenging via bus or metro subway - I’ve done it on occasion, but it’s not quite what I would call fun). I do enjoy the adventure of hopping onto a bus or subway — and the unexpected discoveries one can make while walking in LA (which a famous song professes nobody does).
I could also say that I chose this location because it was across the street from a Home Depot (which to a guy with no car but who loves to build things was convenient to say the least). I could also say that I wanted ample amounts of free and available parking for guests (which living next to so many big parking lots has definitely provided). I could say that I enjoyed the view of downtown LA from the rooftop.
|Old signs meet the new|
|Otis pointing to his former home and former art school location|
|The Park Plaza Hotel|
|Detail of Park Plaza Hotel|
|Detail on La Fonda Restaurant building|
Quite a fall — and quite an example of how the domination of cars damaged the sense of community, neighborhood, and downtowns all across America.
|The often trashed back alley behind my building|
“THE FRINGE ELEMENT”
I moved here in December of 2004 as part of that sense of rebirth and revitalization. Frequent dog walks and public transportation use have led me to really get a sense of the surrounding neighborhood and to visit the park frequently. I have seen some fascinating changes and improvements made to the area during that time, but I would say that the recent economic recession has made the “lift-off/face-lift” slower than hoped. However, I don’t think gentrification by outsiders is the answer to solving its issues. While some people may seek to return the neighborhood to its former glory, any changes ought to be made with its current inhabitants in mind. There are actually good signs that is happening. Even as I finish writing this and step outside for a moment, I discover today that Korean Air (its headquarters is just a few blocks away) has sponsored the planting of trees in the neighborhood as part of Million Trees LA and their own We Care promotion (how’s that for timing).
|June 3, 2011 Tree planting day on 6th St.|
Our modern society gives very little thought into the spirit of a place. We usually see a location as an inanimate thing, a concept merely as staging ground for the people who give it life. But everything is connected by spirit, places are alive in their own way, and the well-being of a community is affected by every aspect of its surrounding. The park is the heart and soul of this neighborhood. When it was transformed into a beautiful park, the region was activated by its charm, when it was drastically altered, the charm faded and people left because they had better options. On a very simple level, people tend to enjoy living in a beautiful location - having a beautiful park serves to bolster the communities sense of pride. Which brings me to one unfortunate aspect of this neighborhood: the current inhabitants have little cultural sensibility when it comes to cleanliness and litter/trash is thrown everywhere (oddly enough the same complaint that the region had in the mid 1800’s). That litter is just one example of what living in our global culture of cheap, disposable, overly packaged commercial goods does to the planet when people just don’t collectively care or think about the spiritual energy that connects all living things, not just human beings.
|Street vendors are popular features feeding the community|
|A gathering in protest over a recent police shooting|
|Future home of LA performance troupe Culture Clash|
|Upon the threshold|
|Goldiscruffs will surely miss the park as much as I|
* Thank you to Brian Mahanay for sharing the concept and pointing out the direction of research on liminal spaces during a recent conversation