It is fitting that The Brewery, the largest artist-in-residence community on the West Coast (and possibly the world), would sit alongside the dusty sprawl of Downtown Los Angeles in the shadow of the bustling 5 Freeway. What is Los Angeles and being an Angeleno without having to be constantly aware of the slow crawl of traffic on the crisscrossing interstates? And while Downtown has played home to generations of artists by now, there is something distinctly special about the Brewery and its merry assortment of artists-in-residence.
The Brewery Arts Colony has been situated in that very highway-adjacent spot for thirty years this year after being converted from a Pabst Brewing Company building, complete with Edison power plant chimney. Originally built in 1903, the Brewery takes up 23 acres with 14 buildings of live-work space. The 300+ artist lofts are home to anywhere from 500-700 artists and businesses that specialize in painting, sculpture, architecture, industrial design, and just about any other type of art-making you could dream up.
There are very few rules for those hoping to nab a coveted loft space at The Brewery. Namely, no dogs or musical instruments. But even without all night jam sessions or cuddly pooches, the Brewery keeps an intense focus on community in its design and practice. Artist Randi Hokett is coming up on her fourth year as a resident at The Brewery and, for her, the shared experience of living around so many artists has directly affected her own art. "It's really inspiring," she said. "Everyone has their own projects that they're working really hard at. It lights a fire under you to see so much drive and passion all around you. You don't want to be the lazy one!"
Hokett's art making centers around sculptural pieces made from drywall, resin, foam and wax that used to overwhelm her one-bedroom apartment in Los Feliz. "Oh god, it would be in the carpets and everything. Just all these raw materials everywhere!" she laughs.
After visiting the Brewery on one of the biannual Art Walks, her interest was piqued in eventually living there. It took several more years, but a massive career change finally landed her at the front door of the massive brick building. She'd quit her job as the Director of the Film Archive at USC and called up The Brewery, assuming the likelihood a loft was available would be slim to none. To her surprise, a loft had just opened up and was hers for the taking. "It just felt right," she said. "I'd wanted to go back to my own art for a while."
Four years later, Hokett has found a groove at The Brewery that serves her art in all kinds of ways. "I've always wanted to live here," she said. "And my art has grown immensely since moving here. It opened up everything for me. My art-making is completely different and I've grown so much."
With rent slightly lower than other nearby lofts, a space at The Brewery might not be as easy to come by as it was for Hokett, unfortunately. The high ceilings (around 13 feet) and blank walls are ready to be dressed up or dressed down as much as any artist chooses. A quick scan through the spaces shows all kinds of creative takes on how to decorate, including using lots of rugs and hanging plants to bring life into the bare bones rooms. But the running theme of every space tends to be serious commitment to art making by the artist. And that's exactly what Carlson Industries, who run The Brewery, intended for their unique community with its launch. Even a quick scan of the info section of The Brewery's website announces the policy loud and clear: "We rent only to artists and that is our policy to this day."
For those who've yet to visit The Brewery, be prepared to take in a vibrant space that's much more than a stack of old bricks down by the train tracks. There are lush gardens and leafy trees lining the walkways between buildings and there's even an understated bar centrally located for residents and visitors. Barbara's at the Brewery boasts 15 craft brews -- their website says, "Every week is L.A. Beer Week" -- and hearty eats at prices artists can actually afford.
Barbara's also has multiple outdoor patios and live music, which serves as the perfect release for artists like Hokett who can find themselves locked away working on a piece for days on end. "It's really nice," she said. "If I've spent four days in the studio working with just the voices in my head, I can walk over and get a beer and see people. There's a community there whenever you want it."
Read about one the Brewery's resident artists, Llyn Foulkes:
Llyn Foulkes: The 'Torment' of Painting and the Joy of Music
Artbound sat down with artist/musician Llyn Foulkes to discuss the psychology behind his works, how music soothes his soul, and what he really thinks about the art establishment.
Top Image: The Brewery | Courtesy of Brewery Art Walk
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