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Frogtown's Neighborhood Artwalk

The NELA Riverfront Collaborative is an interdisciplinary project that builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. KCET Departures is the media partner of the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative. For more information visit the website www.mylariver.org


This past Saturday, the Elysian Valley community opened its studios, workshops, houses, streets, and hospitality for the 8th annual Frogtown Artwalk, organized by the Elysian Valley Arts Collective. Crowds of Angelenos came out to celebrate the Northeast L.A. riverfront neighborhood's creative community and spirit.

Elysian Valley boasts an artwalk different from others in L.A. Instead of being located in an area with heavier commercial presence, such as the Downtown Artwalk on Spring Street, Frogtown's Artwalk has a distinctly neighborhood feeling, as many of its galleries and performances operate out of resident garages, in resident driveways, or on street curbs. Elysian Valley resident, and Elysian Valley Arts Collective board member, Helen Leung feels the Artwalk is unique because "the whole community gets involved. Participants feel a sense of community in the exhibits and streets. The Artwalk is truly reflective of the culture and history of the neighborhood."

Visitors to the Frogtown Artwalk definitely got the sense that local culture and history is highly valued in Elysian Valley. The neighborhood's nickname is a gesture to its geographic history -- "Frogtown" references the plethora of frogs that use to populate the adjacent river before it was concretized. The local multiethnic population is present through the vending of Latin foods on the street curbs, or the porches of residential houses. And the local culture's creative spirit that has infected the neighborhood in the last two decades is displayed through its businesses, houses, and community organizations opening up its doors to exhibitions of local arts.

Lastly, the Frogtown Artwalk is an example of neighborhood-driven and organic economic development, in relation to the increased interest in river revitalization. The arts collective, local businesses, and especially the residents, are sensitive to the rapid changes and speculative real-estate interest in their neighborhood, due to its proximity to a key urban asset that is the L.A. River. Where river developments in other cities nationwide have marketed large-scale infrastructure and commercial developments, Elysian Valley's Artwalk is a leading example of what smaller scale economic development and arts initiatives can exemplify.

Pop-up typewriter poetry provided by an artist at NOMAD Gallery | Photo: Instagram @engageLAspaces

Kids use chalk to make art at RAC Design Build | Photo: George Villanueva

Local artists uses residence driveway for an art installation that involves paint, digital music, and hot liquid | Photo: George Villanueva

The river pavilion housed different organizations and projects working on river and neighborhood revitalization. This table featured the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative, with partners Megan Whalen (L.A. City Bureau of Engineering, Yasmin Mero-Corona (Los Angeles Conservation Corps), Lauren Yonai (Tierra West Advisors), and Evelyn Moreno (USC Metamorphosis Project) | Photo: George Villanueva

Bicyclists use the path at night during the Frogtown Artwalk | Photo: George Villanueva

Top: Attendees check out art on display at RAC Design Build who opened up their space to multiple exhibits and music performances. Photo by George Villanueva.

About the Author

George Villanueva is currently a PhD Candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, with a research focus on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development.
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