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Alternative Marketplaces and Author Events for this Holiday Season

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Crafted in San Pedro | Photo: Crafted Facebook

As December begins, thousands of Angelenos will be in the streets shopping and visiting family and friends. This week L.A. Letters offers a slew of alternative marketplaces and events diverging from the more crowded and traditional options. To add even more to the mix, this column will also discuss a few forthcoming author events, as well as this weekend's CicLAVIA, which will be making its debut in South Los Angeles.

The weekend of December 5, 6, and 7 is packed with more events than one can visit, and here are several options, no matter what side of the city you live on. Before discussing these artistic and cultural events, I want to preface this column with a quote from J. Paul Getty:

In this spirit, this essay offers several alternative spaces specializing in the arts, crafts and literary culture of Southern California.

Art Share Storyphile

Art Share in the Arts District will be hosting their monthly event, Storyphile on December 4. Hosted by Lee Boek with help from Anna Broome, this event mixes poets, singer-songwriters and storytellers. Poet Conney Williams from the World Stage will be one of the featured artists along with Robin Roberts and the author from Punk Hostage Press, Yvonne de la Vega. The Storyphile events' eclectic programming reflects the host Lee Boek's charismatic personality and range as a performer. Boek is the co-founder of the Public Works Improvisational Theater Group and is also a close comrade of the venerated Los Angeles author Lionel Rolfe.

Beyond Baroque Book Sale

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice will be having discounted book sales for the next three Saturdays, beginning on December 6. Their bookstore, also known as the Scott Wannberg Bookstore and Poetry Lounge, may have the greatest selection of small press poetry titles of any bookstore in Southern California. Wannberg was the legendary longtime Venice poet and graduate of Venice High School who passed unexpectedly at 58 a few years ago. Wannberg had been a champion of independent literature, and had also worked at Dutton's Books in Brentwood for a few decades. The bookstore named in his honor holds hundreds of poetry titles and is a great place to pick up a book for the lovers of literature in your life.

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center

Self Help Graphics Holiday Marketplace

On Saturday December 6, Self Help Graphics on East Sixth Street in Boyle Heights will be holding its own holiday marketplace. In addition to selling ample arts and gifts there will be live music, food and several creative workshops. Some of the same vendors that will be at the Caracol Marketplace will be there in addition to dozens of others from across the Eastside. The celebrated artist Lalo Alcarez will be present selling his posters, books and comic strips. What's more is that Self Help Graphics has an extensive collection of posters and prints from dozens of artists dating back to the 1970s that will be available for purchase. The range of art objects available at this event will be unparalleled.

Crafted Second Annual Winter Boutique

Also on Saturday, the Crafted space in San Pedro will be the site of the Second Annual Winter Boutique, hosted by the group, "Handmade in the South Bay." Dozens of handmade-only entrepreneurs from the South Bay dedicated to promoting handmade crafts and each other will be gathering to sell their wares in the huge converted former military warehouse along the water in San Pedro. In the past I have written about Christian Lozada, the writer, professor and bookseller who operates the "Read On Till Morning" bookstore in the warehouse. Lozada will be joined by dozens of other creative entrepreneurs from the Handmade in the South Bay group, with merchandise including everything from artwork, household items, clothing, journals, and books. Their mission is "To promote and support creative, passionate entrepreneurs as they build their handmade businesses in the South Bay area."

CicLAvia South L.A.

As noted before, CicLAVia will be running its first open streets event in South Los Angeles on Sunday December 7. The 6-mile route heading down Historic Central Avenue and west along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will undoubtedly be a lot of fun for participants. The western terminus ends with the diagonal stretch of Leimert Boulevard and will finish in Leimert Park Village. Shopkeepers in Leimert Park like the Zambeezi Bazaar and Eso Won Books are outstanding spaces to pick up handmade items and assorted gifts. There is also the celebrated Jamaican eatery Ackee Bamboo as well as the World Stage and KAOS Network. Los Angeles Walks will be working in conjunction with the KAOS Network to lead informal walking tours of Leimert Park. The weekly drum circle around the Leimert Park Fountain will also be in effect with hundreds of drummers in the mix. For those who have never been to Leimert Park before, this event will be an ideal opportunity to see the legendary village in all its grandeur.

Caracol Marketplace at Tropical de Nopal Gallery

Caracol Winter Holiday Marketplace

Another exceptional independent holiday marketplace on Sunday December 7 is the Caracol Winter Holiday Marketplace just west of Downtown Los Angeles. Located at the Tropical de Nopal Gallery on Beverly Boulevard, there will be dozens of artists and merchants selling handmade arts and crafts. The Tropical de Nopal Gallery is one of the most progressive art spaces in the city and has hosted readings in the past with great authors like Sesshu Foster. Vendors on hand will include Imix Books, Araceli Silva Jewelry and many others like Yerberia Mayahuel, 2nd Wnd, Luna Soledad, Emilia García Artwork, La Candeleria Candles, Michelle Smith Meza Jewelry, Javier Orozco Designs and Andrea Ramirez Folk Art among many others. The courtyard behind the gallery is a large space capable of holding several hundred people. This Sunday will be no different.

Lionel Rolfe at Warsawa Art Loft

On Thursday, December 11, Lee Boek, Eric Vollmer and David Kipen from Libros Schmibros will be honoring Lionel Rolfe and his book from 1981, "Literary L.A." at an event at the Warsawa Art Loft on Lincoln in Santa Monica. For the last 50 years, Rolfe has written for many newspapers like the Los Angeles Free Press, the Herald Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to authoring several books on the literary history of California. David Kipen will be interviewing Rolfe and several other presenters will be reading selections from Rolfe's work on authors like Steinbeck, Bukowski and Faulkner.

There will also be a few presenters reading original tribute pieces about Rolfe. Lee Boek recently told me that Rolfe, "is a real newspaperman with a cultural and artistic pedigree unrivaled. He writes from his own personal observations based on his vast reservoir of knowledge and experience gained from his Menuhin Family of prodigies and rebels and his experience as a reporter in California during the sixties and seventies in many small and large towns." Those in the know note that Rolfe is the only writer in the same class as Mike Davis when it comes to knowing the full scope of the last century of Los Angeles literature. The event on December 11th will put this all into perspective.

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As Getty noted in the beginning of this essay, civilizations are most remembered by their cultural achievements. For this holiday season rather than propagating the intense fixation on technology and rampant materialism so prevalent in this era, why not acquire handmade arts and crafts or literature from a local author. These items are imbued with deep concentration and will prove to be much more meaningful in the long run than the latest electronic gadget. This list is by no means a definitive list of similarly independent marketplaces or artists, but it is a starting point for those interested in stepping off the beaten path. Salute to all of the artists, authors and merchants creating a new world in the landscape of L.A. Letters.

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