Downtown L.A.’s Arts District sprung from the rows of industrial buildings that had dominated the area at the turn of the century. As time moved on the buildings were used as spaces for artists to work and live in the area. Today the landscape is changing to include a new wave of residents. Rent prices have risen, and some buildings and spaces have been renovated to meet the demand of non-artists who are flocking to the area, but one can still see a thriving arts community in that location. Art Share Los Angeles is one of the pieces of the arts community that continue to keep the area alive and flourishing.
Art Share L.A. began in 1997 after it renovated a two-story textile recycling factory from the 1920’s into 30 affordable live/work lofts on its top floor and a theater, art gallery, studios, classrooms, and administrative space on its bottom floor. Once an after-school arts center, Art Share L.A. reopened its doors a couple of years ago as a program to support local artists. International street artist, INSA, transformed the outside of their building by adding the iconic colorful façade that stands today and helped make the building into a downtown landmark.
Today Art Share L.A. continues to provide education and resources to artists. They also put on art shows such as the one currently on display until September 2nd.
“They focus on teaching people how to have a show and different techniques for art, and they are also a studio facility where you can also rent out space,” said Camille Elston who has work on display in the gallery at Art Share. She was encouraged to submit her work for the chance of it being displayed at the gallery and was selected to participate in the show after attending a workshop in a program called Perimeter.
“It’s really a learning experience finding out how to hold a show and display your work because no one really tells you these things unless you go to art school and someone helps you out, and that’s what Art Share is doing,” said Elston. “I really appreciate that.”
Camille Elston participated in the show and attended the opening night reception from 7 PM to 10 PM at the facility located at 801 E. 4th Place in Los Angeles, CA. She came up with her own concept and designs using pen and ink as well as watercolors. She intended to discuss the importance of celebrating marginalized artists. Her art also poses the question of how the architecture of today could have been had mainstream society included the work of those who have not received the chance to share their creativity and their voice.
“The series is called What Would We Have Built, and it’s a series of drawing that I did between September of last year and May of this year,” said Elston. She went on to say that a lot of the drawings evolved from sketches that she had created while listening to lectures in grad school.
“One of these classes was a history class, and at one point in this course we learned about shotgun houses, which are houses that used to be very common among Haitian Americans,” Elston explained. “They were Haitians who left Haiti after the war. The building type comes from the Togun, which is a vernacular building style of West Africa. If you were to open the front door and the back door, and you were to shoot a gun through the front door it would go through the whole house and out the back door. All of the rooms are situated to the sides. They ended up bringing the shotgun houses from Haiti to Louisiana when they migrated, and in America, it ended up being known as a type of housing that was common among poor people. Specifically, poor African American families.”
Elston began creating visionary architecture with experimental floor plans, which involved the incorporation of the design elements of West African and African-American shotgun-style architecture. She also created figure grounds as additional diagram. It became a discussion on what could have happened, or what it could be, had the architecture of this marginalized group was given the same attention and resources for exploration that was given to the more common Western and European architecture and was defined in architectural history.
“It’s supposed to pose the question, what is African-American vernacular, and what would architecture and design look like if more marginalized communities were able to have a bigger say in the world that they live in and in the design process.”
Art Share L.A. takes a step back and does its part as an organization to offer resources and opportunities to those who may not have access to help in art education. The organization has become a platform for the marginalized to share their voice and express themselves creatively in the community.
“There are so many resources within this one organization,” said Elston. “To have an organization that actually helps people get to a point where they can hang something up on a wall and say, ‘I have a show, look at it,’ and it’s something you can put on an art resume, is significant. Diversity matters. Opinions matter. The way that we see the world and being able to see something that reflects our own values is not something that should be made light of. We get a very narrow view of the world and what it is supposed to look like and how things are supposed to function, but that’s not reality. Doing things like supporting people with diverse views, different backgrounds, and unique experiences is so important.”
You can visit ArtShareLA.org to learn more about the organization and how you can help give back to the arts and the community. You can also learn more about how you can help organizations, such as Art Share L.A. to facilitate more diversity in the art world.