Sunday, July 12, 2009

Downtown LA: A Pleasant Surprise

(A plaza comes to life with food vendors, artwork, live music and art walkers at the Downtown Art Walk.)

I recall overhearing a sarcastic response to a suggestion that was made not too long ago. Someone suggested to a woman that she let her out-of-town guests know about upcoming events in Downtown LA. Her response went something like, "Yeah, I'll send my guests to Downtown LA. That's a good idea." At one point, I would have quickly shared that same sentiment. My first impression of Downtown, formed five years ago when I first arrived to LA, was not a positive one. Since then, the area has gone through a significant transformation. I've kept my mind open, and I'm glad I have. I had no idea how much Downtown LA really had to offer in the way of entertainment and nightlife. Sure, there was the Disney Concert Hall and Music Center, and the Staples Center and LA Live. For me, that was about it. Not a whole lot. Certainly not enough for me to have Downtown at the top of my mind when someone said, "Let's go out." That all changed last Thursday night when my husband and I finally attended a Downtown Art Walk.

I'll never know if it was coincidence, or fate that called us out that night. I'd heard of a variety of art walks, but hadn't actually been to one. One of my husband's good friends recently started a series of art work entitled, "WHITE-BORED," a fun play-on-words (white-bored, whiteboard...get it?). We received an invitation to attend a gallery opening where his works would be on display. It happened to be on the night of the Downtown Art Walk. So, we attended. And had a delightful time.

When we arrived at Gallery Row, there was an energy in the air that immediately enveloped us. We didn't really know what to expect, but were excited to dive right in. We started at ARTY, where our friend was showing his work. The walls were lined with diorama-filled bird cages (which we learned were part of the "Canary Suicides" exhibit), and whiteboards with morbid and graphic depictions (amusing and disturbing to see what one's mind can imagine when it's idle). The gallery was swarming with people admiring and appreciating the odd, but clever and thoughtful collections. And it was the same everywhere we went that evening. People were there not just to soak in some art and culture, but also to socialize and simply hang out and have a good time.

As we made our way down Gallery Row, the sounds of live music, the buzz of hundreds of conversations, and smells from various food vendors and restaurants filled the air. We arrived at Pete's near 4th and Main, apparently a hotspot for Downtown (the flat-iron steak and bleu cheese fries are a "recommend"). Our table was outside on the patio, a perfect spot to continue to soak in the remainder of the night's energy and excitement. My husband commented,"This is just as alive and vibrant as a night in Hollywood, but better. This is great!" We dined and watched as people strolled by, noted the Party Bus that made several trips around the area, and thanked Downtown for a wonderful evening.

(A gentleman enjoys the music of Rocky Dawuni at California Plaza.)

The next day, I discovered the Grand Performances "Summer Series" at California Plaza, a series of free, noon-time performances hosted by Grand Performances. I watched as kids and adults ate their lunches, enjoyed the sunshine, and danced to the music of Ghanaian-born, LA-based reggae sensation, Rocky Dawuni. I especially enjoyed watching a gentleman whom I dubbed "Dancing Man," as he added to the show with his graceful dance moves. As I listened to the inspirational and upbeat sounds of Dawuni, I reflected on my Downtown experiences. Although the messages aren't exactly applicable, the positive sentiment was certainly relevant; I kept my mind open and discovered a new, lively and fun world in Downtown LA. And yes, I will tell my friends, family and out-of-town guests to go hang out in Downtown. Take a podcast walking tour, visit Gallery Row, try some new cuisine, go shop at the Fashion District, spend an evening dancing with Dance Downtown, and so much more. You'll be pleasantly surprised!


1 comment:

Veronica Lee said...

Hi, I'm visiting from MBC. Great blog.