The Arts District is often called the urban canvas of Los Angeles. It has attracted many street artists who have turned it into a museum of street art. However, instead of halls and classical paintings, there are streets, graffiti, posters, and installations. Art pervades this area, and it is impossible to see the same exhibit twice.
The Arts District has a long history. In the first half of the 19th century, Jean-Louis Vignes moved from to Los Angeles and began cultivating grapes. One of the streets in the center of the district is named in his honor. In the early 20th century, vines were replaced with orange and grapefruit trees. Even now one grapefruit tree grows at the intersection of San Pedro and Azusa Streets as a reminder of past events. During World War II, the Arts District became industrial – new warehouses, as well as factories, were built, and workers moved to live here. In the 1960s and 1970s, some artists discovered this place and used numerous and useless warehouses as their studios and exhibition halls. There was only one disadvantage – creative but mostly poor individuals used these warehouses illegally. They created artworks, had parties, and slept there. The problem was solved in 1981 when the city government issued a decree called AIR (“Artist in Residence”), authorizing artists to settle in industrial buildings and leave the traces of their talent on walls.
Graffiti on walls has attracted not only artists and creative people but also filmmakers. The Arts District is a place where many famous movies such as Meet Me in St Louis, Ed Wood, Terminator 2, and Monster in Law were shot. Justin Timberlake made here a video for his promotional single “Take Back the Night.” Furthermore, in this district, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants.
A few decades ago, the Arts District had a bad reputation. Nowadays, the area is experiencing mural and graffiti art boom of epic proportions. The outdoor exhibition changes almost every day. The place can be considered an open-air museum. Many murals belong to prominent street artists.
Shepard Fairey, an American artist whose works combine the elements of street art and pop art, became the most influential street artist in 2008. He is the author of the famous Barack Obama “Hope” and “Obey” posters that led to the creation of a new wall called “Make Art Not War.” In the Arts District, there are also the artworks of Mexican muralists and ideological brothers Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. They painted large murals that depicted scenes supporting left-wing political causes. Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, who is known around the world for his controversial hyper-realistic paintings executed in a professional manner, settled in the Arts District not long time ago. One of his famous paintings shows Donald Duck who sits at the table with several serious men as if they talk about some important issues. In one interview, Gottfried once said that he learned more from Donald Duck than from all the schools that he attended. In addition, a few years ago, the Arts District hosted the first American street art auction supported by the oldest auction house Bonhams. The main lots were the works of Banksy, the most famous modern street artist. The opening bid for the two canvases depicting rats (the favorite motif of Banksy) was 100,000 dollars.
Like many artistic phenomena, the Art District struggles for its own immortality in the hearts and minds of people. The street galleries and indoor art exhibitions are equally open to visitors. Moreover, using actual local muralists as tour guides, everyone can get secret access to hidden spots that other people would never get a chance to see.
As in any other area of Los Angeles, in the Arts District, there are also some special cafes and fast food restaurants that offer tasty meals. One of such places is Urth Caffe founded in the late 1980s and located at 451 South Hewitt Street in the heart of the Arts District.
Urth Caffe offers a wide variety of natural coffee as well as some high-quality sweet items. When a person enters the cafe, the first thing that catches his/her eye is the huge shop window full of cakes and pies. Most visitors especially like oatmeal cookies. The owners of Urth Caffe believe that it necessary to eat only healthy and wholesome food. Therefore, all dishes are prepared from organic vegetables and fruits. Of course, such meal is not cheap. The average meal costs approximately 25 dollars. Nevertheless, it is necessary to try and enjoy the salad made of organic greens, grilled artichokes, and dried fruits. Urth Caffe is also famous for its great coffee grown in Peru. Customers always have fun guessing a pattern on their latte.
Urth Caffe is located in a very quiet place. Here reigns an atmosphere of ease. The meals, loft-style interior, and even people fit this place. Around the neighborhood, there are also some inviting little shops and art galleries. Impressed by amazing murals and graffiti and tired of shopping, people can return to the cafe and have a cup of tasty coffee.
Urth Caffe will be an interesting discovery for vegetarians and those having a sweet tooth. Everyone will find a dish prepared according to his or her preferences. All dishes are made from natural ingredients; therefore, they are very wholesome. This place is also very popular among stars who visit it regularly. Undoubtedly, Urth Caffe shows that the preparation of food can become art too.