Saturday, July 14, 2007

Daily News Covers DLANC's Art Walk DASH Service!

Good story about the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council's DASH bus service during Art Walk Nights on Gallery Row, even though it runs with the no one walks in LA trope a little too hard.

The truth is, as usual, a little more complex. If you start the walk at 5th and Main, see everything there (which take some time) and then head down to 2nd Street - by the time you've done all that and you want to see the galleries near 8th - you don't have time to do so since it's six blocks away and closing time is coming up.

But the bus service will now make it possible for people to walk and still get to all the galleries.

No steppin' out for L.A. Art Walk
Drivers refuse to stroll; bus added
BY SUE DOYLE, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:07/13/2007 09:51:55 PM PDT

So much for the "walking" part.

In yet another reflection of Southern California's car-crazed culture, the monthly Downtown Art Walk through Los Angeles' thriving art scene has added a bus - to chauffeur visitors around the two-mile circuit.

The free service began last month, with some quick to note that it provides a safe way around unfamiliar and dark downtown streets once known more for drug deals than art deals.

But today the area - where gleaming luxury loft apartments are emerging and crime is plummeting - has dramatically changed.

So the real question may be: Will Angelenos ever give up their cars and embrace the pedestrian lifestyle of city living?

"People in L.A. don't walk anywhere," said Jill Abrams, owner of Infusion Gallery. "So when you come to downtown, you kind of know that."

Sitting on the fringe of Gallery Row, Infusion Gallery and a handful of others in the 700 block of South Spring Street noticed that fewer visitors were venturing down that way for Downtown Art Walk.

The self-guided tour, held from noon to 9 p.m. the second Thursday of each month, attracts up to 2,500 people.

But many congregate only around the heart of the art scene - about four blocks away - at Fifth and Main streets.

Hipsters hop on

To encourage trips to the other galleries, the DASH bus was brought in to loop around Spring and Main streets and haul hipsters and art enthusiasts among the nearly 30 galleries that began cropping up about five years ago between Second and Ninth streets.

"We have had complaints from galleries on the far end that they weren't getting the same traffic as those in the middle of the walk," said Bert Green, who organizes the event that began in September 2004 and runs Bert Green Fine Art smack in the middle of the whole scene.

The $5,000 bus service - paid for by the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council - is on a one-year trial to see whether there's sufficient demand for it.

The special bus runs during Downtown Art Walk nights, starting at 7, after the daily DASH bus service ends.

Artists and gallery owners hope the bus is just the ticket to get people moving.

"Unfortunately in L.A., when you say a block, people think it's a mile," said Abrams. "So it's just a matter of education, really."

Standing before his display Thursday night at The Hive Gallery, artist Gregory Gould wondered whether L.A. residents are even capable of giving up their dependence on cars.

"It may be one of those things that you can't change," said Gould. "If you can't change the way they consider getting around, then this bus is a way to accommodate them."

Fear of walking

Walt Hall, another artist, wondered whether the perception of downtown's gritty past is preventing people from casually hitting the sidewalk.

"I think people are afraid," said Hall. "But people are getting used to walking downtown. The shuttle alleviates any fear."

These days, streets are tougher in some parts of the San Fernando Valley than they are downtown.

Los Angeles police report car theft, vandalism and similar crimes are highest today in the 77th Division - which encompasses Crenshaw, Hyde Park and Gramercy Park - followed by the West Valley and Van Nuys divisions.

The top three areas for violent crimes - such as homicide, rape and robbery - also are in the 77th, Southeast and Southwest divisions, according to LAPD records.

So what's the problem?

For Al Conteh, the maze of one-way streets downtown can be so daunting that when he gets lost, he just turns his car around and gets back on the freeway.

But the Reseda man managed to find his way Thursday to see the works of artist Karima Williams.

"We don't walk," said Conteh when asked about Los Angeles' car culture. "And we don't talk to anybody."

Still, being true artists at heart, some can't help but think of ways to incorporate the bus into the Art Walk experience.

"I think the next step is to have performance art and spoken word on the bus," said Adrian Rivas, co-founder of G727, a gallery on Spring Street. "That would attract more people."

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