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LA Downtown Art Walk: the price of success

Success might just happen. Be ready for it.

The monthly Downtown Art Walks in Los Angeles have drawn more than 20,000 people to a stroll of galleries and nightspots, and have been credited with helping to revitalize the area.

That does not mean that they are not controversial. :-)

(Can you imagine anything, successful or not, that is NOT controversial in California? :-) )

A message was posted on the official Web site on Friday, saying that the walks had been canceled for the rest of the year and that they would resume in 2011 on a quarterly basis. Then, on Sunday, the organization’s board of directors sent a release saying that the next art walk would take place on October 14 as previously scheduled, and that the earlier announcement had been published by executive director, Jay Lopez, without the approval of the board! :-)

Lopez, for his part, says that he acted under the assumption that the board was going to disband! :-)

The problem? The six-year-old event has become a victim of its own success. The group does not have the resources for costs of security, trash collection and other services.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has asked the organization to pick up at least part of the cost of the growing police presence that is required for the monthly event. The organization has also been asked to pay the Historic Downtown Los Angeles Business Improvement District for cleanup costs and additional private security on art walk nights.

Art Walk operates on a budget of less than $20,000 a year, predominantly from donations, and its organization consists mostly of volunteers. Downtown Art Walk consists of a free, self-guided tour of galleries located primarily in the Gallery Row area, which includes parts of Spring and Main streets, as well as areas in Little Tokyo, the Fashion District and Grand Avenue.

Central to the debate is the cost of the LAPD police presence and occasional vandalism and rowdy behavior by the crowds.

If you think that art is without politics, :-) read the LATimes online article!

(Note added later September 29, 2010: The previous statement should read, “Politics is often without art, but art is never without politics.” :-) )

-Bill at

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