When most people think about Inglewood, California, they usually don’t think about the arts. Unfortunately, it was stigmatized in the 90’s by Black gangster rap and hood films which gave it a tainted image, similar to Compton and South Central. Many other neighborhoods with a high concentration of Latinos suffered a similar fate like Boyle Heights, Highland Park, and Echo Park, also reinforced by film and gangs. Nevertheless, the latter are experiencing an unprecedented cultural renaissance thanks to urban planning, proximity, and geographical landscape. Silver Lake, formerly known as Edendale back in the 20’s, was one of the first bohemian art districts in the city and county of Los Angeles, due to its closeness to the city center, its relative isolation, it’s privacy among the trees and hills, it’s peaceful independence, and it’s cheap rents. Most importantly, it was close to the art schools in the Westlake district at the time, (now MacArthur Park) like Otis and the Chouinard School. This might help us understand why places like Echo Park and Highland Park are going through rapid changes, while Compton and South Central, with their mostly flat surfaces and dull street grids still lag behind.
However, if you compare the Fairview Heights area and North Inglewood to other districts, it seems idyllic for a bohemian culture renaissance. This area is relatively close to Antioch College, Loyola Marymount University, and Otis College, LAX, and other art districts like Culver City and Mid City. Around the Florence Ave and Prairie Ave intersections there are historical homes and vintage train tracks, adjacent to industrial spaces with cheap rents for art studios. It is a somewhat hidden region with hilly and windy streets and tree-lined avenues like Ellis and Verdun, where isolation and peaceful independence are the key to artistic flourishing. Yet, it is an area that is mostly unheard of because of the fierce competition throughout the rest of the Los Angeles County. This could be a good thing for the current artists, but the consensus is that most communities and its citizenry would rather have a wave of creativity and be part of the bigger movement.
To help combat the perennial culture of waste, Inglewood Open Studios is an annual weekend celebration and tour of the working artists throughout the city of Inglewood. From 1019 W. Manchester Blvd next to Randy’s Donuts, to 808 N. La Brea, to individual homes where artists open their doors to the public, you can see work done by professional artists, professors from local art schools, and amateur craftsmen and women who are trying to contribute to the bourgeoning art scene. With the makeover of the Forum, the Hollywood Race Track (which is scheduled for it’s last run Dec. 22nd, and will then begin the conversion into mixed-use residential property,) and the Hollywood Park Casino, to the historical Market Street district, to it’s high concentration of working-class Latinos, African Americans, and Spanish Revival homes, Inglewood should be on the right path towards significant change. Recently they tried to bring in a flea market with food trucks, low-riders, and vintage clothing, so the next step is to set up an art walk down La Brea Ave and completely renovate Market Street to become a bustling arts district, in preparation for the forthcoming metro line. If I were an urban planner with the city of Inglewood, that would be my proposal.