Cartwheel Art Takes Atlas Obscura on Arts District Tour

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On July 20th, Cartwheel Art created a Cartwheel Art Tour in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District for Atlas Obscura Society LA,  that sold out within twenty four hours of its announcement to a capacity of 25 persons.

The Atlas Obscura Society LA, Los Angeles’ exploration arm of Atlas Obscura – the online guidebook to the world’s most wondrous places – guides fellow adventurers through the unknown, the curious, and the obscure across the Los Angeles area, and the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District has many hidden treasures for all the senses. The founder of Cartwheel Art, Cindy  Schwarzstein is an Arts District resident, a Los Angeles River Artists and Business (LARABA) Board Member, and a founding member of  All-City Mural Endeavor (ACME) who has been designing and leading Arts District tours for the Los Angeles branch of the American Planning Association, the LA Art Show, and other groups.

On this Cartwheel Art tour for Atlas Obscura, guests explored the north section of the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District as Cindy guided participants through the art and history of what was once a gritty section filled with disused warehouses, train tracks and manufacturing plants by the L.A. River. The area – which became a legal artist colony in the 1980s is filled with murals, artisan and locally owned businesses, restaurants, cafes and gallerias – is  rapidly becoming the hippest and most vibrant and dynamic art-centric part of Los Angeles.

The group met at Angel City Brewery, where street artist Zenka opened the tour with an insightful and exciting demonstration of her augmented reality street art style. She explained the various styles of street art and discussed her contributions to the Arts District as an artist. Her energy was contagious, not only did she have the full attention of the crowd, and she inspired some spontaneous wheat pasting. Zenka had created imagery in advance for volunteers to post on the free wall of the historic American Hotel. For those who weren’t adventurous, Zenka had them take a new artist oath: That within twelve days of the tour they would create street art, whether it was to post a sticker, wheat paste, or display a mix media piece. The significance of the oath is actually quiet relevant to the Arts District. The strength of the community and the support the artists provide for one another has led to development of the mural and street art as well as the success of local businesses.

The Arts District’s history is an essential aspect to every Cartwheel Art tour, connecting the audience to everything the neighborhood has to offer. On this tour,  Terry Elsworth, a resident of the American Hotel for over twenty years, spoke about the very unique historical Arts District, about Joel Bloom, whom the Triangle was named after; the American Hotel, built in 1905 and home once to the notorious punk club Al’s Bar (Beck got his start there, and bands like White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and Black Flag also played the tiny stage); and the importance of community work and activism to preserve the essence of the community of artists.

In addition, Jonathan Gerald, Director of District Gallery spoke to the group about  more of the area’s history and presented the work of Alex Tavoularis, storyboard artist, production illustrator, production designer and art director, whose work was currently on exhibition in the gallery. Tavoularis’ has more than forty film credits including Apocalypse Now, Star Wars, The Godfather: Part III, Gardens of Stone, Peggy Sue Got Married, and One from the Heart. Gerald, also the founding board member of LADAD Space, provided a brief description about the gallery/exhibition space, theater, and screening room, soon to open at One Santa Fe, a new development further south in Arts District.

This tour in particular was propelled by historical locations as well as local businesses. Murals included  JR’s Wrinkles of the City, Shepherd Fairey’s famous Peace Goddess, and Tristan Eaton’s I was a Botox Junkie. Behind the American Hotel, UTI Crew was working on a mural, allowing tour participants to see the process. NUKE, one of UTI Crew’s founding members provided some key points about the importance of the American Hotel parking lot and what the art filled walls meant to not only his crew but to the neighborhood. The group got a behind the scenes experience to the creation of new street art.

After much photo-taking occurred and questions were answered by NUKE for the group,  the tour continued  towards another area of the Arts District where  numerous developments are being planned or have started.  Paul Schimmel, former MOCA Chief Curator  Schimmel is now partner in the art gallery Hauser Wirth & Schimmel that will open in January 2015 as  a 100,000 sq ft block size complex comprised of seven buildings and a courtyard.

The graffiti all along the Schimmel area is historically significant and the outcome of whether it will remain is unknown so, it is particularly important and timely to see and photograph works by Mister Cartoon, Dcypher, Revel, Swaze/Relax/Eise, Vyal, Spiro and Defer and that of the many crews including UTI, MSK, CBS, LOD, OFA and others

As always while walking through the district, Cindy pointed,out the art galleries along the way such as Art Share LA, District Gallery, The Box, and Lili Lakich Neon Art Studio. Other artisan businesses on the tour included some of the food and beverage hot spots such as the Pie Hole, Wurstkuche, Umami Burger, Novel Cafe, Eat Drink Americano, Zip Fusion, Bourbon DTLA and Blacktop Coffee.

The tour finished exactly where it started, at Angel City Brewery, where guests heard about the brewery and the 101 year old building that houses it, as well as a learning about the brewing process and what an average day is like for one of their brewers. before sampling three of their flagship beers.

The sunny Sunday sold-out tour was a great success filled with history, culture, live art, and even locally brewed beer.


IMG_6239Artist Zenka presenting the various types of street art in a demonstration at the beginning of the tour.


Artist Zenka showing materials used for her art and wheat pasting. 




Artist Zenka’s augmented reality ceramic street art installation work on the wall of Angel City Brewery


Beginning of the tour in front of Angel City Brewery with Zenka’s work behind us.


Jonathan Gerald, Director of District Gallery presented the work of Alex Tavoularis. The mural work of Damon Martin is in the background.


Zenka showing the group how her ceramic street art works on a piece in front of District Gallery.


Terry Elsworth, historian and guest speaker for the tour speaking with the group with the mural of Tristan Eaton in the background.


The group heard more from Elsworth about the history of the American Hotel and Al’s Bar before wheat-pasting with Zenka.

IMG_6290Tour members wheat pasting images Zenka created for the free wall at historic American Hotel.

IMG_6225NUKE working on a new mural in the UTI Crew Hall of Fame wall in the Al’s Bar parking lot of the American Hotel.


IMG_6297Artist and guest speaker NUKE describing the mural work and history of the UTI Crew’s Hall of Fame in the Al’s Bar parking lot.


Group photo with artist NUKE and the UTI Crew Hall of Fame’s new mural  being created during the tour in the background.


The tour begins behind the scenes at Angel City Brewery.

IMG_6317The tour group learning from one of the brewmasters what a typical day is like at the Brewery in creating their brews.


Behind the scenes at Angel City Brewery, part of the Cartwheel Art Tour for Atlas Obscura.


Behind the scenes at Angel City Brewery as part of the Cartwheel Art Tour for Atlas Obscura.


Behind the scenes at Angel City Brewery as part of the Cartwheel Art Tour for Atlas Obscura.


The sampling of three of Angel City Brewery’s beers in the tasting room was the perfect way to end the tour.

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