When driving along a certain freeway just north of downtown Los Angeles you can find a tall smokestack poking out of what looks like an abandoned industrial campus. The buildings sit on the outskirts of the rapidly developing art district so there isn’t much foot traffic and to an outsider the grouping of buildings look somewhat zombie movie-esque. I had the experience of visiting this location twice to visit a few architects, one trip in particular beginning with a horrifying walk down dim corridors marked with spray painted arrows as guides…I didn’t go back. These rather mysterious buildings can be easily overlooked, but twice a year the doors open to expose what really goes on inside the worn brick and plaster facades. The collection of buildings make up the Brewery and housed inside each loft and garage are artists living and working on everything from ceramics, to screen printing, to jewelry, to painting. There is even a cooking school tucked into one of the courtyards. The Brewery Art Walk exposes the otherwise exclusive artist colony to the public and invites guests into the personal spaces of artisans, many of which live in the actual studio space, their kitchen and beds simply cordoned off from the visitors contemplating their work.
I visited the complex for their fall tour and took it as an opportunity to look into the rooms of a tight knit community that seem to exist far away from the usual gallery scene. The first stop led to the nature-based paintings of Jill Sykes, an LA born artist who captures the negative space found in shadows and plants by playing with scale and cropping. A trip down one of the complex’s “streets” lead to an installation by Ryan McIntosh, an often controversial artist who uses consumerism and technology as inspiration. These prints paired alongside large scale paintings of plane crashes made his studio one of the fullest. The mix of buildings and streets, ground level homes and airy loft studios made The Brewery appear to be a little world for its tenants. The ground level garages were decorated with patio furniture, plants, small fences, and other semblances of a front yard. The larger studios mimicking the allure of an ocean-front property and the minimal lofts resembling something more of an early-twenties dorm, complete with coin operated laundry rooms. Granted these “dorms” were overrun by creatives with endless talents, specialties, and backgrounds. One of the more memorable studios to tour was the setting of three ceramicists who were perched high above the other buildings. Their work lined shelves next to large windows that gave an unobstructed view of downtown LA, while their two kilns sat tucked underneath an awning begging the question of how they got up there in the first place.
The final place to visit was the actual brewery building that housed the landmark smoke stack. It had the same worn down exterior similar to all of the other re-purposed buildings in the area and I expected to find another group of studio home hybrids, but after entering through a small door I was faced with a giant rock wall and climbers hanging from colorful foot and hand grips. The scene was shockingly clean and modern as if a company had somehow tricked its way into this secret artist colony, a colony that I likened to an abandoned warehouse in a scary movie, but on a sunny day with the doors of the studios wide open this once hidden complex was transformed into a modern city.