The Frogtown Artwalk Celebrates its 10th Anniversary
Written by Patrick Quinn
The tiny neighborhood of Elysian Valley recently held its annual celebration of art and community. Thousands of people from all parts of the city joined in the festivities. Visitors explored local artist’s studios, drank locally brewed beer, and listen to local bands playing on makeshift stages. But nobody was sporting an ‘I love Elysian Valley’ t-shirt. To the 8,000 residents, their home has always been known as Frogtown.
Stretching roughly two miles alongside the L.A. River, the area has been long overshadowed by its trendy neighbors; Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Atwater Village. But eventually the cheap rents and available industrial spaces began to attract artists. One of the very first was ceramic artist Michael Todd. Back in 1985, he purchased a warehouse from a flooring company in the northern end of Frogtown. He had heard the neighborhood was pretty rough, but the police assured him that the gangs usually left the residents alone. That turned out to be the case, though occasionally somebody would abandon a stolen car on the street and light it on fire. Those times have long past, as have the days of affordable housing. Frogtown has been discovered and gentrification has officially arrived. Or as Michael Todd puts it, he finally has a good restaurant within walking distance, but good luck finding parking on a Saturday night.
The venues displaying art were as eclectic as the work itself. Visitors could explore industrial buildings converted into studios as well as more traditional galleries. High-profile architectural firms opened their doors as did NOMAD studios, the first artist compound in Frogtown. There was live music at three official stages along with some lively front-yard jam sessions. Local restaurants featured art and music, and Frogtown Brewery, which doesn’t officially open until the end of year, offered tastings of their beer. But the real party started after the sun set and a variety of light installation pieces turned the river itself into a work of art.