Because artists are already in the business of sharing their works and ideas, perhaps they are naturally inclined to share their living space ““ and chores ““ in cooperative housing.
Fourth-year communication studies and political science student Izar Ortiz of Spain lives in Essene Hall, part of the University Cooperative Housing Association on Landfair Avenue. She was part of the social crew there that organized DJ shows and live music events last year.
When the co-op is not hosting concerts, Ortiz said the buildings are still filled with music; a communal piano is available to play 24 hours a day.
The living room at the Treehouse on Strathmore Avenue also functions as a constant stage. Second-year economics and philosophy student David Hirotsu started organizing the Treehouse open mic nights around the same time the Midvale Sessions started in fall 2010.
Compared to the Midvale Sessions, however, the Treehouse showcases a larger variety of performances, from magicians and slam poets to stand-up comedians and rappers.
Giving each act about 15 minutes, Hirotsu arranges the performers in ascending energy, moving from acoustic to electric music. These open mic nights happen once a month and are announced on their Facebook page.
Although more than a hundred people attend each of these events, the living room setting still adds an intimate quality to them. The wood-paneled walls, full-length windows and scattered instruments give off a historic aura fitting to Jim Morrison’s alleged former residence.
Just blocks away from California State University, Northridge, Das Bauhaus also has an assumed history of housing famous performers, from Paula Abdul to DJ Flying Lotus.
Parts of terra-cotta warriors, a model ship, an old Coca-Cola machine, a bar with an inlaid chessboard bought off Craigslist, and shelves of videotapes and books add to the aged atmosphere of the place. Alarm clocks and TVs stuck in a wall of shredded newspaper sometimes come back to life at odd hours of the day.
In addition to these obscure artifacts, resident Zachary Wegard said inhabitants of Das Bauhaus also contribute their own creations to the complex. The meter room has been outfitted with tiger print wallpaper, a mounted guitar and dartboards.
Owner Don Larson knocked down walls to create a community kitchen and living room complete with piano bar and pool table. The courtyard has also been transformed into a performance space with bleachers and a stage where a snake pit used to be. One python still remains behind glass by the bar.
Wegard built a fountain in the courtyard with a Buddha statue in the middle. Graffiti artists paint the walls and the parking garage, but like Buddhist sand mandalas, their pieces are covered up so new ones can be created.
Wegard said the residents are also rather impermanent: Many musicians, dancers, actors and artists have passed through Das Bauhaus and have held art shows and wine tastings, fire dancing, and raves. As one resident said, Das Bauhaus is like “Fight Club” ““ there are no rules, and it attracts open-minded people with a desire to meet others.
UCLA alumnus Joel Pickell said that while living at Women of Crenshaw, a house and performance space in mid-city Los Angeles, he was invited to multiple music events every evening.
As a member of the band Generation, Pickell said being able to play music at 4 a.m. with no noise complaints was a good way to foster his music.
After awhile, however, he said the drugged-out and directionless lives of some of the people there were a hindrance to his productivity. There were times when he couldn’t even get food because there was a touring band sleeping in the kitchen.
Pickell said that because no one really cooperated, the place was more of a punk house than a cooperative ““ no one would buy toilet paper or do the dishes.
But he said the experience has made him much more accepting of his roommates now, and he is glad to have met the people he did. Even if they stole his food, they gave him insight into the borderless, sometimes toilet-paperless existence of living and breathing in music and art.
If you live and love art, email Cosgrove at [email protected]