The original version of this article contained information that was unclear and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.
Westwood shows its wear over the last 40 years.
In the ’70s, Westwood Village was a social and cultural hub of Los Angeles. That all changed in the late ’80s when high-profile gang violence deterred the masses from the area.
“For 15 to 20 years, many places have been for rent … and it’s depressing,” said Barbara Drucker, associate dean of academic affairs for the School of the Arts and Architecture. “It’s lost its vision.”
However, the Hammer Museum may have recently rediscovered it.
The Hammer’s directors have a vision to revitalize Westwood by curating an artisanal “pop-up village,” consisting of chefs, jewelry makers, artists, DJ’s and other creative makers to bring their locally produced crafts to these vacant spaces. In order to fund this vision, they have submitted their idea, Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood, to the My LA2050 Challenge, spearheaded by the Goldhirsh Foundation.
LA2050 will give out a total of $1,000,000 in grants to nonprofit or private companies who propose the best ideas for improving the health of Los Angeles within eight categories. These include education, environmental quality, housing, arts, and cultural vitality. Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood falls into the latter.
The public can vote for the submission on the My LA2050 website until April 17. For each of the eight categories, one of the top-most voted submissions will be rewarded $100,000 to implement its vision. Two additional “floating” submissions from any category will also receive $100,000.
For years, Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin has been dreaming up this project for the streets of Westwood, said Sarah Stifler, communications director at the Hammer Museum. On Westwood Boulevard alone, 30 of the 78 storefronts are vacant.
If the Hammer can successfully implement this pilot pop-up village, Westwood could be compared to the likes of artist-gentrified neighborhoods of Silver Lake in downtown, Abbot Kinney in Venice or SoHo in New York City, Stifler said.
“That model is something that she’s been keen on trying to deploy,” Stifler said. “Artists can really turn things around.”
If Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood wins the grant, it will only provide enough money for the pilot. But Stifler said that once the public sees the potential Westwood has to become the new art mecca of Los Angeles, additional funding and support will hopefully come naturally.
For now, the Hammer has been working with business leaders of Westwood to ensure free rent for artisans and more affordable parking for patrons during the pilot period.
“We couldn’t do something like this without the cooperation of the neighborhood,” Stifler said. “It’s necessary to have alliances to make a project like this successful.”
The Hammer has similarly worked alongside the Westwood Village Improvement Association to garner support of Westwood property owners for this endeavor.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure that the neighborhood is an interesting place,” Stifler said.
Artisans can use Westwood as a testing ground for their goods or crafts, and some may realize the benefits of staying in The Village full time, said Andrew Thomas, executive director of Westwood Village Improvement Association.
“It’s an opportunity that you just don’t see very often,” Thomas said. “Being able to walk down the street and see such a number of these crème de la crème artisans would be a showcase for our community as well as for the artisans placed within it.”
In curating Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood, the Hammer will create maps and brochures to direct patrons to arts and crafts of interest. It will be akin to a multimedia art exhibit that has overtaken the entire Westwood Village.
“We are flexible and nimble as an institution and willing to take risks,” Stifler said, “But the Hammer needs the students’ help.”
The UCLA community will likely feel the effects of the project as brand new food, music and art opportunities arise, Thomas said.
“This is a gateway for people to become interested in the arts, or realize that the arts play a role in everybody’s life whether they know it now or not,” Thomas said. “It has the potential to affect our community in an extraordinary way.”
Clarification: For each of the eight categories in LA2050, one of the top-most voted submissions will be rewarded $100,000 to implement its vision. Two additional “floating” submissions from any category will also receive $100,000.