Is Los Angeles the Creative Capital of the US?
By: Lauren Royer
Cover photo and article photos by: Lauren Royer
Let's talk about Los Angeles.
Many musicians have migrated to the area and LA is noted in songs, across all genres and time. It was as if LA had some magical quality that you wouldn't understand until you visited. Beyond the entertainment industry, many artists in traditional mediums have also spoken of experiences in the city of Angels.
So here is an equation: with so many people heading there with dreams of being 'discovered' minus the amount of people that actually 'make it', we can assume this equals an underground and flourishing artist community. Right?
Not necessarily, and not according to an annual study done by SMU's National Center for Arts Research. Last year, Los Angeles didn't even land in the top 10 most vibrant artistic communities across the nation. SMU's study takes into account a number of factors: "The overall index is composed of three dimensions: supply, demand, and government support. Supply is assessed by the total number of arts providers in the community, including the number of arts and culture organizations and employees, independent artists, and entertainment firms. Demand is gauged by the total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, including program revenue, contributed revenue, total expenses, and total compensation. Lastly, the level of government support is based on state and federal arts dollars and grants".
Ultimately, the point of all this is to say something about LA that is neutral and underwhelming: Los Angeles is not the worst place to be artist, but it's not the best either. Part of what I had hoped to uncover in LA was art primary form across the board. Beyond the studies by SMU and whatever else you can find on the world wide web, here are my own notes on LA art culture and why I still feel it's worth a holy trek through the desert.
Modern / Visual / Contemporary Arts
Props to La La Land for the accessibility of their contemporary art museums. EVERY Thursday is free and open to all, with some being free year round. That's not just one museum, once a month- it's viewer's choice in one the largest collections of nonprofit organizations in the nation. Every topic imaginable, different cultures, and of course, heavy inclusion of Los Angeles based artists. The Broad, besides being an architectural marvel, generates 2-5 hour long waits for their exhibits with lines of excited people. That's not easily done in the visual arts world.
Music / Performing Arts
With a dense amount of musicians in LA you better believe the competition to be heard is fierce. This is the entertainment business baby! That isn't stopping people from trying though. On a subway trip out of DTLA, two musicians hopped onboard at the last minute into our car. One held a guitar, the other a violin. Those guys sang and played with such passion, it had the entire subway car in a puddle of feels. "We have instruments so we thought we'd play them for you", one said to the group of commuters. As far as other forms of performing arts, there is a noteworthy stand-up comedy scene. Realistically, it would be hardest to be an actor, writer, musician, comedian, or director in LA. There is no getting around this fact, and why there is no getting around being located in LA for that type of work. Sorry about it.
Architecture / Public Arts
Like all large cities, they have lots of buildings. A few gems standing: The Broad, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Getty, and the intriguing Griffith Observatory. The best, in my sweet and humble opinion was the Hollyhock House, designed by architecture legend Frank Lloyd Wright. For a chill $7.00, you can go from the seemingly plain exterior to the inside filled with splendor and design. The Hollyhock was open, minimalist, but rich with beauty. It reminded me of Japanese style architecture. It turns out, FLW actually spent time studying in Japan and was inspired by their design styles. There were many old buildings within DTLA and it's wonderful that they've kept the renovations on designs minimal. Every block opened up to a new mural covered wall. this makes sense as 1% of all construction, improvements, or renovations by the city are put aside and used for public art.
Non-professional food critique opinion: LA food blew me away. Vegan options aplenty, unique ingredients, pleasant presentation, the chefs here are artists too! One standout in particular was an American cuisine restaurant called "Blacksmiths Restaurant". The waiter mentioned proudly that the entire menu was carefully designed and each ingredient down to their syrups used in cocktails, are made in-house. I savored every bite of the Chef Edgar Ramos's art, especially the name sake dish "The BlackSmiths": squid ink fettuccine, roasted garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, EVO, jumbo crab meat, crispy bacon & golden stars.
There are more artist and entertainment firms in LA than any community in the U.S. This means that in order to separate yourself as an artist, you'll be fighting against the odds. It's easy to access inspiration but the cost of living there is high. Luckily, there is a large amount of support and opportunities for LA based artists to showcase their work through nonprofit programs. You may even be discovered just by being there, because that's kind of the idea right?