By Jasmine Walker
The ultra cool arts district will be making way for yet another grand opening. No it’s not just another artists’ space. And to call it a gallery would be an understatement. The Arts District Center for the Arts will be a place where artists of diverse mediums exhibit in a traditional gallery and can also utilize the state-of-the-art theater. This multi-purpose space will also open its metaphorical doors to host outdoor performances at the center’s amphitheater. The GRAWN sat down with District Gallery Director, Jonathan Jerald, to discuss this highly anticipated venture.
The GRAWN: So tell me again what you’re opening.
JJ: There will be a 3000 square foot exhibition space; a 99-seat theater, and a state-of- the-art screening room. We’ll make the screening room available to emerging filmmakers in the urban community. We’re not quite sure how we’re going to develop that but certainly it will be an opportunity for various film festivals. We’re working on that process so that we can take it to Warner Brothers. I’m hoping that it’s going to be complete in the fall of 2014. I think we can safely say that.
The GRAWN: So what is it called again?
JJ: The Arts District Center for the Arts and it’s going to be at the far south end of Santa Fe between 1st and 4th streets in the Arts District.
The GRAWN: And what do you see happening there?
JJ: The theater groups that will be operating in there will be Padua Playwrights; Cornerstone Theater Company, and we’re going to operate the gallery to make sure that the exhibitions are about the L.A. urban arts scene. We’ll be featuring Los Angeles urban artists and then every other show we will invite artists from similar urban areas around the world and hopefully we’ll be helping to make connections. We’re going to support and encourage theater that is extremely cutting edge. We’re developing a post modern musical where we’re encouraging groups like The Wolf Society for experimental music. There’s a post modern composer and we’re hooking those people together with playwrights who are normally not used to working with music and trying to produce a new kind performance. We’re also hoping that a couple of days a year that what is in the exhibition space will also relate somehow to what is being performed. We’ve been talking to the city, the Bureau of Engineering and a few contractors. We’re working with their staff to help us to finish the amphitheater. We’ll be signing the lease within a week. We also have a grant pending and that grant is to hire a sound designer and architect to design the interior space and then we have a budget of $50,000, but we don’t think that is enough to get everything done.
The GRAWN: How long have you been working on this project?
JJ: About eight or nine years. Tim Keating, Lucy Jensen and I created the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space, a 501(c )(3), which is the entity that is going to operate The Arts District Center for the Arts. Its goal is to help preserve the community as a true arts community in the face of gentrification. Twenty-five to thirty-five years ago you could get a space down here for 25¢a square foot or less and that attracted a lot of artists who needed it to make art and performance art. And those artists attracted more artists. So you had people like John Baldessari and Paul McCarthy who all emerged from that scene along with a lot of other people. So it was a significant breeding ground for artists.
The GRAWN: You mentioned 25¢ was the cost of a square foot then. How much is it now?
JJ: $2. It will never be 25¢ again. But we do have an opportunity to be an arts district in another way. It’s changing and transforming so the opportunity is to create The Arts Center, which will have 88 units of low cost artists’ housing. And that is a very interesting project because the city has to rewrite the code. And then SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture) is going to build two structures on top of their building and those will be open to the public as galleries.
The GRAWN: How do you plan to spread the news about the Arts Center?
JJ: Well once we’ve signed the lease we want to make a public announcement and we will do that in two ways: we’ll create a press release and we’ll buy ads from publications like The GRAWN (he laughs) to describe what we’re doing.
The GRAWN: Most people think there’s a big disparity between people who have attended elite art schools and those who are self-taught and are just as good of an artist. What are your thoughts?
JJ: Well that’s what the arts district has always been about; this collision between those people.