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Westwood Bound: Wandering Through #ArtsReSTORE

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At the Southwest corner of the Westwood and Kinross intersection, a South-of-UCLA connection where an Aahs, Urban Outfitters, a small newsstand, and the giant dome topped building are located, is a a sign spinner. He throws a rectangular board up into the air and behind his back and gives it an occasional spin, as to live up to his name. Surprisingly, the young man is not advertising news of apartments ready to be leased or a sale on auto insurance by a no-name company: he and a handful of other spinners are raising awareness of #ArtsReSTORE, the Hammer‘s #LA2050 winning effort.

“Hey, do you have a map for all of this?” a man in a slow moving Corolla called out to a spinner. His car slowly turns a corner at a near one mile per hour. “Sure, sir!” the spinner responds, jumping from his corner over to a sandwich sign that also reads #ArtsReSTORE. He grabs a little orange map and hands it to the man in the car. “Have a great day!” he calls out as he continues to spin his sign. This small gesture—a sign spinner spreading news of a local happening to a curious passerby—is a perfect emblem of what is happening in Westwood: Arts ReSTORE is an effort to activate an otherwise vacant strip of stores, calling attention to both the missed opportunities in the thriving area and to point out local makers, artists, and more who help contribute to Los Angeles’ very rich creative climate. It’s a brilliant retail and artistic concept that will surely be co-opted by other cities hoping to reinvigorate empty parts of town.

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Arts ReSTORE has provided local artisans with storefronts that have not been filled since a rash of closings since the late-aughts economic crash. Along Westwood and Kinross, shops have been repurposed into shopping experiences by and for local small businesses to thrive. Through the project, little brands and micro-institutions are able to build out a retail home that they otherwise would not have been able to do outside of their personal office or home. The concept is to bring specially selected artistic heroes in LA together, in an intimate neighborhood where they can have the opportunity to create a unique retail ecosystem reminiscent to a suburban Downtown, where the independent makers are mixed in with familiar brands who you may want to take a break from.

There is quite a span of vendors and retail styles happening at Arts ReSTORE. If you go West on Kinross, you’ll find Iron Curtain Press’ store next to Fallen Fruit‘s Fruitique. ICPLA’s shop is a welcoming living room where visitors will find various stationary and home goods like candles, pillows, vessels, and more. Additionally, their entire letterpressing shop is on site where ICPLA head Rosanna Kvernmo can (and will) keep the business going in addition to hosting a few workshops. The Fruitique is an entirely fruited out space where you can purchase various items from the Fallen Fruit art factory or peripherally related fruit goods like avocado slicers and specialty teas.

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Up Westwood are the bulk of the stores and, again, they are each their own unique idea of a store. For Your Art‘s Give Good Art is hypothetically the most well executed concept because of their Modernist space and gallery layout. It helps that their goods—from Baldessari prints to Ben Medansky pipes to Chaparral Studio Love Caves to a secret Colby Printing show in an elevatory hall—are some of the most delicious offerings and most wide-ranging on the strip. You’ll happily find FYA mama Bettina Korek in there dancing to a Haim soundtrack as she hands out Give Good Art mini-catalogues.

As Bettina illustrates, passion and excitement for the project are overflowing out of these stores. For example, upstairs from FYA is dosa mercantile. This is an intimate, natural, and very indigo collection of everyday, wabi-sabi lifestyle goods. The furthest North shop on Westwood is a bit of a makers bazaar, another retail concept that is different from the others. Here, Brigid Coulter, Clark & Madison, Ermie X Weltenbuerger, Heather Levine, Loyal Dean, Tanya Aguiniga, Whitman’s Beard, and Book Stand have offerings setup in little booths. There is a free-flowing spirit in this space and a constant ebb and flow of customers and makers coming in and out. Like #ArtsReSTORE as a whole, this particular “shop” has some of the highest and lowest costing goods and some of the most specialized and most non-specialized goods here. You’ll find the gifts for men here and some of the most precious clothing and ceramics mixed in with a wide selection of used books and intimate homewares, jewelry, pillows, and more.

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Wandering back South, iko iko will draw you in. This space is the strangest and would be the biggest challenge to convert into a worthwhile concept. There are old micro-fibered carpets and a strange paneled arched hallway that leads to a completely ridiculous domed room in the rear. Does iko iko make that work? Of course—and they probably have the best layout as a result. Their experience is both intentional and not providing for a constant performance. There are lines of ceramic friends on the ground that you want to pick up and put on a shelf. Beeswax art pieces are tacked to the wall as a green cellophane pile is below, making you question if you need to take out this artistic garbage or not. The circular back room feels very similar to the Hammer’s own odd domed gallery space and they—iko iko—wisely fill it with a mix of tall and short wood objects, avant garde clothing, and art pieces. There is something for everyone here: you will be delighted by the absurdity.

The Whole Foods sponsored Open Forum is the is a headquarters for the event and serves as a civic center at the end of iko iko’s block. If you happened in on Sunday, a poetry reading was occurring and it definitely inspired a few visitors to ask, “What the hell is this artsy fartsy crap?” Have it be known that the programming here is very special and is for a very specific audience: if you are a “Well, I could make that ‘art.'” type of person, this isn’t for you. Just mosey on further South toHomeboys‘ retail space, the only food related entry and, as is easy to miss, you can and should get your lunch or afternoon snack made from them. It’s a rare opportunity to see the Homeboys with a retail concept this far West! Arts ReSTORE is anchored by the Hammer and, hopefully, you will make it this far to see their current shows or maybe to catch a Unique LA workshop.

#ArtsReSTORE provides a very rare and very exciting retail experience that is so very LA in that it had to gather up a group of diverse, LA scattered makers into one concentrated zone. And each venue—from the Fruitique to dosa, ICPLA to FYA—there are more than “just them”: each vendor is selling more local vendors. Truth be told, persons with a large disposable income or high holiday shopping budgets will enjoy Arts ReSTORE most. You—like us—may leave empty handed but those who can spend should spend. When else can you shop iko iko and then Tanya Aguiniga and then Freeways Eyewear and then Austin Young goods, all within a few blocks from each other? You can’t do that anywhere else. That’s what makes #ArtsReSTORE so special—even if you are just window shopping.

You have until November 24 to catch this art/retail fusion and you can learn about the many associated events here. Be sure to look out for the sign spinners, too.

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