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Banding Together to Promote Neighborhood Art Galleries

Gallery hopping along trendy La Brea Avenue may attract a wider mix of enthusiasts if gallery directors are successful in promoting themselves as a group.

Nineteen art galleries, all close to the intersection of La Brea Avenue and Beverly Boulevard, have formed an association to market themselves with maps, joint advertisements, and simultaneous show openings. Their first open house is from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Despite the proximity of the galleries, one gallery director had called the establishments “islands unto themselves” before the decision this summer to form an association. Gallery directors weren’t always aware what their colleagues were planning--or even who their colleagues were.

“And if I didn’t know all this, I’d guess the art-going public didn’t either,” said April Sgro-Riddle, who recently moved her gallery from Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood to the La Brea-Beverly area. Sgro-Riddle and other gallery directors have decided to bridge their archipelago and promote the area as a major art center. Newly printed walking maps of the gallery locations will be handed out at the open house Saturday.

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“We want to let people know they can come, park their cars and spend a day going from gallery to gallery--all within walking distance of each other,” said Tobey Moss, director of the Tobey C. Moss Gallery on Beverly Boulevard.

What they will find is a varied selection of art.

The Wagner Gallery on La Brea Avenue offers contemporary paintings and drawings--as do most of the galleries in the association. But a few, like the Stephen White Gallery on Beverly Boulevard, also include photography from the 19th and 20th centuries. The Couturier Gallery, also on La Brea, specializes in Art Nouveau and Art Deco furniture and furnishings. Moss’ gallery offers some contemporary work in addition to her specialty, 19th- and 20th-Century paintings, prints and drawings.

Next spring and summer, the galleries plan to host a series of introductory shows for new artists or for those who have not had their work on display in Los Angeles.

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Two dozen galleries are along La Brea between Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards, and on Beverly from Fairfax to Highland avenues--an area of about one square mile.

Regular business hours at the galleries are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Openings for new shows are often held in the evenings and many directors want to use the association to coordinate openings on the same night.

The association will also try to give directors an opportunity to call more attention not just to themselves, but to Southern California as fertile ground for new artists.

The La Brea-Beverly area is one of two major art gallery locations on the Westside. The other is Santa Monica. Vacant industrial buildings on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica have proved inviting to numerous galleries--as have the empty warehouses in the La Brea-Beverly area, Sgro-Riddle said.

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“The first criterion for art galleries is reasonable rent and big space,” she said. “And because there are so many warehouses in this area, there is a natural environment in which to rehabilitate these buildings and create art galleries.”


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