Fifth Annual Airport ArtWalk Not Delayed by Weather
Art Festival Mixes Aviation History and Modern Creativity
Heading to the local municipal airport rarely implies a fun day of cool art exploration, good food, and serenades from a French accordion ensemble, but that’s exactly what a trip to the Santa Monica Airport meant on March 19.
The Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and the City of Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Division worked closely to produce the annual event – now in its fifth year – and this year’s ArtWalk drew crowds from near and far, despite the gloomy skies.
Tucked into an area near Bundy and Ocean Park Boulevard, SMO may not be as bustling as LAX or Burbank, but it has a rich history as one of Los Angeles County’s oldest operating airfields. The site was the birthplace of the DC-3 and was originally the home of the Douglas Aircraft Company. Reminders of the Airport’s unique past remain in the form of the antique planes that dot the grounds, giving the whole area the feel of a living museum.
Over the years, SMO has become a safe haven for artists, who have set up their various studios in the empty hangars once used for manufacturing. Even restaurants have inhabited areas once dedicated to the budding aviation industry. Creativity abounds every day in these hangars as painters, sculptors, theater groups, and writers inhabit the spaces and let the inspiration flow. The Airport houses the Santa Monica Art Studios, a new arts complex inside of a 22,000 square foot hangar. Classes, workshops, and lectures take place in the studios.
March 19’s cold, grey weather did not stop visitors from driving, biking, and walking to the ArtWalk, and the airport was abuzz with excitement as people toured the galleries and checked out the gourmet food trucks on hand. Several people, bundled against the cold, played the corn toss game located just outside of the Spitfire Grill on the airport grounds. Several soccer teams battled it out on the nearby soccer fields – the players most likely too occupied by the task at hand to make a trip to the ArtWalk just down the way. Who knows though – maybe after the game a few of the players followed the crowds and checked out the creative energy swirling about the hangers like the propellers of the aircrafts formerly housed there.
According to Allison Ostovsky, the City’s cultural affairs supervisor, this year’s event exceeded expectations. “Live music, food trucks, and a food court area were new additions and created spaces for people to gather and enjoy,” she explained.
“Our goal for the ArtWalk is to showcase the creative community at the airport so that people not only know it exists but that they will come back for theatre workshops, plays, and art exhibits,” Ostrovsky added.
Children and adults alike had plenty to do and see during this year’s ArtWalk. There were firing demonstrations of Japanese Raku pottery, which was traditionally for instruments used in tea ceremonies but which has now expanded to include all types of pottery. Several artists sold their work to the public and opened the doors to their studios. ARENA 1 Gallery hosted the impressive and inspiring exhibit “Evolution Revolution: The Interconnectedness of All Beings,” a collaboration and forum between Buddha Cat Press, ten visual artists, Santa Monica Studios, and SociArts Productions.
“I like the communal activities where people end up gathering and experiencing art in different ways, together,” Ostrovsky said.
Karen Fiorito, president of Buddha Cat Press, participated in the ArtWalk for the first time this year with the “Evolution Revolution” exhibit. The idea came about after Fiorito curated a show about women’s rights with Bita Shafipour, and they discussed doing a show about animals.
“We decided to tackle this subject since we believe that there can be no human rights until there are rights for non-humans,” Fiorito explained. The collaboration was a great melding of fun, creativity, and inspiring social messages, and wound up being a crowd pleaser. She found the ArtWalk “inspiring,” even though it was hard to find time to break away from her busy day to check out other artists’ works – but Fiorito managed to explore the grounds a bit.
Another impressive event was the Ruskin Group Theater’s monthly series L.A. Café Plays. The Theater calls the Santa Monica Airport home, and their Café Plays are an adrenalin rush of creativity as writers, directors, and actors are only given 10.5 hours to come up with the story, write it, cast, rehearse, and bring the play to a live audience. Ruskin has been called “The Fastest Theater in Town,” and for good reason. Bringing five brief plays from concept to stage, in just over ten hours, is no easy feat.
Michael Myers, managing director of Ruskin Group Theater, said they have been participating in the ArtWalk since its inception in 2007.
“From the theater’s standpoint it’s very validating to introduce the work and the space to people who otherwise might not know it existed,” explained Myers. The crowd reaction proved that Ruskin knows how to entertain. “(Santa Monica) has a basin of some of the highest quality art in the country,” he said, proving that people do not need to venture east of the 405 to find great theater and art.
The energy of the Ruskin Group Theater was felt throughout the complex. Children participated in panting, drawing, and pottery, crowds listened to live music from various bands, including the rollicking sounds of the Mad Alsatians, playing traditional French music from the ‘30s, to the ‘60s. All these components ..added to the overall energy of the day. Band member Jean-Paul Monsché said the musicians live all over Los Angeles County, and played the ArtWalk for the first time this year.
After the hectic pace of the ArtWalk, Cultural Affairs Supervisor Ostrovsky was able to sit back and take a breath, and evaluate the Fifth Annual ArtWalk.
“The day was filled with discovery, creativity and community,” Ostrovsky said.
No doubt next year’s event will bring residents together for even more inspiration and fun.