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The Arts District

In the mid 1970’s, pioneering artists moved into empty warehouses and derelict factories in the area we now call the Downtown Arts District, renting the raw, unfinished space for as little as a twenty five cents a square foot.

In succeeding decades, the Arts District community has nurtured a surprisingly broad range of talent that has had a profound impact on local and national culture; Paul McCarthy, George Herms, Edmund Teske, Bob Zoell and Shepard Fairey are among the artists who benefited from the dense, creative atmosphere of the Arts District.

Padua Playwrights, Cornerstone Theatre, and the Zoo District settled in the Arts District.  Actors Forrest WhitakerJenna Fisher and singer Meshell Ndgeocello also found inspiration and a supportive underground counterculture in the lofts, coffee shops, theaters and galleries that sprawled throughout the District.


Today, as the Arts District enters a new era of creativity, resident artists and likeminded fans champion the neighborhood(s) as an artistic incubator sparking the renaissance of the downtown L.A. arts scene.

  • The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) the Arts District’s anchor arts institution, has found a home in the former Santa Fe Freight Depot along Santa Fe between E. Third and E. Fourth.
  • The Box Gallery at 805 Traction, which opened earlier this year, is now a permanent exhibition space for Paul McCarthy and the artists whose talents he has helped cultivate.
  • The LALA Gallery at 1305 Willow Street is perhaps one of the most important venues in the United States for a new generation of artists whose street art has transformed the art world.

The District has also been enlivened by more than a hundred murals by local artists and street muralists from around the world, most facilitated by Daniel Lahoda’s Freewalls Project and additional murals are planned.

“Turn left on Traction,” a character shouts at a climactic moment in the animated Pixar film, The Incredibles. The Arts District is one of the most filmed locations in the world, hosting as many as 800 filming days a year.  New Girl, HouseTerminator 2, Monster in Law, CSI:NY, The Mentalist, Castle, Numb3rs, House,  Southland, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, NCIS LA are just a few of the many projects that have been shot here.

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