Ylviana Garland and Giora Panigel come to the UCLA Hammer Museum two or three times a year and always enjoy checking out the latest exhibits. But after visiting the museum, they’ve felt kind of stranded in Westwood Village, surrounded by so many vacant storefronts.
The wide variety of foods, arts and crafts on sale at Dosa Mercantile, which is part of the Hammer Museum's Arts ReSTORE LA, transformed this formerly vacant storefront on Westwood Boulevard into a thriving shopping destination. Photos courtesy of the Hammer Museum.
This past weekend the pair from Tucson was enthralled as they strolled through the village, making sure to hit every location of the Hammer’s Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood — the museum-led initiative to provide local artisans, performers and craftspeople with retail storefronts to help revitalize a once-prime pedestrian retail destination. The project opened Nov. 1 and runs through Nov. 24.
"Having the pop-ups and curated content makes it a unique retail area," said Panigel. "It’s not a fast-food chain or store."
And that was the point for Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin, who envisioned how the museum could help both the Westwood community and members of the Los Angeles area’s rich cultural and creative community. Arts ReSTORE won a $100,000 grant in May from the Goldhirsh Foundation as part of its LA2050 initiative, which asked organizations across the city to find solutions to the region’s toughest challenges. The Hammer, one of 10 winners chosen from 279 entrants, won the Arts & Cultural Vitality grant.
Throughout opening weekend, people could be seen strolling along Westwood Boulevard and checking their Arts ReSTORE maps to find the 14 participating outlets, which feature environmentally friendly skateboards, a variety of furniture, clothing and accessories designers, and Iron Curtain Press Los Angeles.
The funky combination of art and shopping is on display at the Fallen Fruit: Fruitique!, which features hand-picked items from thrift stores that use fruit as a theme.
"I’m really excited. I like that they wanted to include an example of making things," said Rosanna Kvernmo, owner of Iron Curtain, a letterpress print shop she normally operates out of her home in the Highland Park section of Los Angeles. During Arts ReSTORE, Kvernmo will teach a daily introductory letterpress workshop that can accommodate up to five people. Participants in the three-hour, $175 class will take home 50 pieces of personalized stationery and envelopes on thick cotton paper created on Kvernmo’s 1000-pound printing press.
Kvernmo said that after the Hammer reached out to her, she briefly deliberated over moving the massive piece of equipment across town for just a month, but once she got here, she knew that it was the right call.
"People have been really excited to come in and learn about printing," said Kvernmo, who noted that there’s no way she could afford her own retail space right now. "It blew my expectations out of the water."
Kvernmo’s temporary home is on Kinross Avenue next to fellow participant Fallen Fruit, a boutique specializing in fruit-themed art, including custom wallpapers. The largest space (once occupied by a Bebe clothing store) is at the southeast corner of Westwood and Weyburn and now houses seven Arts ReSTORE projects, including Whitman’s Beard Used Books and Loyal Dean, which makes and sells skateboards made entirely of reclaimed wood. This temporary use of this space, along with all the others, was donated by the property owners for the project.
In addition to shopping options, Arts ReSTORE will feature concerts and readings at Open Forum, located at 1056 Westwood Blvd., the former site of Chili’s. Open Forum is organized by the Hammer Student Association in collaboration with a host of other organizations, and dancers and choreographers from the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. In the lobby, guests can write their wishes for Los Angeles on colorful Post-Its and stick them on the wall. Among those that appeared last weekend were: "Designer Driven Small Business revival," "Art Everywhere," "Free transport + Museums" and "More Venues in Westwood."
The Hammer Museum's Arts ReSTORE LA created quite the scene on Westwood Boulevard.
Across the street at 1025-7 Westwood Blvd., Dosa Mercantile and Give Good Art have set up shop. Folding tables covered with neatly arranged jars of jam and almond butter, bottles of apple cider vinegar and specialty products, including tableware from Oaxaca, textiles from India and dry goods from Marfa, have transformed the once-vacant second-floor space into a thriving market. Adding to the funky vibe of Arts ReSTORE, four giant square pillows, measuring a good seven feet on each side, provide a place for shoppers to get off their feet and lie down.
"It’s great because you get a taste of what’s going on in the area," Garland said. "It enhances our experience here."
Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood runs through Nov. 24. The stores are open for business from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, including a full event schedule and vendor details, go to artsrestore.la. You can also follow #Westwood on the Hammer’s Twitter and Facebook channels for updates.