The Los Angeles street art scene is alive and well in the downtown arts district. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Los Angeles can only be seen from the inside of a car. You can take an Arts District walking tour and get a big dose of its robust street art scene.
Some History for Your Arts District Walking Tour
The Los Angeles Arts District is on-trend. According to the LA Conservancy, prior to the mid ’70’s the area was characterized by industrial warehouses and factories which utilized the nearby railway to move goods. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the area evolved into an arts scene but the neighborhood suffered from neglect and and a lack of investment. Local activists had the area designated the “Arts District” in the mid-90’s which began to spur development and the burgeoning of many creative industries.
The area has since transformed into a hip arts district with residences, theaters, galleries and restaurants. This gentrification has, no doubt, caused some economic strain on the long-term residents of the neighborhood. But the artistic evolution of the neighborhood has also attracted Los Angeles street artists who have filled walls, alleyways and parking lots with their work. What is interesting about Los Angeles street art is its modernity. My walking tour of San Francisco’s Mission District shows street art scene that draws very heavily on the city’s Latino immigrant experience. But on the Arts District walking tour, you’ll see a much more modern view. These pieces are abstract, whimsical and modern.
Los Angeles Street Art in the District
Creating any guide to street art is a difficult thing because it is such a fluid medium. Some larger pieces may exist for the long term while other, smaller pieces come and go. Artists work on the available space and building owners may change-up their look. So this guide is meant to be a look into what’s there today. It should serve as an inspiration for you to visit the neighborhood in the future to see what’s new.
Start your Los Angeles street art walking tour at the corner of S. Alameda street and travel down 4th Place. This groovy LSD trip of a mural will capture your eye right away.
Traveling down to where 4th meets Merrick, you’ll find these two lovers having a private moment in a very public space. These two figures look as they could be residents of the neighborhood.
Across the street from the lovers you’ll find one of the many stencil pieces by WRDSMTH. These works can be found all over the city. I like his (her?) inspirational phrases because they help to spur my creativity. Follow their instagram account for more WRDs.
Continue your Arts District walking tour by rounding the corner at Merrick and take a left on Traction where you will find this whimsical piece from Megzany. It drives me nuts when people don’t use their turn signals. I’m very glad to hear from her that turn signals are back in style. You can also see Megzany’s cute Amelia Earhart inspired stencil in my Chicago street art piece.
Keep going and you’ll come to Arts District Brewing. The outside of the building is wrapped in a spacey abstract moonscape. The inside of the building is wrapped in a bar serving ~12 guest beers and a bar food menu.
Go down to S. Hewitt street. If you are hungry, you can stop here at the Pie Hole for a piece of artisanal, seasonal pie made with ingredients like lavender, Mexican chocolate and salted caramel. Otherwise, hang a right and take a little detour down Hewitt. Here you’ll find the ArtShare live/work lofts festooned with abstract murals.
And across the street is the parking lot for RD Artist supplies. I liked the moody nature of this painted door. It’s reminiscent of a prohibition-era speakeasy. But RD isn’t a speakeasy, it’s an art store that provides supplies for the Los Angeles street artists.
Spend an extra day in downtown LA and check out these literary sites and Los Angeles bookstores.
Even though this hasn’t been a very long walk, I’m sure that you are thirsty by now. So head back up Traction, cross over 3rd and pull into Angel Brewing. This colorful container is located in the parking lot…..
…and this creepy character welcomes you into the brewery itself where you can choose from a rotating selection of ~15 beers on tap.
Logistics for Your Arts District Walking Tour
If you are already downtown, you can walk to the Arts District by taking 3rd st southwest into the neighborhood. I’ll warn you, 3rd street itself is a bit weird. I had to walk a block-long gauntlet of shops selling nothing but bongs. So if you are into that, stop and shop. If you aint…keep walking until you get to Alameda. If you are elsewhere in the city, you can drive yourself to the area– parking during the day is pretty plentiful. If you are just visiting, Uber is fairly cheap and very plentiful in LA. After spending an afternoon touring the Arts District, you can also check out these other things to do on a quick trip to LA.
Where to Stay
There aren’t any hotels in the Arts District. But there are a number of AirBnB options just north of 4th street. Or you can stay in a nearby downtown hotel and walk over to the Arts District. Budget hotels are hard to find downtown but you can do a mid-range 3-star for 150-180/night. Check out reviews and book on Hotels.com.
Other Walking Tours in LA
Check out these other walking tours in LA.
Can’t Get Enough Street Art?
Study great street art in other cities by checking out my guides to:
Top Street Art Cities in the World | Buenos Aires | Bogota | San Diego | San Francisco | Los Angeles |Nashville | Chicago | New York | Havana | London | Reykjavik | Belfast | Bristol | Paris | Estonia | Rural Australia | Melbourne
Want more Wayfaring Views? Subscribe to the Newsletter.