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Field Report: Arts District

July 16, 2014

HEX Pieces Used Camera Gear Bag Solo Wallet for iPhone 5/5s I started hanging around Downtown LA in the early 2000’s and the area has experienced massive change since then. My early trips to downtown were either to walk around shooting street photos or to go skating. During that time, the only real place in the area to get some food and a coffee was at Groundworks (now Novel Café). In the ten + years since that time however, this small area has transformed into what most people know it to be now, The Arts District.

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Just like in many cities, what started out as a low rent area occupied by artists, photographers and other creative people has now become a city hub. You could make the argument that it’s not as raw or diverse as before, but the truth is that it’s nice to be able to walk around after dark and the new culture and life that has been brought to the area makes it a really great place to live, work, or just visit. The Arts District occupies the eastern side of Downtown Los Angeles. Its borders are roughly Alameda Street on the west, the 101 freeway on the north, the LA River to the east, and 7th Street to the south. The area is now filled with too many great places for us to review here so we stuck to a few of our favorite key spots to get you started if you’ve never been or haven’t been much. One of the early businesses to move into the Arts District remains one it’s staples: Wurstkuche. Located on Traction Ave at the main corner of the Art Districts, Wurstkuche is a great place to either start or end your day, or even as a place to break up your day. Focusing on specialty sausage made in house and a big selection of both German and domestic beers, there’s often a line but it’s well worth it. Once you order your food and or beers you can relax in the indoor seating area or out on the patio where you get a great view of the area and the downtown LA skyline.

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Right next door to Wurstkuche are the Apolis headquarters. Founded in 2004 by brothers Raan and Shea Parton, the Apolis brand is definitely one to keep an eye on if you aren’t already, and their flagship store is always a great stop, always stocked with something new and different. Founder Raan Parton also recently opened a new concept boutique a few doors down from Apolis called Alchemy Works. Conceived to feel like the physical incarnation of a Tumblr site, the space almost feels more like a well-curated museum than a retail store.

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AlchemyWorks

In between Apolis and Alchemy Works is the ever eclectic Poketo. It’s difficult to categorize what Poketo is all about except to say that it is filled with a funky mix of inspiring and quality products. Everything from stamp making kits and childrens block sets to apparel and books. It’s one of those places you walk into just to check out and end up staying in for way too long. In our age of feeling like you know about every product and brand out there from blogs and instagram, it’s rare to find a whole store full of brands and pieces that you haven’t seen. Poketo definitely tops the list if you’re mission in LA is one of creative inspiration.

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Tucked back on Garey Street which dead ends at Alchemy Works, Woo Souvenir Shop is another great new place. The owners have been here for over 7 years but just recently opened a storefront featuring pieces from their own lines as well as a few other select brands. A great stop if you are looking for a gift or just something much more on the subtle side. Woo makes most of their pieces in-house right in the back of the store, including the patterns and sewing work. This is a pretty rare thing to see and definitely gives you a good feeling knowing exactly where the pieces are made.

Woo

If you head farther down 3rd you will run SCI-Arc, The Southern California Institute of Architecture and their Art Supply Store. The store serves both the student body and the downtown community, offering competitive prices for architecture and art supplies. The extensive inventory of model-making materials includes a wide selection of bass- and hard-woods, as well as plastic, metal and wood structural shapes. At HEX we are heavily inspired by Architecture and Design so this stop is a must for us.

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Heading back to the main intersection of the Arts District you can head down traction and stop into the Pie Hole for the best pie in the city, possibly the state. Or you can go a few doors down to another early Arts District Establishment, Zip Izaka-Ya Sushi. And just next door to them is the District Gallery if you want to see some art in a gallery setting, and if you’ve ever been to the area you know the street offers even more art by high profiles artists like JR and Shepard Fairey. Even the sidewalks and parking lots are filled with paint, color and art. And just in case you like to play it safe, there’s even an Umami Burger in the Arts District now, something I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago but is a welcome addition to an already thriving neighborhood.

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We’re just scratching the surface here but we hope you’ll take our advice and check out the area if you haven’t already. We promise you won’t be disappointed, and even if you are for some reason you’re only a couple blocks from Little Tokyo, The Geffen Contemporary Art Museum and… well we’ll save the rest for a future Field Report. Thanks for reading this, we hope it inspires you to explore the Arts District or another area of LA or your city that you’ve never been to or haven’t visited in a long time. We’ve got you covered with our HEX gear and Field Reports, so get out there and start exploring, there’s always something new to see.

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