Discovering Barnsdall Art Park
Memorial day is upon us, which means summer is here (cue our happy dance music)! Summer is a fantastic time to be in LA. Whether you are visiting one of the many beaches or decide to take a drive to the mountains or stay in town and discover the awesome parks in LA – you can’t lose. In fact, one of our favorite parks in LA is the Barnsdall Art Park and it is a can’t miss experience on your travels around LA.
Located in Los Feliz, the Barnsdall Art park is a true gem in the middle of the city. Not only can you attend the theatre and art classes there, but you can also relax amid the beautiful park. The famous Hollyhock House is the centerpiece of the park that is approximately 36 acres known as Olive Hill. Originally belonging to oil heiress, Aline Barnsdall, the land was developed to be an artists commune. Barnsdall, who had a great love for the theater and artists, wanted to create a community where artists of all kinds would be able to convene. She was a unique individual and quite a radical for the time period – even becoming a single unwed mother by choice in 1917, which was unheard of.
Barnsdall, who controlled her father’s fortune upon his death, hired famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design and build her home and the surrounding commune. Besides the home, the original plans called for the complex to have a two secondary residences, a theater, a director’s house, a dormitory for actors, studios for artists, shops, and a motion picture theater. Wrought with a lot of problems, the project never fully came to fruition and in the end only Hollyhock House and 2 residences ended up being built. While Hollyhock House is now seen as one of the most important pieces of history and architecture in Los Angeles, at the time Barnsdall was extremely displeased with the design and layout. Eventually she gifted the house and 11 acres surrounding it to the City of Los Angeles with the stipulation that the park be named after her father. There were other issues as well because the headstrong Barnsdall had many restrictions on how the land would be used including the caveat that the California Art Club would be granted a 15 year lease to use Hollyhock House as their club house.
After her death in 1946, Barnsdalls vision would become more of a reality, with additional art center buildings, including a modern theatre, an art gallery, and studios, being built on the property in the 1950’s and 60’s. Now Barnsdall Park is a thriving art community in Los Angeles as it houses the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre and the Barnsdall Art Center. The art gallery is a word renowned space showcasing art from all over the globe and produces around 9 exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the year. The Barnsdall Gallery Theatre is a 299 seat theater that is rented out to various productions throughout the year. The art park is also home to the Independent Shakespeare Company as well as the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. Finally, the Barnsdall Art Center is home to the Junior Arts Center which conducts classes in the arts for children and offers free workshops every Sunday.
Besides this artists community, you find the park itself which offers incredible views of Hollywood and the Hollywood Sign. It is truly a place to go and rest your mind and take in the beauty that Los Angeles offers. During the summer, you can also partake in the weekly wine tastings every Friday at the park. This is a family friendly event where you can bring a picnic dinner or buy food from one of the fantastic food trucks on hand and taste a variety of wines for adults and grape juice for kids. Barnsdall Art Park also hosts movie nights as well as a weekly Farmers Market. You can also take a tour of the newly renovated Hollyhock House which is now a historical monument in Los Angeles.
So, in the end, while it is not the commune that Aline Barnsdall originally envisioned, Barnsdall Art Park is still a place that celebrates art, teaches art, continues to creat art and shares art with the world. Come discover it, and the rest of Los Angeles, on a tour with LA Insider Tours.