Miracle Mile Spotlight: Craft and Folk Art Museum

Miracle Mile Spotlight:
Craft and Folk Art Museum

In 1965 two cultural institutions arrived in the Miracle Mile, launching Museum Row: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and what in time would be known as the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM). LACMA made its debut with national media coverage and the cream of the city’s high society in attendance. But the real buzz was created by a new café and gallery a few blocks east on Wilshire called “The Egg and Eye.”

“Well, the original concept for The Egg and The Eye was to serve the omelets upstairs and while people waited they would go in the gallery. When they were in the gallery, they would encounter maybe a pot on a pedestal,” explained its founder Edith R. Wyle (1918-1999) in a 1993 interview. “The fact that it was a pot on a pedestal would lead people to understand that this must be art, and I think they got the message. This was a first. People did not display crafts or folk art in an artistic manner in a display setting.”

UCLA-educated, Wyle was an artist with a deep passion for folk art. Her enterprise was an immediate hit and in 1973 it evolved into a non-profit organization with a new name: the Craft and Folk Art Museum.

The inexhaustible Wyle initiated exhibits, workshops, educational programs, and created the Festival of Masks, a multicultural festival. In the process, CAFAM became a dynamic community center in the Miracle Mile – a place not only to see indigenous crafts and objects, but a place to learn weaving, jewelry making, and other skills. This tradition continues today under the guidance of Executive Director Suzanne Isken.

Isken [photo right], former Education Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art, came to the museum four years ago. Her bold and imaginative leadership has expanded scope of its exhibits and classes. Craft and folk art, in her perspective, are not relegated to the past – it is something that is being created today in dynamic new ways. The energy of the museum is obvious to even those passing by on Wilshire Boulevard. A façade project initiated by Isken serves as a very public canvas for Los Angeles-based artists, most notably when the front of the building was “yarn bombed” with knitted granny squares.

 

“When I first came here everyone kept telling me that the museum was a hidden gem and my reaction was: to hell with the hidden,” Isken says. “Our gift shop has always been very popular, but many people didn’t understand that there was a museum upstairs. That was part of our decision to bring the museum downstairs closer to the street.”

A native of Los Angeles and a mother of four, Isken exudes curiosity and enthusiasm. These qualities are evident in the wide range of craft exhibited at the museum – from the work of male quilt makers to an upcoming show featuring shoe designer Chris Francis.

“I came from a contemporary art museum. My vision, given my experience, was to look at more contemporary craft. We have an important place in L.A. at a time when craft is getting a lot of attention. People are really into making things and that is a natural audience for us: the makers.”

Isken views the Miracle Mile as a unique area with a great deal of vitality. “We see ourselves as a ‘hands on’ neighborhood museum. We keep our ticket prices as low as possible. We offer a craft night every Thursday night. We have free admission on Sundays. We try to stay connected to the community.”

Today the hot trend in automobiles, smart phones, and museums is to promote themselves as being “interactive.” But being truly interactive – a museum where you can get your hands dirty shaping a pot or prick your finger learning to embroider – has been a decades-old mission at CAFAM. It has always been a place that appeals to all of the senses, including a sense of community.

Craft and Folk Art Museum
5814 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323-937-4230

For additional information:

Craft and Folk Art Museum website: www.cafam.org

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution: Oral History Interview with Edith Wyle, March-September 1993

Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You: The Academy Museum

Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You:

The Academy Museum

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

On May 6, the City’s Planning Department recommendations on the Academy Museum project were released.  As expected, the department declared that everything is fine with the project and you – the community groups and Neighborhood Council – have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. The traffic created by the project is fine. The inadequate parking is fine. The digital sign district is fine… Everything is just fine!

Of course, it is the Planning Department that’s wrong and they’ve now guaranteed that one more case will join the courthouse queue, attempting to force the City to obey its own rules.

A few weeks ago, I felt a bit of hope – guarded, of course – after a meeting with members of the Academy Museum team, including Managing Director Bill Kramer and attorney Bill Delvac. I told them there was support in the community for the museum but not for the attached 1000-seat special event center [illustration below]. I made the argument that people have been waiting many years for a motion picture museum and it was within reach if they could abandon the event center. There would still be traffic and parking issues with the 5,000 visitors a day, but I believed we could find a solution and I made several suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Since its inception in 1983 the Miracle Mile Residential Association has been making good deals that work for the neighborhood and developer alike. We have always practiced the art of compromise. Kramer and Delvac said they would get back to me, but they never did. That’s too bad because there was a deal to be made by people of good faith. Now there is only the legal route.

I hope that everyone reading this who had concerns about the impacts of the Academy Museum on our communities understands that the City really doesn’t care what you think. Our elected officials loudly profess to value you at election time, but otherwise they do whatever they want – and then dare you to stop them.

There are good people who work at City Hall – but their reasonable voices are drowned out by the “go along to get along” mantra of the Wizards of Spring Street. When Los Angeles residents raise their voices to object to a project they are politely thanked for their comments and the project is routinely blessed with the magic words that sweeps all of our objections under the rug, “No significant impact.”

That is what the Academy purchased with the million dollars they spent lobbying City Hall: the City’s Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

The Planning Department’s recommendations are cause for celebration for all those supporting the Academy Museum and its special events center – but that feeling will be fleeting. Sooner or later they will be on the other side of the argument and they won’t know what hit them. Every neighborhood in this city is prey to overdevelopment, traffic intrusion, and infrastructure on the brink of collapse. The boosters of the Academy Museum will find themselves in our shoes one day, battling some gargantuan project that will dramatically impact their own neighborhoods.

They too will learn what “no significant impact” means. It is not a merely a technical phrase for grading a particular aspect of a project, it is also an apt description for the effect that the concerns of the residents have on City Hall.

The courtroom is now the only forum where the residents of Los Angeles are having a significant impact. The City has lost case after case: the 2012 Hollywood Community Plan Update was rescindedconstruction was halted on a Target Store at Sunset and Westernthe CIM Group high rise on Sunset had its occupancy certificate revoked and its tenants evicted; and recently a judge ordered a re-do of the Environmental Impact Report for the Millennium skyscrapers surrounding Capitol Records.

So, don’t be surprised when you see the Academy Museum project on that roster, too.

For additional information:

Los Angeles Department of City Planning: Academy Museum Recommendation Report

Park La Brea News/Beverly Press, 4/16/15: Mid-City West Nixes Museum’s Sphere

HPOZ Update: Historic Resources Survey Underway

Boundaries of the Miracle Mile HPOZ. Click on map to enlarge.

 HPOZ UPDATE:

Historic Resources Survey Underway

 MMRA VP Ken Hixon Speaks on the Miracle Mile HPOZ
at Chamber Commerce Economic Forum

The Historic Resources Survey of the 1600-plus parcels contained within the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) began two weeks ago. The Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA) engaged the services of Architectural Resources Group (ARG) to perform the survey, which is a prerequisite for applying for HPOZ status.

Katie Horak, ARG executive in charge of the survey, reports that there are two teams doing the fieldwork and that each team is averaging about 30 properties per day. It is estimated that it will take approximately four more weeks to complete the survey.

The Miracle Mile HPOZ Committee is preparing a mass mailing to property owners explaining the many benefits of HPOZ. “Outreach is key to the success of the HPOZ,” says committee member Jeremy Matz. “We are planning a door-to-door campaign, house parties, and other meetings to capitalize on the groundswell of support that the community displayed at our January meeting and on our online survey.”

HPOZ Committee Chairperson and local realtor Mark Zecca says, “Many homeowners aren’t aware of how HPOZ enhances the value of their property. Buyers are attracted to stable and well-protected areas. It’s important that we spread this message.”

MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon was a speaker at the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum on May 13. The Chamber endorsed the creation of the Miracle Mile HPOZ and Hixon was invited to address the topic at the assembly of business and civic leaders.

Hixon’s speech explained how an HPOZ would stop McMansions and the wholesale eradication of rent-stabilized rental units. He also spoke on how the history of our neighborhood is a tangible part of its appeal. “The history of this place is what provides us with our sense of place.” Hixon said. “This sense of place is what makes the Miracle Mile such a great community to live and do business in.”

For additional information:

Miracle Mile Residential Association website: HPOZ Information

Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum, 13 May 2015: Miracle Mile HPOZ speech by Ken Hixon

Office of Historic Resources: Historic Preservation Overlay Zones

Subway Construction Update: Violent Robbery Complicates Effort to Keep Bank of America Parking Lot Open

 

Northwest corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. [Google Maps]

 Subway Construction Update:

Violent Robbery Complicates Effort to Keep
Bank of America Parking Lot Open

Work is underway at the northwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea to prepare a staging yard for the Purple Line Extension. The project contractor, Skanska Traylor Shea, is constructing a temporary alley between Carling Way and Detroit Street. The new alley will redirect traffic west to Detroit, closing the alley exit to La Brea permanently for the remainder of the project.

Later this month, the artwork on the exterior of the former Metro Customer Service Center will be removed and stored for future use at another Metro location. Demolition of the Service Center, the former Blockbuster store, and the former Lawrence of La Brea rug store will occur in late June – and sound wall construction will follow.

Another staging yard will be located on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard. Metro plans to take possession of the Bank of America property at the southwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea by the end of May. Mitigation of any interior environmental hazards will be completed before the bank building is demolished. Metro is in the process of acquiring the property to the west of the Bank of America, which houses Albertson’s Wedding Chapel and other businesses. Metro expects to complete this acquisition by Fall 2015.

Wilshire/La Brea subway construction staging sites. [Courtesy Metro]
Click on image to enlarge.

The staging site at the southwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea will be the most active of all the sites required for the construction of the subway extension. All of the dirt from the tunneling operation – from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard – will be conveyed underground to this location for removal. The site will also house a plant to manufacture the grout that will seal the concrete tunnel lining.

In April, officers of the Miracle Mile Residential Association met with representatives of Metro and the contractor, Skanska Traylor Shea, to discuss noise mitigation at the staging sites, haul routes, and work hours. The MMRA is closely monitoring all aspects of the subway construction and continues to staunchly oppose nighttime work.

The MMRA has requested that Metro make the Bank of America parking lot available to residents and nearby businesses for as long as possible. The east end of the Miracle Mile is experiencing a sharp decline in available parking created by Metro’s activities and the construction of large infill apartment projects on the surface parking lots behind the Desmond’s and Dominguez-Wilshire buildings.

Unfortunately, this request has been complicated by a violent robbery that occurred at this location on May 7. This crime prompted the Bank of America to close the parking lot. The MMRA will make every effort to work with Metro and the L.A.P.D. to enhance safety and security measures so that this parking lot can be re-opened until such time that Metro requires its fulltime use as a construction staging site.

Metro will hold its next Purple Line Extension community meeting on Thursday, May 21, 5:30 PM at the Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Boulevard.

For additional information:

Metro Purple Line Extension Newsletter – May 2015