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Might Playa Vista be good for something?


Yesterday my wife and I went to see a community art exhibition in the community center in Playa Vista pretentiously known as The CenterPointe Club.  (L. noted to me the community center's carpet was knocked off a Mackintosh design--indeed, the site bills itself as "Frank Lloyd Wright inspired" and the contemporaries are often linked).  Spouse's godmother Barbara was exhibiting and she greeted us at the door; her husband Jack was obliged to come down the hill to Playa Vista too when we showed up, which threatened to make him grumpy as it tore him away from a UCLA game.  He sportingly betrayed no grumpiness on arrival.

[Clicking around Playa Vista Living's site, you find some real oddities, by the way.  Apparently, most buyers are significantly under water there--there's a page devoted to "Successfully selling in Playa Vista" and one titled "Do you qualify for a short sale?" and also one titled "Mortgage solutions."  Shouldn't the occupiers be here? Maybe San Pedro's Joe Buscaino, reported to be significantly under water himself, can give these people some pointers if he gets elected to the $173,000 a year job of Councilmember].

We learned on entering that Barbara herself took best of show.  It's not her first.  One of her other paintings sold to a neighbor--a neighbor, that most potentially ferocious of all art critics.

Something I immediately found curious was that the exhibition was sponsored by the Culver City Art Group--Culver City, recognizably not a part of the City of Los Angeles as Playa Vista is.  The group does an annual show in November of each year--last night was the sixteenth--and many artists in the adjacent City of LA sleepy hollow of Westchester belong to it, so many, in fact, that it made sense for the group to exhibit outside of Culver City proper.  This is the first year that the exhibition was held at Playa Vista.

At the exhibition was a longtime friend, John August Swanson, one of LA's best known, who now resides in Westchester after spending most of his adult working life in Los Feliz.  Louis Stephen Gadal, who often paints maritime subjects, was also on hand.  The exhibition must have been attended by over five hundred people through the course of a single day.

Many of the attendees and exhibitors were what we falsely call of "retirement" age, all working very devotedly in their own imperturbable manner.  Mostly, they don't live in Playa Vista, but do enjoy coming down the hill from Westchester to the new development  They don't generate art that finds favor with LA's publicity-driven gallery scene, but their careers are supported by significant economic forces nonetheless.  It occurred to me again how this is the kind of event that government agencies and Cultural Affairs departments should be far more supportive of than they presently are.

Walking around the exhibit I felt more like a conspirator than a critic, successfully ducking the media avalanche of commercial noise attendant to the collector-fluffing goings-on of Pacific Daylight Time for yet another weekend.  I also reminded myself that LA County is moving a rock to LACMA for $10 million, and that LA's Downtown Art Walk recently received a bill from the mayor's cultural killjoy, Andrea Alarcon for apparently being too successful.  I also wondered if Arts for LA, a top local arts lobby, which receives sustained support from our City's Department of Cultural Affairs, supported this stripe of art event too.  And I wondered if the single art "event" of moving the rock will eclipse what the County spends in aggregate on community events such as the one at Playa Vista.

But I also learned how most of the artists in another of Barbara's groups, which ordinarily exhibits at the Westchester Community Center, vastly preferred the community room at Playa Vista, where there's a knock-off Mackintosh carpet, commodious seating for presentations, and a far less institutional vibe.  So it may yet prove that Playa Vista, the long-planned, environmentally-challenging, long-suffering, economy-draining development on the former Hughes site, is good for something.