Downtown L.A.’s Arts District is always changing. A large, colorful building on the corner of 4th Place and Hewitt Street is, too. Art Share L.A., a nonprofit that supports local emerging artists, treated itself to a facelift. After the building was given a fresh coat of white paint (it was formerly black), artist Mikael Brandrup—who goes by Mikael B.—got to work on a vibrant mural that extends across two sides of the two-story structure.
“We knew we wanted a design that was non-figurative—we didn’t want to be known as the building with the animal on it,” says Cheyanne Sauter, Art Share L.A.’s executive director and a longtime downtown L.A. revitalizer who helped create the popular Downtown Art Walk.
Brandrup’s work is characteristically colorful and centers on a nucleus of sorts, until it explodes in all directions. “Just like an artist who has it building up in them,” Sauter says. The Covina native met Brandrup at a live painting event at Art Share L.A. three years ago and became a fan.
It took two weeks to complete the new mural from start to finish. “When I’m working I’m disappearing into the project so I forget everything around me. It was two weeks in heaven,” says Brandrup, who moved to L.A. four years ago from Copenhagen, Denmark, where he had a graphic design company. As a teenager he painted graffiti and dreamed of moving to L.A., the city that inspired him.
Along with an accent that makes him sound like a Bond villain when he raises his voice, he brought with him a northern European work ethic. “It was the most methodical process I’ve ever seen happen,” Sauter says of Brandrup’s mural-painting process. “Five days on this side, five days on that side.”
Founded in 1997, Art Share L.A. has classrooms and gallery space for group and solo shows, as well as a theater. On the second floor are 30 low-income studio lofts that can be used as live-in ateliers. Giving tenants the opportunity to live in an expensive and sought-after arts mecca like Los Angeles without the burden of sky-high rent is at the core of the nonprofit’s mission. It has set out to be an entry point into the art world for emerging artists. “It gives artists a chance to see if art and the creative economy is where their heart and their money is going be found,” says Sauter. “Some people become accountants and some become Skrillex.”
Sauter took over as executive director five years ago. She says she saw artists leaving downtown en masse due to rampant gentrification as people flocked to L.A. from all over the world to be part of its exciting and creative vibe. “It’s almost like no one knew where to go,” she says.
Coming up later this month, its fourth annual fundraising event, Above the Streets, showcases established artists to inspire its clients’ bourgeoning careers. This year’s honoree, Venice muralist and street artist Christina Angelina, aka Starfighter, is excited about her “solo show in the skies.”
“It’s the perfect way to have a show as a muralist,” Angelina says. Her work will be displayed on 15 billboards and 50 bus benches around the city. Each of the billboards measures 42-by-14 feet.
For the three previous years, the honor went to men, so Sauter is excited that this year a female artist who features women prominently in her work gets the spotlight. “She paints strong women,” Sauter says. “She doesn’t paint women in a sexual light, and she just makes women and females stronger and stronger with every brushstroke.”
Before Angelina became a full-time artist she ran marathons and ultra marathons. “[Art and running] go together nicely because the murals take a long time and you go through a lot while you’re doing them because you’re in your head, and you’re working and you’re quiet,” she says. And both can be painful. The 35-year old recently cracked a shinbone while working on a mural in L.A., and continued painting for several hours before taking a break.
Angelina likes the element of surprise involved in creating street art. “[People] might walk up to it one day on the way to work in a stressed-out moment and then it changes their day,” she says.
Sauter agrees with the sentiment. Taking time off to find and see art is a luxury not everyone can afford—and that’s where public art comes in. “Bringing art to [the people] and slapping them in the face with it while they’re sitting at a bus stop or sitting at a red light, that to me is also the point of access that Art Share L.A. really wants to make.”
Above the Streets Gala, Art Share L.A., 801 E. 4th Pl., downtown; Thu., March 22, 6-9 p.m.; individual tickets start at $50.
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