Adulthood. Yeah. That. But you can still meet your friends in front of the lockers at lunch, play board games and munch on Rice Krispies treats at Art Major, a gallery/bar/hangout in Koreatown that's designed to let you go back in time.
Los Angeles natives and art-trepreneurs Jessica Pak and Brian Lee’s last gallery, Hold Up Art in Little Tokyo, also brought fun art to the masses in a highly trafficked location. This time around, the vision includes childhood nostalgia and carefree play. Just with booze.
Longtime friends who first met in seventh grade at Harvard-Westlake, Pak and Lee were tight in high school, and then both majored in art history at USC. They picked Koreatown for their concept, named as a nod to their shared college experience, because they wanted to create something unique among K-town’s ubiquitous and formulaic bars, barbecue restaurants and karaoke lounges.
Lee says, “Growing up in Koreatown, [you see] a lot of the same establishments, and very little amount of innovation in terms of retail spaces. We do know that the community [wanting a local space] exists. The creative community is looking for a little different pace, a little slower, a little more DIY.” While the space is 21-and-over, Lee notes early feedback is that the not-barlike atmosphere is welcome in the neighborhood: “It’s a little more subdued than what you get at a soju bar or a barbecue place.”
But a tiny bit of the Koreatown aesthetic is there: A neon sign beams out the gallery’s name over the entrance onto South Mariposa Avenue, just off Wilshire. Inside, the clean lines, white display wall and precisely aimed lights of a standard gallery showcase the work of local artists. A mural, Pak’s own creation, covers another wall. But the bright primary colors of Connect Four and other board games at the ready, and the neat rainbow of FujiFilm Instax Mini 8s available for rental, keep the space from looking sterile.
Accessibility — of both the art and the space — are big themes. It’s BYOF, bring your own food. They will provide iPads so you can order in during your Monopoly, Hungry Hippos or Clue marathons. They hope you patronize their neighbors, many of which are open late, such as Dan Sung Sa and Kang Ho-Dong. For lunch, Lee is working on pop-up restaurant offerings with Fooda.
There is, however, no outside alcohol. Lee mined his own wine knowledge and engaged a consultant to curate the wine and beer lists at affordable prices. Art Major also will function as a consultancy, curating art for other retail ventures, and as an agent, helping local artists find opportunities for display. All pieces on display in the bar can be purchased directly.
Pak said, “The biggest part of Art Major is we just want to introduce the arts to Koreatown. We want it to be a neighborhood collaboration. It’s not so much about the traditional gallery showing [artists] as much as finding new and creative ways to introduce [art] to the public.”
That includes customers creating their own work. The noncreatives can drop in and start small. Art Major has self-published three coloring books, two by Lee, to get customers drawing at the table between wine, Clue and Heads Up!
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So go ahead. No one’s looking. Grab Crayolas and stickers from the vending machine, and fill those books with your early masterpieces.
636 S. Mariposa Ave., Koreatown. Mon.-Sat., 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. artmajorla.com.