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Frogtown Artwalk Turns Shipping Containers Into Art Galleries

Artist Benjamin Scharf's POD
Artist Benjamin Scharf's POD
Wendy Gilmartin

At its 7th annual art walk Saturday, Frogtown and the Elysian Valley Arts Collective invited groups of artists, designers and vendors to re-imagine and re-engineer 8 pre-fabricated storage "PODs" as exhibition spaces intermixed within the warehouses, riverfront, tight-knit single family homes, community gardens and art studios in the neighborhood.

Organizer and architect Tracy Stone, whose design offices are in Frogtown, says, "Our goal was to increase the number of artists at the walk, but also infill the walk with exhibitors so that there wasn't as much blank space between the studios and other workspaces, and the neighborhood."

Frogtown crowd Saturday evening
Frogtown crowd Saturday evening
Wendy Gilmartin

Benjamin Scharff's POD sat tucked under a shady palm tree -- his was an extension of the residential neighborhood street that formed the west edge of the art walk next to a gang of hoola hooping kids and a gathering of foodtrucks. His photographs of slide projections filled the space with color-bursting movement.

Donatella Cusma and Bojana Banyasz's glowing POD-turned-mailbox installation offered visitors the opportunity to send a custom-silkscreened postcard, and drop it into the walls of the POD -- as if the storage container was a giant drop box -- with the postcards to be used in another installation later on.

Mailbox POD
Mailbox POD
Wendy Gilmartin

Korean architect Sang Dae Lee used the walls inside his POD to show drawings and models of his low-income housing prototype that would "shape a pedestrian culture in downtown L.A." His colorful models of different sizes and assigned uses envision a variated urban village for the city.

The variation in urban types in Frogtown, too, was something he was quick to point out. "I like Frogtown because it's like you're in a neighborhood and the city at the same time," he says.

He wished the PODs would stay for a longer period of time, so artists could manipulate their forms and exterior materials a bit more. "We couldn't really do anything with the outsides for a one-day event," Sang bemoaned, "but that's okay because today, and for just today, we get to have an art gallery right next to someone's house."

Sang Dae Lee
Sang Dae Lee
Wendy Gilmartin

The use of storage and shipping containers is nothing new in architecture, but the organizers of this years' Frogtown artwalk emphasize the urban use factor over innovation of form, and they're excited the PODs were able to plug more artists and vendors into the variety of in-between spaces Frogtown has to offer -- like the loading dock areas around warehouses, the remediated riverfront and its bike path, and community garden spaces.

But the PODs weren't the only unconventional art spaces featured Saturday along the main spine of the artwalk along Blake street.

Elysian Valley native Patricia Perez used her own home as an art piece. With a path of sewn together clothes starting in her living room area and trailing out the front door and down the sidewalk, she created a path all the way to the river's edge. Perez emphasized her family's connection to the area -- they've been in Frogtown since the 50s -- and sewing was always "something they did."

Public art piece by Patricia Perez
Public art piece by Patricia Perez
Wendy Gilmartin

Behind Perez's house, Nomad Gallery's silkscreening shop demonstrations packed visitors into their warehouse space and the pop-up bar and lounge in their front parking lot buzzed with brew-sipping revelers and hootenanny tunes.

Cactus Gallery's POD
Cactus Gallery's POD

Down the block, Sandra Mastroianni of Cactus gallery used her POD to curate a group show made up of nine pieces from each of nine artists she represents in her brick and mortar art space up the road in Eagle Rock. "I've done pop-ups before, but this is a great opportunity for us to show artists on the street," she said. "I'm thinking, what if we just found an empty parking lot and just did an all PODs show"?

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