Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
On the part of La Brea Avenue that stretches southward, down near where it crosses Centinela, a curious art experiment has been under way for about a year now in what is arguably one of the most underappreciated parts of L.A. — Inglewood. The goings-on at the Beacon Arts Building, along with its partners at the Inglewood Open Studio Tours, are generating interest in a neglected part of the city's long and rich artistic history. Of course, don't tell the scores of artists who've been living and working there in peace for decades that it's "neglected," that's how they like it — vibrant, historic, safely under the market-inflating radar. The renovated Bekin Storage building — one of those mutely stylish, vaguely timeless concrete citadels — now is the site of both a popular art gallery and comfy, well-appointed studio workspaces. The gallery launched last fall with a series of popular, high-profile exhibitions curated by some of the more adventurous local art critics (full disclosure: myself included), and now continues its independent programming with a late-fall homage to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Installations make full use not only of BAB's white-box ground-floor space, but also the literally thousands of square feet of classically industrial upper floors, the five-story external facade and the enormous private parking lot. And finally, for reasons you don't need to worry about, its closing receptions are always catered by IHOP. 808 N. La Brea Ave., Inglewood. (310) 621-5416, beaconartsbuilding.com.
—Shana Nys Dambrot
Leave the appletinis and gossip to the Sex and the City gals — this ladies' night is more about IPAs and home-brewing tips. Every third Wednesday of the month gals are invited to Eagle Rock Brewery for the Women's Beer Forum, to taste, learn about and discuss rare and delicious craft beers. You need not be a microbrew enthusiast to attend. The event is as much for the beer-curious as it is for aficionados. Venue co-owner Ting Su founded the forum last March, in part to educate ladies about beer in a space that feels less judgmental than, say, that sketchy dive bar on your block. It draws a diverse crowd, and serves as a rare opportunity for suds-minded women in L.A. to meet each other and make new friends. There's nothing but beer on the agenda, but, sorry fellas — no boys allowed. 3056 Roswell St., Atwater Village. (323) 257-7866, eaglerockbrewery.com.
Harsh morning sunlight bouncing off unforgiving concrete makes Hollywood hangovers a little bit crueler than the rest. Escape your unfortunate present by hauling your half-drunk ass up the El Capitan Theater steps to a 1920s movie palace balcony — a creature all but extinct — and into a Hollywood past preserved in amber. Leave the world of screaming kids and half-remembered regrets far below as you ascend ever closer to the ornate East Indian ceiling that speaks to a bygone exoticism and never judges you. Nurse your heavy head in the cool darkness as the dulcet tones of the Mighty Wurlitzer waft their way up to you before the curtains part and you drift off into a hazy past when seeing a movie was A Big Deal. Time your visit for those in-between weeks and you're rewarded with an old hand-drawn animated classic lovingly crafted by Disney's Nine Old Men. Hydrate well from your lofty vantage point, and by the time you are awoken from your reverie and re-enter the bright world of the present, you'll feel better about the town you decided to call home. Forget your troubles, and come get Dopey. 6838 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (818) 845-3110, elcapitan.go.com.
Although the Museum of Neon Art is moving to Glendale, its incredibly fun downtown bus tours continue. Start out with a little social and liquid lubrication, aka drinks and appetizers, before climbing onto an open-top double-decker bus to cruise the streets of L.A. for two hours in search of the city's best neon art. Well-versed docents help you discover both the history of neon and Los Angeles as seen through its old neon signs. Akin to the L.A. Conservancy in its efforts, the museum's mission statement proclaims that it "encourages learning and curiosity through the preservation, collection and interpretation of neon art." Judging by its blast of a bus tour, it's fulfilling that mission. Visit its website for an entertainingly informative explanation of how neon really works. (Yes, I'm a geek.) 136 W. Fourth St., dwntwn.; neonmona.org.
I am always amazed at how many people don't seem to know about the Craft and Folk Art Museum. With a fascinating history — it began in 1965 as The Egg and The Eye, an avant-garde café and shop — and a forward-thinking philosophy, this incredibly intimate gem of a museum was capturing the beauty and artistic integrity of the functional and international before anyone either promoted or protested the ideals of globalization. From Joseph Cornell's shadow boxes to a just-closed show of Jennifer Angus' extraordinary insect installations, this tiny museum, which feels like an uber-hip New York art gallery, presents some of the most expertly curated shows around. With affordable craft classes for both children and adults, this is one museum you owe it to yourself to visit and join. 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile. (323) 937-4230, cafam.org.
Sure, you've let your children blow off steam running through the outside spray fountains. And I know you've explored the interactive exhibits about bugs. But did you know you also can barter some of those curious seedpods and snakeskins you found on your last hike? Kidspace Museum's Nature Exchange allows you to trade your wild discoveries for other natural treasures such as polished minerals, shells and fossils. You are allowed to bring in three items at a time, and points are given based on both the item's rarity and your child's ability to explain it. The more research you've done together — they even have field guides there to help you look up all your finds — the better. By the way, ask me the history of ginkgo trees. 480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 449-9144, kidspacemuseum.org.