Art Walk livens Leimert Park


Sunday afternoons are often spent lounging, lazing or simply relaxing, but in one Los Angeles neighborhood, Sundays are turning into the liveliest day of the week.

In particular, the last Sunday of each month transforms Leimert Plaza Park into a colorful, festive place. The mostly Afro-centric shops and boutiques that line the streets of the neighboring shopping center throw their doors open and even display merchandise on the sidewalk without the fear that it might get stolen.

“[Art Walk] brings people together,” said Darlene Brown, a local artist and resident. “This is a community, almost like a family gathering.”

The Leimert Park Art walk provides a multitude of cultural offerings including fine art, handmade crafts, music, food and entertainment. The event began in 2010 as an opportunity to grow the community as well as celebrate the arts.

To begin the afternoon, an African-inspired drum circle made up of community residents and music students plays a variety of traditional songs and rhythms. Throughout the day, entertainers from individuals to groups of friends to professionally organized talent take up the microphones on the sidewalks to perform.

Danielle Walker, a Crenshaw resident, said that she brings her son to the Art Walk some months because she wants to introduce him to the variety of cultures and neighborhoods that encompass Los Angeles.

“I want my son to experience the unique culture and sense of community that can be found here,” she said.

Diversity, particularly ethnic diversity, defines Leimert Park. The neighborhood contains one of the highest percentages of black residents in Los Angeles, according to data from the Los Angeles Times mapping project. There are also growing Hispanic and Asian populations.

Filling the streets

The way the shopping center at 4300 Degnan Blvd. fills with people on Sundays at the Art Walk is a stark contrast from how it looks any other day of the week.

The downturn in the economy of the past few years seemed to impact the merchants of Leimert Park, in particular. A once thriving niche now experiences a near constant emptiness.

Monday through Friday, even in the late afternoons, Leimert Park Village seems like it is closed. Sika, a man who has sold traditional African crafts and jewelry in his shop for more than 20 years, usually does not even open his doors in the mornings unless a customer calls first.

Sika hopes the upcoming station for the Crenshaw Line will bring more people and thus, more business, to the area.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved funding for the station in May, according to Metro Communications Representative Gayle Anderson.

Read more: LA Metro board approves Leimert Park subway station

The project is expected to take several years to complete, but business owners like Sika hope that the stop will bring more traffic to the stores as well as to events such as the Art Walk.

Artists in the local community

The Art Walk is also a venue for local artists to showcase their work.

Leimert Park resident Cynthia Fearing displays her traditional gourd artwork on a table outside Sika’s shop. Fearing handcrafts the gourds into purses, wallhangings and magnets with inspirational messages. The festival gives Fearing, who participates in other art shows throughout Southern California, another venue of exposure.

“It’s like you’re among friends,” Fearing said about selling her art in the local community. “You get the most support where people know you.”

Read more: Local artist brings culture to Leimert Park

Fearing is currently working with Sika to collaborate on a line of African-inspired jewelry that will eventually be sold in his shop.

Another local, Valerie Johnson, sells her handmade jewelry on Sundays in Leimert Park. She hand beads every one of the pieces her business, Hand Candi, sells. Even a small bracelet takes hours to complete, but Johnson may sell it for as little $10.

“I’m practically giving them away,” she said.

Sika says that these local artists are “reviving" the area.

The Leimert Park Art Walk takes place on the last Sunday of each month from around 2-8 p.m.

To learn more: Leimert Park Art Walk