“Come on, I want to show you something,” Richard said, strolling up to the table where I was sitting waiting for him at in the Must. “There’s an interesting development going on.”
I hopped up, waved goodbye to the waiter, and followed the new head of the downtown Los Angeles ArtWalk, Richard Schave, out the door.
Richard pointed to the parking lot at the corner of 5th and Main as we headed toward the intersection, his voice full of mischievous intrigue. “They set this area up for the street artists, but didn’t tell anyone. And they’re charging them.”
I met Schave last weekend at the MusicUnion mixer, where we spoke about his plans for the future of ArtWalk. He told me they are forming a non-profit organization to manage the rapidly growing event, but that this also has its own set of problems. He hopes to be able to apply the same principles he learned from software development to the process of handling the development of ArtWalk amongst a board of directors.
Richard also shared his solution to the problem of the displaced ArtWalk street vendors—he’d like to bring them back. Only, he’d have the street corners specified, curated, and roped off so as to prevent the clustermuck that got the artists kicked out in the first place.
This parking lot space on Main Street, jammed with street artists and beverage stands was not the solution he had in mind.
We entered the lot, Richard lead me over to a table with metal jewelry cuffs on it and we started chatting up the artist.
The artist, a metalworker also named Richard, told us the parking lot space was a good temporary solution. He’s happy with the set up, and enjoys being a street artist. “There’s no bullshit out here,” he said. “If someone likes your stuff on the street, they will stop by. Simple.”
Next we found a man in a wheel chair presiding over the back of the parking lot space. Richard told me his name was Doug, as we walked over, and he was a genius. I noticed the artist’s wheel chair was completely painted, as was his jeans and sneakers. He also seemed like he was avoiding Richard.
Richard caught his eye, and Doug stopped surreptitiously rolling away from us.
Richard asked, “Do you still hate me?”
“I still hate you,” the artist said with a touch of humor and a touch of childlike spite. We laughed. “I hate everybody equally, though.”
“I love everyone too,” he added. “Until they give me a reason.” The artist looked directly at Richard for the last part.
“Did Richard give you a reason,” I asked Doug.
The two men laughed. Doug proceeded to explain his artwork to me. He was proud of a particular piece, a self-portrait that featured layers of stacked homemade paint, the formula for which he created himself. Then he showed us a whimsical decorated mirror titled Green Eggs and Ham, which I thought was hilarious. It fit nicely into his description of artwork giving the viewer a hallucinatory effect without the drugs.
The next piece featured found objects, one of which was a black baby doll sitting in a trashcan. The title— Obama. It’s not political, though, the artist informed me. Definitely not political.
But it was time to mosey along, there was more to see outside this parking lot. And besides, a large catering truck was moving in on our territory.
“Catch up with you later, my brother,” Richard said, shaking hands with Doug. I thanked Doug for his time, turned and immediately tripped over a pile of cardboard boxes and trash.
“Watch out for the art!” Richard said. I turned back around. The cardboard box had multi-colored straps coming out the sides, which I realized was what my feet had gotten tangled up in.
“Oh my god,” I gasped. “That was art I just tripped over?”
Richard laughed. We started making our way toward the street. The sidewalks of Main Street were already humming with pedestrian activity. Nodding in approval, Richard said, “It’s going to be packed tonight. I’ve been at this a long time, and I know if there are people out here already, we’ll have 7,000 easy.”
Richard stopped to say hello to the posse of police officers on Main. The cops gave him a courteous hello, and we moved on down the street. We headed over to the Annex, the Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank building on the corner across from Pete’s, where they were displaying overflow artwork from some of the local galleries. Richard and I descended into the old bank’s vault room in the basement and had a sneaky look around, with his keychain flashlight leading the way. After that we popped in to the Museum of Neon for a quick tour.
Speaking of tours, Richard’s tour bus was taking off very soon, and the owner of Esotouric Tours said he had to leave me. His wife is on her way with her parents, and it was going to be a full-scale operation getting them on the bus.
I thank him for his company, and let him know that I’d like to get another interview after the non-profit had been set up. We shook hands and parted ways.