Arts District

Arts District

By Nabewise

Equal parts industrial and trendy, the Arts District is one of Downtown LA's fastest growing nabes. For years, the Arts District has been converting its industrial warehouses and abandoned buildings into chic new apartments, attracting a population of young artists and visionaries. Loft windows look out over the Los Angeles skyline and the LA River, making this not only an excellent place to live, but an extremely popular spot for art studios. Using streets and walls as its canvas, the Arts District is a dynamic, energetic nabe literally bursting at the seams with color and creative energy!

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Arts District Articles and Reviews

Love/Hate for the Arts District

The citrus groves were torn down in the 19th century and covered with warehouses and industry around the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad which runs through it. Heavy industry continued to dominate until the 1960s, when it left, leaving a void that was filled by Vietnam vets, homeless, drug addicts and others abandoned by society.

In the 1970s, artists joined the squatters and gave the run down neighborhood a new vitality. Sweaty Al’s Bar hosted some of the biggest names in good music, including The Fall, Gun Club, The Jesus Lizard, The Residents, The Misfits, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Red Kross and Sonic Youth.

In the 2000s, most of the inhabitants were priced out by developers hoping to market the Arts District’s hip vibe to super wealthy yuppies hoping to procure some edge. Though most of the art now made in the neighborhood is uninspired, cliche “street art,” the expensive lofts and old buildings ARE quite beautiful.

A small industry of very-popular establishments including fancy restaurants and gyms have sprung up in the expensive lofts’ shadows although it’s still fairly common, if one ventures a block away from the affluent crowd, to stumble across crack being exchanged for sexual favors.

What's awesome

the buildings, the food, the location

What's not so awesome

the yuppies, the artists being priced out, derivative graffiti

Eric B.


Artist's Paradise

The Arts District is one of those nabes where heart and soul flows through the streets; you can literally see the creativity on each and every wall and feel the creative juices running through the minds of the residents. One of the city’s newest nabes, the Arts District was first conjured up in 2005, it is home to a hip warehouse aesthetic. Originally known as the Warehouse District, the Arts District has maintained the warehouses, many of them super cool and historical buildings that have been moulded and decorated in a more up to date and modern way. The nabe is also home to a prominent architecture college.
Walk down the street and you’ll mingle with open minded, creative students, forever pensive artists scheming up their next creation, and those looking for inspiration in the streets of the Art District (and believe me, they’ll find it!)
Now for the nitty gritty: much of the warehouse space is devoted to studios however many of the artists live and work in their space. There are other residential options, mainly loft style apartments that all boast spectacular views (how could artists not be inspired here?)
While this nabe established itself pretty quickly, it is still growing and it seems that the potential is endless! A new population of young professionals seeking a more dimensional culture have moved in, breaking up the artists only feel.

What's awesome

Old Warehouses, creative residents, amazing views

What's not so awesome

Filling up fast!

Vanessa P.


The Arts District, like all rundown industrial districts in the country, Williamsburg, parts of Seattle, etc, likes to think it’s really friggin cool cause of the converted warehouses and giant works of art on the sides of the buildings. This certainly does make it “cool,” but it doesn’t necessarily make it anything other than a pipe-dream wasteland. As it gentrifies more, and becomes even trendier, then the artists will get priced out and yuppie douche bags will move in. It’s already started to happen. Enjoy the counter-culture while you can, kiddies.

What's awesome

Great street art, great hidden bars, nice lofts that are cheap

What's not so awesome

Yuppies, gentrification, more yuppies

Donald B.


The walls are watching you

The Arts District often takes a little getting used to. What some people might called “riddled with graffiti” others may be more inclined to describe as “decorated with spray paint art.” Either way, this nabe is certainly unique. It began as an industrial district, which explains the wealth of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and and storage centers. Luckily, local artists have been coloring the bland grey walls with larger-than-life works of art ever since the 70s, combining the industrial backdrop with vibrant murals and painted benches.

The Arts District attracts all kinds of creative types, who find residence in a number of contemporary and converted lofts. A lot of younger business-oriented people have been moving in as well, likely taking advantage of the affordable rents and closeness to Downtown. The Arts District is also right next to Little Tokyo, Union Station, and the LA River – great places for inspiration if you ask me! It’s one of the few places where you can experience great views of Downtown…from Downtown itself. This nabe is definitely worth checking out, if not just for the fascinating wall art.

What's awesome

The walls are literally exploding with color. Some especially intriguing murals depict 20-foot-high faces with eyes the size of a small car. Really gives the impression that the walls are “watching” you.

What's not so awesome

There’s a fine line between artistic and tacky. Some of the wall art is just plain tacky.

Simon A.