From Pabst to Picasso: Experience a Piece of LA History at The Brewery Artwalk

The Brewery Artist’s Lofts are some of Downtown Los Angeles’ most spacious, beautiful, and historic artist studios. Dubbed the world’s largest artist complex, the 16-acre campus was brought to life in 1982, largely due to the passing of the city’s ‘Artist in Residence’ ordinance. Continuing 41 years of tradition, this Free Museum Day, The Brewery” will swing open its doors to the town’s longest-running art walk once again.

Formally known as the Brewery Artists Lofts, this industrial wonder of concrete, brick, and metal is a cultural landmark.

Clearly visible off 5th Avenue in Lincoln Heights, the structure, easily recognizable by its towering smoke statuary, began as an Edison power plant and chimney back in 1903. 

The facility, built before prohibition, became home to Pabst Blue Ribbon from 1953–63 and later to Hollywood film shoots.

The “Paradox” facade is not original, even though it looks vintage. It was left there by Hollywood film crews, painted for a scene in Bruce Willis’ 1994 film “The Color of Night.” 

In 1982, the city passed the “Artist in Residence” ordinance. Allowing industrial buildings to double as artist living and working spaces has produced a calming creativity hub for reclusive artists, thanks to visionary Arnold “Whitey” Carlson, who purchased the complex and began curating artist tenants.

While walking through, visitors witness performance art, canvases, or sculptures (for sale) at every turn. It is here that the artists and their many talents are on full display.

Connecting and chatting are part of the experience. Food and drink options are plentiful during the event. There’s a beer garden in the middle of the complex offering small bites, as well as food trucks lining up on Avenue 21.

In its 41st year open to the public for the Brewery Artwalk and with over 100 artists participating and 300 lofts on the site, inspiration and accessibility come in plenty.

Connecting and chatting is part of the experience. Artist Rikki Niehaus (Painter) when asked about her time at the Brewery Art Complex said, “I’ve had an amazing experience at the Brewery. I have been at the Brewery for 12 years, opened for almost every Artwalk since I’ve been here, and this will actually be my final Artwalk as I am moving to the UK at the end of April. It’s a unique way to show work, and I have really enjoyed it. It’s an inspiring environment to be in.” 

With its rich history, Rikki reflected on the first time hearing of the complex, “We first came to a show of a friend’s photographs around 2010, and ended up moving in about two years later. We moved into part of the space when there was still an amazing studio (Peddler of Dreams) giving children’s art classes.”

The Brewery Artwalk is happening on the same day as SoCal’s Annual Free Admission Museum Day. It will be a busy day for the arts in Los Angeles.

The free event is open to all ages, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 23rd, and Sunday, March 24th. 

Free parking is available at the UPS facility on Moulton Avenue. The complex is located at 621 S. Avenue 21, LA 90031.

Author: Israel Vento

Israel Vento is a writer, artist and librarian based in LA but born and raised in Ohio. His inspirations range from Sylvester Stallone to fredbread. In his free time he laughs at memes, plays basketball and cooks 4 dishes really well.