Did you know that amidst the heavy traffic and noise of Hollywood there is a place you can go and find utter peace and quiet… and some of the best views of Los Angeles to be found?
Neither did I.
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Then I decided to check out Barnsdall Art Park. The first pleasant surprise was there was plenty of parking. FREE parking. The park is on the top of Olive Hill, a hill that juts up sharply where Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silverlake, Little Armenia and Thai Town all meet. To the north are the honking horns of Hollywood Blvd. To the east, the equally loud sounds of traffic on Vermont Street. To the south, Kaiser Hospital and Sunset Blvd, also far from quiet places.
Which leads to the second pleasant surprise.
I parked in the lower lot and walk up two long flights of stairs, the equivalent of about 4 stories. The peace and quiet was amazing. Then up another flight of stairs to the main area between all the parks buildings. I was greeted by a large open tree filled area offering some of the best views of the Hollywood sign (pictured above), the Griffith Park Observatory and the homes lining Franklin Hills and Silverlake I have ever seen. And even more quiet.
I was struck by what a great escape from the city this place is. No fighting traffic to get to the beach, or up the mountains. No fighting for a parking space once you are there. I was also struck by how few people were there. It was as if no one knew about it.
The complex of buildings include the Hollyhock House, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, the Barnsdall Art Center, Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, and Junior Arts Center Gallery. As the name implies, the Barnsdall Art Park is clearly devoted to support of the arts!
History of the Barnsdall Art Park
The park has origins back in 1919 when the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall to design the Hollyhock House. It was completed in 1921. Having selected a thirty-six acre site known as Olive Hill, Wright and Barnsdall worked together to develop a plan that included a home for Barnsdall (the Hollyhock House) and her young daughter, two secondary residences, a theater, a director’s house, a dormitory for actors, studios for artists, shops and a motion picture theater.
In 1927, Aline Barnsdall gave the Hollyhock House and the eleven and a half acres of Barnsdall Art Park to the City of Los Angeles for the benefit of its citizens and to fulfill her vision of furthering enjoyment of art and architecture. In her bequest she stipulated that the site must “forever remain a public park…for the enjoyment of the community in general [and that] no buildings be erected except for art purposes.”
The Hollyhock House is currently shortlisted to become a UNESCO World Heritage Sit. A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.
The park is also home to The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG). LAMAG is the flagship exhibition space for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. The gallery promotes, interprets, and presents the art of artists at all stages of their career from culturally diverse Southern California.
The Barnsdall Art Center offers adult classes in painting, sculpture, jewelry, bookmaking, weaving, photography, ceramics and other media in virtually every art form. It shares the studios of the Junior Arts Center.
The park is located at 4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angles 90027. Visit their website for more info on the programs available through the arts programs and spaces. And don’t wait for an event at the park to go. Bring a sack lunch to work and head on over to the park to eat it. I promise you, you will become a regular.