Santa Monica Museum of Art started big: upon its founding in 1984, it moved right into a space designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. And it only got bigger. 14 years later, it relocated to expanded digs in the Bergamot Station Arts Center. That's remarkable in part because the museum has no permanent archive—instead of amassing a collection, it fills its schedule with rotating exhibits and the fruit of partnerships with with some of the world's most innovative modern artists.
A main gallery and two project rooms have showcased work including landscape and portrait paintings, mixed media, video sculpture, and creative installations from local and international artists. Programs ranging from modern crafting workshops to book-club meetings led by a guest artist or scholar also fill the space with creativity. To immerse guests deeper in the world of modern art, SMMoA also offers guided private-group tours and special members-only tours led by executive director Elsa Longhauser.
FrameStore's craftsmen have created more than 250,000 custom frames in the store’s 35-year tenure, designing pieces that now adorn the walls of prestigious institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Walt Disney Company. Professional designers guide FrameStore’s clients through the 2,200 moulding options that can accent paintings and treasured items while adding style and elegance to rooms. The store’s craftsmen then fashion pieces to patron specifications, outfitting frames with classic or museum-quality glass that blocks UV rays from bleaching out images or censoring pictures of the moon. Every piece goes through a 16-point inspection before it is given to patrons, and the team averages a seven-day turnaround on all of its projects.
When Santa Monica celebrated its centennial in 1975, the Civic Auditorium hosted a small exhibition covering the city's 100-year history. Turns out Santa Monica's citizenry was hungry to document its past: by October of that year, the Santa Monica Historical Society held its founding meeting. 13 years later, the society opened the Santa Monica History Museum, which now encompasses myriad artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia. Most of those materials comprise the museum's timeline, which traces the city's origins up to the 1930s.
Beyond goodies from the past, the museum sports several interactive features to bring that history alive. Visitors can wander through a replica of a Douglas aircraft or digitally insert their photos onto front-page newspaper stories about historical events. The "Then & Now" touch-screen map, meanwhile, reveals the development over time of different Santa Monica landscapes, such as the many canyons that blossomed into In-N-Out Burgers. Along with its permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts an array of special programming, including concerts, workshops, and lectures from top historians.
Each year, more than 60 galleries and artists from Los Angeles and the intangible web of the art world beyond flock to Art Los Angeles Contemporary like butterflies in migration. During their stay, they display their colors in Santa Monica's Barker Hangar, which hosts 40,000 square feet of exhibition space with 40-foot ceilings ideal for extra-tall installations or human pyramids made of Shaquille O’Neal sculptures. In addition to paintings and functional furniture from emerging and established artists, Art Los Angeles Contemporary also hosts a programming series of talks, curator-led panel discussions, and film screenings. This year, the exposition will spotlight Ceci n’est pas… Art Between France and Los Angeles, a cultural-exchange program culminating in more than 30 French-American collaborations.
Isla Studio's professional photographers expresses the world and its people through richly colored fine-art images. Whether dealing with landscapes, buildings, portraits, or UFOs, the team waits for a moment to reveal itself, combining the timing of photojournalism with a carefully considered emotional resonance. They also expand the shutter-snapping community with small classes that explore the ins and outs of digital photography.
Surrounded by walls tacked with sunny works of art, rows of easels prop up paintings in progress, their evolving canvases commanding the attention of aspiring artists. This scene plays out every day at Paint Lab, a creative haven where talented instructors ignite pupils' imaginations with positive encouragement. The studio's classes teach the technical elements of acrylic, watercolor, or oil painting while students craft their own rendition of a classic work, capture the human form in figure-drawing sessions, or turn their pen toward anime and cartoons. Adults pique their artistic sensibilities with liquid inspiration during classes that provide refreshments and cheese, and younger Picassos can pay homage to their favorite lunchbox by painting it in battle dress during after-school or weekend children's workshops.