Sunday, June 29, 2014

Winston Street Streetscape

Stenciled art on the sidewalk on Winston Street at Werdin Place
If you walk down Winston Street between Main and Los Angeles, you'll get a feel for how neighborhoods change. Los Angeles Street is in the heart of Skid Row, a stretch of small wholesale businesses and immigrant-owned shops valiantly trying to survive, amid the misery of the street - homelessness, substance abuse, prostitution. Yet there are signs of change - industrial buildings transformed into trendy residential lofts, new condominium complexes, and trendy restaurants like The Must, where we had dinner yesterday.


Werdin Place is a narrow passage between Winston and 5th, fenced by a tall iron gate. An unofficial sign put up by a street artist names it "Indian Alley."  The building at 118 Winston abuts the alley and once housed United American Indian Involvement, Inc., an outreach center for LA's Native American population, offering recovery services for those in trouble. Now a yoga studio and art gallery, its owners and residents exemplify the change that's transforming the neighborhood.

Yesterday as I walked past, an odd sight caught my eye. Behind the gate, a man seemed to be tending to two slender bodies, piebald and spotted like dalmatian dogs. When I stopped to focus in, it became clearer - he was crafting two life-size cardboard figures, taped together with black gaffer tape. "Excuse me. What are you doing?" I asked through the gate.

"Making papier mache people," he said.

"Is it for some kind of exhibit?" I asked.

"No. Just because."

"Cool," I said. "Can I take a photograph?"

Papier mache people in Indian Alley (click to "embiggen")
I had never heard about Indian Alley, but in an article published in the LA Times yesterday - on the very same day I walked past -  the man I met and his community of artists is profiled, and the history of Indian Alley is told.  You can read it HERE, and see a slide show of the murals we were unable to view straight-on.

Isn't coincidence an odd and startling thing?

Later, after dinner, [The Man I Love] and I went to get a closer look at the murals in the now-empty alley. We poked our cell phones and cameras through the gate's bars to photograph them.

This mural is said to be by artist Shepard Fairey.

There's a colorful, cut-out cat on the roof.

A pirate ship on the fire escape.

Photo by Christopher Waterman
As we took our photos, I became aware of a presence nearby, and I turned to see a man sitting on the doorstep of 118 Winston. He huddled behind the railing, his jumbled belongings gathered around him. He looked right at me, and I at him. "Evening," I nodded. He looked back, then dropped his eyes to what he was doing. I saw the syringe in his hands.

Change is slow. Skid Row isn't going away yet.

1 comment:

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Oh, Aunt Snow, this is such a beautiful and poignant post. You've done it again. Not only are you brilliant with words and photos, but you share your look beneath the surface of the story in such a penetrating and honorable way. Wow.