Part of the Mix: Michael Massenburg at his studio in Inglewood.

Part of the Mix: Michael Massenburg at his studio in Inglewood. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

“I see us becoming even more attractive to arts people,” he said. “We’re quite proud of our artist population. We think it adds very much to the ambience and je ne sais quoi of the city.”

Art history

Inglewood began attracting artists to its downtown Market Street and other pockets of industrial and commercial space as early as the 1980s. The postwar industrial boom fueled by the aerospace industry had slumped, and the 1965 Watts Riots marked the death knell for many Inglewood businesses. Artists eventually snatched up buildings left vacant.

“You might need space to paint, or to construct something, or to weld,” said MonaLisa Whitaker, an artist who has lived in Inglewood for a decade and runs the Inglewood Cultural Arts nonprofit.

While there is no formal Inglewood arts district, most artists have gravitated to the city’s north side, largely on La Brea Avenue near Beach Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard. The area is on the border with Ladera Heights and is about six miles from downtown Culver City and about 11 miles from the Santa Monica Pier.

The nearby intersection of Manchester Boulevard and Florence Avenue, close to the iconic Randy’s Donuts, is another hot spot, anchored by 1019 West gallery and Three Weavers brewery, right on the path of the upcoming Crenshaw-LAX light-rail line.

The art clusters began claiming attention in 2006, when local artists Renee Fox and Kenneth Ober co-founded Inglewood Open Studios, an annual program inviting visitors to tour artist workspaces. About 40 artists were featured last year, representing just a sample of Inglewood’s talent.

The expanding scene has led some landlords to try to cash in on the cachet of artist tenants. Landlord and art devotee Tony Kouba decided to repurpose two storage buildings to support the burgeoning creative community around 2009. The project includes 1019 West and the Beacon Arts Building, which offers studios ranging from 300 to 2,300 square feet at rates ranging from $1 to $2 a square foot. Co-developer Scott Lane said all 60 spots are taken by professional artists.

The success of those projects has spurred the owner of a retail site next to Beacon Arts to spend a year preparing to turn a former party supply store into a live-work space.

“We’re mostly going to pull from Culver City and downtown (Los Angeles), finding people paying above and beyond what they should be and bringing them into a city that’s developing and getting reasonable rents,” said Joe Clarke, a broker with Maxam Properties who is working on leasing the site.