7 Fun Things to Do in Barnsdall Art Park, LA’s Gem

This is up here?” A friend recently spoke of the scene that greeted her as she climbed the steps to Barnsdall Art Park in East Hollywood. The Angeleno native had driven past the park many times but was surprised to see a wondrous pine grove with paved pathways and several historic buildings — not to mention the clear view of the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory.

Your reaction is understandable. Those navigating Hollywood Boulevard would likely only notice the park’s block-long gated parking lot, large art deco sign, and a tree-covered hilltop — hardly any indication of the valuable architecture and magical landscape atop its crest, which is why it Often referred to as a hidden save but with the reopening of Hollyhock House, which was closed even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more are discovering its magic.

Named for oil heiress, socialite, and passionate arts patron Aline Barnsdall, who donated the property and its buildings to the city in 1927, the 11.5-acre park might be tiny compared to the 4,210-acre Griffith Park about a mile to the north, but it is powerful in its offers. Here are some of my favorites with activities for everyone.

1. Tour the Hollyhock House, LA’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site

The exterior of The Hollyhock House, created by Frank Lloyd Wright.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and located in the center of the park, the Mayan temple-inspired Hollyhock House is made of clay blocks and also features elements of Pueblo and Spanish Colonial architecture. It is named after Barnsdall’s favorite flower, which Wright applied in a highly stylized, abstract manner to elements such as the house’s frieze and pillars. Completed in 1921, the two-story, originally 17-bedroom home is just as impressive on the inside, with furnishings Wright designed specifically for Hollyhock that are works of art in themselves. It also has the distinction of being the architect’s first commission in Los Angeles and the only residence he designed here that is open to the public.

Hollyhock has recently reopened for self-guided tours, with docents on hand to answer questions. Take an hour to absorb every detail of the modernist Hollyhock House’s grandeur – particularly its ornate windows and magnificent fireplace – and meander around the semi-circular pool, courtyard and rooftop terraces. Tickets are $7 for adults, $3 for seniors, and are free for children under 12 (accompanied by a paying adult). Advance reservation required. Tour reservations sell out quickly, so check the website at least a month before you plan to visit.

If you’re looking for an event that doesn’t require reservations, it’s happening on October 10th at 10am. The popular Bob Baker Marionette Theater hosts a free show on the lawn of Hollyhock House on Aug.

2. See art

At the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

Installation view “Juried Exhibition 2018”.

(Jeff McLane / Los Angeles Department of Culture – Los Angeles City Art Gallery)

There are many opportunities to experience the visual arts in Barnsdall. You can visit the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery to really get a taste of local talent, as almost all of the art on display is from Angelenos, often from communities that are underrepresented in the art world. Founded in 1954, it is actually one of the longest running art galleries in the city. It is free to visit and has displayed a wide range of contemporary art, from video installations and soundscapes to mixed media paintings, large sculptures and interactive exhibitions.

The gallery is temporarily closed but has since expanded its virtual exhibitions and the lobby is open to the public to view showcases of highlights, ephemera and photographs of artworks from the gallery’s landmark 1976-86 exhibition “The Magical Mystery Tour.” Dates available Fridays and walk-ups are considered on a first come, first served basis.

At the Barnsdall Arts Center and Junior Arts Center, south of the gallery, many colorful murals by local artists and alumni adorn the walls, including one honoring Aline Barnsdall and Frank Romero’s 1987 mural overlooking the Junior Arts Center wall on the street graces “Olive Hill.” As you walk around the upper street that wraps around the arts complex, you’ll also come across outdoor sculptures. These include a ceramic tower crafted in 1971 by parishioners, students, and teaching artist Flaven Hyland, and “Temple II,” a 22-foot-tall kinetic steel sculpture by Gene Flores, installed in 1986 in memory of animator and teacher Adam Beckett. known for his work with special effects for the first “Star Wars” film.

3. to make art

Arts Center Barnsdall

Arts Center Barnsdall

(Barnsdall Arts Park Foundation)

People of all ages have long enjoyed the affordable art classes and free Sunday workshops offered at Barnsdall Art Center and Junior Arts Center. They range from printmaking and comic book production to craft activities celebrating international holidays, such as the pysanka art form or hand-painted Ukrainian Easter eggs and dragon puppets for Chinese New Year. Even before the park hosted a “plein air” series of painting classes in July, artists flocked to the park to paint landscapes of its sweeping vistas and grounds. join them Fun Fact: Although photography is not allowed inside Hollyhock House, visitors are allowed to make sketches of its interiors as long as they are penciled.

Both facilities are currently undergoing renovations, but in the meantime the centers will host outdoor workshops in late October and early November.

Barnsdall Gallery Theatre

Barnsdall Gallery Theatre

(Gerard Sandoval / Barnsdall Art Park Foundation)

As a producer of experimental theatre, Aline Barnsdall always had community theater as part of her grand vision for the park complex and today the 299 seat venue plays host to various cultural events and performances produced by local organizations that rent the venue such as as well as those from the city. From the recent Haiti International Film Festival and short films with live orchestral accompaniment, to concerts at the Silverlake Conservatory and discussions about Buddhism, you never know what you might find there. And you too can host your own arts or cultural event in the theatre; It is the only building in Barnsdall that is available for public hire.

5. Climb the park’s steep stairs while admiring the historic olive trees

Stairs in an olive grove at Barnsdall Art Park.

The Stairs at Barnsdall Art Park.

(Barnsdall Arts Park Foundation)

There are multiple stairways on practically all sides of campus, which are great for exercising and for city views. From the Hollywood Boulevard entrance, access is via three consecutive straight flights of stairs from the lower parking lot, which bisects Olive Hill — named for its historic late 19th-century olive grove, 130 steps.

As you make your way to the park, note the newly restored exterior of Residence A, which was intended as a guest house. From the park, Wright fans can also see his other famous Mayan Revival-style estate, the Ennis House. Look in the distance east of the observatory in the Los Feliz Hills for its iconic textile block facade.

As you climb up, be sure to admire the trees on either side of the lower stairs. Thanks to 40 new plantings in June, there are just over 500 olive trees in the park in total. From East Barnsdall Avenue near Vermont, which runs behind Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, you can enter through a park gate, which is normally open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and cover about 100 steps in your climb to the park. There’s also a steep, multi-story staircase behind the Barnsdall Arts Center building, made famous by a key scene in the HBO series Big Little Lies, in which a character meets her death.

6. Watch or participate in an outdoor martial arts class in the pine grove

The pine grove at Barnsdall Art Park.

The pine grove at Barnsdall Art Park.

(Joshua White / Barnsdall Art Park Foundation)

The pine grove is a popular meeting place for martial arts enthusiasts. Many groups are happy to give short demonstrations or even invite you to join them. only ash. You might find people practicing potassium or escrima (Filipino Stick Fighting) or watch others practice Tai Chi under the pine trees. And the Los Angeles Chapter of United Capoeira Assn. offers donation courses at the entrance to the Städtische Kunstgalerie from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Bring water and wear clothing that you can move easily in.

7. Picnic, play and watch the sunset on the lawn

At sunset, people relax on the lawn at Barnsdall Art Park.

At sunset, people relax on the lawn at Barnsdall Art Park.

(Teena Apelles)

It’s a breeze to spread out a blanket and enjoy the view from the lawn – there’s always action there. There are no on-site food vendors, so pack your own picnic or visit the neighboring Jon’s supermarket or the handful of grocery options on the same shopping street. (Try Oi Asian Fusion for delicious rice bowls.) Or grab a grab-and-go beforehand from Los Feliz’s wide variety of restaurants on Vermont Avenue or west on Hollywood Boulevard.

Expect an almost festive atmosphere here any day of the week, with people of all ages (and often their furry companions) chatting away as the sun goes down and into the evening. You can also, like it or not, overhear some priceless LA conversations that seem to get louder as night falls.

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