Venice First Fridays: Art, Food, and Neighbors on Abbot Kinney Every Monthby Alex Quaid on May 21, 2010
The last thing people associate with Los Angeles is a strong sense of community. Most people see it as a vast, cold metropolis centered around fame, money, and of course, traffic.
However, Los Angeles has unique collection of enclaves, each with their own special flavor. One of my favorite communities in Los Angeles (and the one I call home) is. Full of vibrant characters and diverse businesses, and there is no better time and place to experience the Venice lifestyle than at the monthly First Friday Street Party on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Art has been a key aspect of the Venice community since the 1970s when the then rundown area was a haven for struggling artists and is now the basis for the First Friday Street Party. Art galleries all along Abbot Kinney stay open until around 10:00 at night – which is late for this beach town – while patrons meander in and out of the shops admiring the various works. For me, I just love to check out the contrasting architectural styles of the galleries, not always even making it to check out the artwork. Each shop is a work of art that holds works of art.
That’s just the beginning of the street festival as the clothing shops and restaurants do their part as well to liven the mood. Many clothing shops hold charity events for local causes and even put on small fashion shows to showcase their newest items. Restaurants are consistently packed with people grabbing a bite to eat while listening to live bands play between events.
As much as I love some of the great restaurants on Abbot Kinney, there’s nothing like perusing the food trucks outside of The Brig for a uniquely Los Angeles, and uniquely Venice, meal. Food trucks from all over Los Angeles gather on Abbot Kinney to provide a cultural flavor to the street festival with everything from Tunisian food and Korean barbecue to Caribbean cuisine and hot dogs. To me it’s such an American experience using food to bring people together and showcase our diversity. I mean, where else can you eat a Korean short rib taco while taking in avant-garde art, all just a few blocks from one of the most popular beaches in the world?
More than anything, the First Friday Street party has become a place to be seen; a place to come together, see your friends and enjoy your neighbors. The earlier hours of the festival feature older crowds having a drink and enjoying the artwork while mingling with friends as they stroll down the street. The later hours have a younger feel, yet still as vibrant and enthusiastic about the community as the earlier crowd. I prefer to get down the festival early, enjoy a food truck delicacy, and cruise down to The Other Room before it gets packed.
In a city as vast and spread out as Los Angeles, each enclave has its own style, its own feel, its own community. If you want to get a sense of what Venice is like, pencil in the first Friday of next month for Abbot Kinney — which, for those of you keeping track at home, is exactly two weeks from today on June 4th. Mark your calendars.