CREATIVE ECONOMY IN NUMBERS
TINSELTOWN GETS CEREBRAL
Many people have dismissed Los Angeles as a vapid place to live, but its growing status as a cultural capital is gaining respect. It’s much deserved, when you consider it has some of the best museums and galleries in the country, including the Getty, e Broad and LACMA, which will be expanded by 2023 thanks to a US$600 million investment that will see its campus extended over Wilshire Boulevard with the addition of the LACMA Building for the Permanent Collection. ( e new nearby Wilshire/ Fairfax subway station will open at around the same time.) Running from September 2017 to January 2018, “Paci c Standard Time LA/LA” was an ambitious fourmonth exhibition of Latin American and Latino culture with works by 1,100 artists
from 45 countries displayed across more than 70 venues in LA and the wider state. It’s endeavours like these that are inspiring an in ux of talent.
With a growing community of creatives comes innovation, which means LA is also leading the way when it comes to everything from food trends to the experience economy (Airbnb Experiences lists dozens of activities you can book with a local, such as vinyl record shopping with a Grammy award-winning artist). Los Angeles has been
a health-conscious city for decades, but it’s amazing to see the number of juice bars, organic supermarkets, protein shake stands and vegetarian/vegan restaurants. Stop by Cafe Gratitude, for example (there are four outposts in the city) and you can order beer-battered coconut “calamari” and blue algae superfood smoothies; Gracias Madre on Melrose, which has a Mediterranean-style garden, serves “crab” cakes made from hearts of palm, Mexican quesadillas slathered in cashew cheese and “high vibes”
Over the next four years, LA's creative economy will grow by more than ve per cent
cocktails infused with cannabidiol CBD oil (marijuana use is now legal in California).
At another restaurant called Ysabel,
I nd it has given over its bar for a few nights to local cocktail maestro Matthew Biancaniello, who specialises in savoury and edible drinks. He begins by enthusiastically serving new arrivals cups of alcoholic French onion soup made with ingredients from the local farmers’ market. A er spending four and a half years bartending at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar, he is now focusing on popups such as this, where he can be truly inventive, mixing the likes of Ogo seaweed tequila with lemon guava, curry leaves and fresh chamomile; and shiitake mushroominfused bourbon with bergamot vodka, blood orange, smoked jalapeño and arugula (rocket) blossoms.
It’s not without its challenges, though, Biancaniello says. “Since I have been living here, so many places have opened and LA seems to be so ckle when it comes to longevity. Rents are high and it is increasingly di cult for restaurants to maintain themselves. ere are too many options available and people are constantly looking for the hottest spots. Not having my own laboratory to really build upon what I am doing is di cult too. Eventually, I would very much love to open my own tasting menu bar in Los Angeles or have a travelling one that goes around the world.”
WHERE THE COOL KIDS ARE
ere are lots of trendy hotspots such as Abbot Kinney, Echo Park, Silver Lake and Los Feliz emerging across LA these days, but one area that has seen signi cant change in terms of the creative economy is Downtown. It’s impossible to miss, being the only cluster of high-rise buildings in an otherwise low-rise city. Essentially the central business district, its make-up has been changing. It’s become more residential and, over the past ve years or so, the old warehouses and lo s have been taken over by artists. Gentri cation has swi ly followed and, now, beyond the apocalyptic border of Skid Row, where desperate drug addicts and homeless people live in tents on the pavement (outrageous to see in a state as wealthy as California), you’ll nd the full edged Arts District and some of the most expensive real estate in LA.
e Arts District has the familiar feel of New York’s Brooklyn or London’s Shoreditch with murals on the sides of buildings, hipster boutiques, neon sign workshops, cold-brew co eehouses, ice cream parlours, breweries, distilleries, concept stores, co-working spaces and galleries such as Hauser & Wirth, which also has a chic bistro called Manuela next door and a mini urban farm with chickens. As artists are evicted or forced to move on because of in ated rents, corporates are taking the opportunity to reap the bene ts of this new walkable neighbourhood. e Hyperloop World Headquarters has moved to the Arts District; there’s the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator; and Warner Music will be relocating from its headquarters in Burbank. Designer Phillip Lim and Dover Street Market will be opening stores later this year.
Chris Rico says: “I le LA for San Francisco between 2010 and 2014 because I got tired of the fact that the only thing anybody ever talked about was ‘ e Business’. It was always what sucked the oxygen out of the room – even in the LA Times, the whole business section was about Hollywood. So I went to San Francisco seeking a place where there was a diversity of thought and ideas, and in the time I was there, LA and San Francisco switched places. With the arrival of Dotcom 2.0, San Francisco became a one conversation town – all anyone talks about is what app they are building. LA, meanwhile, has this complement of new technology, aerospace, autonomous vehicles, fashion, digital media and art. Movies are not the only thing that people talk about now.”
He continues: “If you think about Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hughes and Walt Disney, people like that were what de ned Los Angeles as this place for dreamers. Enter the present day and you have new dreamers such as Elon Musk [founder of Space X, Tesla and Hyperloop] and Evan Spiegel, who created Snapchat and decided to keep it in LA because of the creative economy and how integral that was to its o ering, even though many of its venture capitalists were desperately trying to get him to move to Silicon Valley. I think what is happening in LA right now is you are seeing that convergence, where you have all of these artists and new technology. When you get into designing rockets and imagining future modes of transportation, for example, it’s very creative.”
By the time of LA’s Olympic Games in 2028, Rico predicts the city will look very di erent. ere will be a new light rail and metro system (public transport is severely lacking right now). Meanwhile Musk’s Boring Company has already started digging tunnels beneath the city for a new kind of transport system in which cars are shuttled beneath the roads on drive-on, drive-o “skates”. ere will probably be self-driving cars too, so instead of getting angry at being stuck in tra c, you can sit back and enjoy watching Avatar 4.
ABOVE: LA street art