Punk, Street Art, and Buddha’s Hand – Traction Ave in Downtown Los Angeles

Lex sez:

Neek and I went to downtown LA in search of an area near Little Tokyo filled with murals and other street art.  There was some parking on Traction Avenue so we stopped there to take a look around.  Lots of murals painted on the sides of buildings were already visible as we walked down the avenue.

We were happily surprised as we approached Third Street to see that part of the street was closed off.  There were booths where people were selling arts and crafts and one that was selling different blends of organic juices.  We tried one filled with different kinds of citrus fruits that was really tasty.  Walking around there, I could see Shepard Fairey’s ‘Peace Goddess’, a mural of a beautifully shrouded woman with an owl resting beneath her chin, which I thought looked fantastic.


We parked on a back street for free but the Little Tokyo Metro stop is nearby.


There were so many murals and other examples of street art in the area it was impossible to capture it all.  Many other people were also taking photographs and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.  It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun checking out all the great art!

Neek sez:

I’ve been visiting the Arts District also know as Traction Avenue in downtown Los Angeles for many years now.  During my young, impressionable years, I had a punky boyfriend who, wearing a black leather biker jacket, would take me there and we would hang out having some sushi bought from Little Tokyo nearby.  It was more raw back then with dingy streets, dingy people and dingy buildings.  I really loved it!


Back then, there were just old produce warehouses and real artist’s lofts (not the high priced ones for people who only wanted to live the artsy lifestyle).


The American Hotel had real artists living there and also just regular people who appreciated the low priced accommodations.

The “Museum of Neon Art” was there and so was “L.A.C.E” before they relocated.  There was a second hand shop called “Flips” and an art gallery called “Oranges and Sardines” (don’t even ask).

I had never been to Al’s Bar but heard it was a pretty cool place where Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sonic Youth had played.  It closed down in 2001 but the hotel still remains.  It has been renovated and updated but is not a long term stay place anymore.


Thanks to Joel Bloom, a veteran of Chicago’s Second City, an activist and unofficial mayor of the community, he has helped to preserve the artistic flavor of the district. Joel passed away in 2007 but he is remembered and honored with a plaque recognizing the area as “Joel Bloom Square”.

It’s great to see that although a lot of the businesses have changed, the artistic creativity hasn’t.  In fact, it seems to have flourished.  There are tons of murals, street art, sculptures and a flea market on the weekends.  There have been some reports that high rises will be built in the area but hopefully not too close to this unique and diverse neighborhood.


By the way, the “Buddha’s hand” is a kind of a lemon with tentacles – pretty weird but tasty.  Lex and I really enjoyed its juice from the farmer’s market.


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