Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59

For many years, whenever I passed by the Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59 on 11071 Venice Blvd. on my way to the Mar Vista Public Library,I always wondered if it was an Art Deco building. Solidly built, but elegantly simple, it beckoned me from the car and bus window to come and check it out up close.

Finally, one afternoon after picking up some books from the library, I walked the long city blocks down to its location.Using both my I-Phone camera and a small 35mm camera I battled the overhead sun and photographed the framed door, the striated line details, the rectilinear lights, and the period typography of the sign.

Accentuating the structure with equally sparse loveliness was the landscaping in the front that brought a touch of naturalness to its gray minimalism.

Backstory of the Building

Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59

Constructed in 1940 out of “smooth stucco” this particular building is a prime example of PWA (Public Works Administration) Moderne or Depression Moderne Art Deco. Representative of the “public works projects” Franklin Roosevelt proposed through his New Deal”it is one of a number of buildings in the United States overseen by the Office of the Supervising Architects. In addition to civic structures like the “Department of Water and Power”, from 1933 to 1944 “schools, hospitals, post offices, libraries and banks” were also built in the PWA Moderne style.

Sturdy and reliable, the goal of the style was meant to “depict permanence, stability and authority”. That doesn’t mean there isn’t grace and elegance in their classicism, it just means their characteristics are more subdued. So instead of the splashy effects that traditional Art Deco was known for in the 1920s, this time there is a more sombre hand at play rendering quadrilateral justification to “symmetrical exteriors and recessed windows organized into vertical panels”.

The Great Depression

To understand why this type of architectural image was so important, during its heyday, you need to know a little about The Great Depression. Since its start in 1929 until its end in the late 1930s, there was such an economic downturn, unemployment was out of control, and the overall morale of the people was at a low point. To turn this around the buildings designed as PWA Moderne personified the security society was seeking in their lives then.

PWA Moderne

In 2021, during the midst of our own crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to minimize the effects of The Great Depression if we didn’t live through it or know others who did. Still, regardless of this, the fact that we continue to appreciate such an important part of our past through architecture is encouraging and a great way to face the future.

Nature Thoughts, Part 2 (Inspiration)

Flourishing in Full View (4/7/21)

Jacaranda Tree

Dripping down with subtle grace,

the jacaranda blossoms dance.

Seasonal and pure they delight.

Beloved Visual Spritz (4/8/21)

Green Plants

Elegance fawning downward

the delicate spray of greenery,

Humble within its soul.

Soft Petal Pink Glory (4/9/21)

Pink Flowers at Kaiser-Permanente, West LA Cadillac

Aromatically fragrant and splendid

the graceful petals fell

An inspired ground accepts them.

Red and White Flora

Orange flowers near and on the fence at the Natural History Museum

Extravagant in the garden,

a flower radiates brightly

Against a blue fence.

Perfectly Small and Meticulous (4/11/21)

Small Orange Flowers

Virtuous and serene

the tender buds bloom

Decorating the earth forever.

White Among the Green (4/12/21)

White Calla Lily at Kaiser-Permanente, West LA Cadillac

Decorating the space in splendor

the blissful white flowers grow

Spreading upwards towards the sun.

Nature Thoughts, Part 1 (Inspiration)

Buds on Tree (4/2/21)

Jacaranda Tree

Fragrant early dewdrop day.

‘Tis the approach of blooming,

the center of harmony.

Red Green Leaves (4/3/21)

Red Flora

Sun nestled the flowers,

Leaves crouched alongside them.

Next to the rosy apartment building.

Together Forever (4/4/21)

Rose Bush

Everlasting and conjoined sweetly,

Two flowers barely touch,

a miracle of togetherness.

Rose Garden near the Natural History Museum. I took photos there before attending the “Dinosaur 101” Workshop at the museum.

Back to It (4/5/21)

Deep yellow blooms pushing upwards,

Softly the petals sigh,

the sun brightly shines.

Birds of Paradise at Kaiser-Permanente, West LA Cadillac

Romance in Bloom (4/6/21)

Lush and entertained it grows,

Decorating the barren dirt,

a touch of nature exists.

News of the Week: How to Start a Nature Collection (Trending)

“The most beneficial aspect of collecting is it’s a great STEM activity that teaches children a lot about categorizing, sorting, and observation.”

If you look up the word collection online you’ll see it either means “a group of things that have been gathered” or “a set of items gathered together.” That could mean anything from toy cars to comic books to rocks. It doesn’t matter as long as it includes something you’re passionate about and that brings you joy.

How to Start a Collection:

If you don’t collect something already, but want to start, there are a few things to consider first, such as your interests. If you like history, you might consider stamps or coins. If you like books, you might consider those. You could even start a collection with an item you inherited from a friend or a family friend, (i.e., a handkerchief or a watch.)

Since Summer’s right around the corner, and we’ll all be able to go outside freely soon, one of the best things to collect are natural objects, like rocks, shells, sticks and other portable souvenirs you can find either in your own backyard, neighborhood, park or school playground.

Nature Journal:

Before you start out on your expedition you should gather your equipment-a pair of gloves, newspaper to wrap your finds in, labels and markers-then create or buy a nature journal. To create a journal all you need is a large paper bag, a hole punch machine, a stack of three-ring binder notebook paper and some yarn to hold it all together. Now that you’ve created your journal you can bring it to life with sketches and observations from your trip about your surroundings and questions you’d like to ask yourself on your trip, such as “What types of animals do I see?”

Once you get your journal and growing collection home you can do further research on what you’ve collected, and observed, online and at your local library.

Storing and Displaying Your Nature Collection:

To further organize your collection, as you acquire more, you can decide what it can be based on (i.e., color, shape, texture, etc.,).To remain consistent, It’s an excellent idea to record as you collect by reporting in your nature journal. To further help you write down the information a great skill to perfect is labeling your items temporarily with a piece of masking tape listing the items date and place of origin.

Later when you want to store and display your collection it’s best to use something recyclable like an egg carton, shoe box, or glass jar to reflect the natural sentiment of the hobby.

News of the Week: The Issue of Homelessness (Trending)

Bombas Socks

The tragic thing about homelessness is it’s not caused by one specific thing and our most vulnerable citizens can become permanently traumatized. If the statistics are to be believed, California has about 151,278 homeless individuals. The disabled make up 38%, the extremely low-income 30%, the mentally ill 25% and those with substance abuse problems 64%.

Fortunately while this isn’t an easy problem to solve, there are a variety of things you can do to support the homeless and ease their burdens. Following are a few examples:

  • Education: You can educate yourself on the causes of homelessness, then help educate others around you if you see them acting unkindly or biased.
  • Advocacy: You can write a letter to your local or state government to ask for more funding or programming for the homeless (i.e., “tiny home villages created on publically-owned lands,” safe camping grounds, and permanent housing).
  • Bombas: You can buy a pair of socks from Bombas.com (https://bombas.com) and through their “Make a Purchase, Make Difference” program they’ll donate a pair of socks to the homeless on your behalf.

So far Bombas has donated more than 40 million items to more than 3,500 organizations.”

  • American Vets https://www.amvetsnsf.org): According to the 2020 United States statistics there were 11,401 veterans living as homeless citizens. What you can do to help them and other vets is to either donate your unwanted clothing and goods to American Vets thrift stores by arranging a scheduled pick-up at your home, or you can buy something online from their thrift store or eBay site. I can personally attest to the great finds you can buy on there because when I went on their eBay site I found a green 1970s and some vintage jewelry for under $100 and from their thrift store site I found a vintage fashion illustration book.

“In 2019 from January-December they raised $24,328,714 from their thrift store, eBay site, and other endeavors.”

Finally, despite the impossibility of solving this problem, the consensus seems to be in order to get it under control this country needs to increase services, social connectedness, provide affordable housing and offer well-paying jobs.

News of the Week: Tapping and Mental Health (Trending)

Since the pandemic has caused us all to experience an increased amount of stress, depression and isolation being cognizant of our psychological health has become essential. For organizations like Mental Health America https://www.mhanational.org it’s vital enough to cause them to promote May as Mental Health Awareness Month with plenty of advertising and resources.

“Created in 1949, its goal is to let the public know that no matter what race, age or sex you are it’s okay to seek professional help and do something to make yourself feel better whenever you need to.”

On your own that could be something as relaxing as reading a good book, writing or drawing in a journal or practicing yoga to your favorite music.

Tap Dancing Can Be Healing Too:

While I definitely believe and regularly lose myself in literature, write and draw in a journal, and relax with yoga and other exercises my real go-to healer is tap dancing. Joining May, in celebration, is another occasion that has special significance for lovers and dancers of tap-May 25, National Tap Dance Day. Due to the way my life has personally been turned upside down, in addition to the pandemic, I believe the art form ties in seamlessly with Mental Health Awareness Month because it encourages physical exercise and opens you up to positive feelings.

“On November 8, 1989 President George H. W. Bush signed into American Law National Tap Dance Day on the famous tapper Bojangles’ birthday. Now it’s celebrated worldwide.”

History of Tap:

To give you a little history of tap…”It originated in the United States in the early 19th century through a combination of African and Irish American dance styles. Characterized by various foot movements known as steps, flaps and shuffles it’s both extremely enjoyable to watch and perform.”

I’ve been tapping for over 10 years now, and besides being one of my security blankets whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s also a wonderful cardiovascular workout and inexpensive to do. All you really need to do it is a pair of tap shoes, a portable wooden board and comfy dance gear.

Finally, the best thing about tap is almost anyone can do it and learn something about themselves and others from this amazing dance.

Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Inspiration: Art Deco)

While growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I visited Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza many times with my mother and my grandmother on various shopping trips. Besides the ultra-chic window displays, salespeople, and merchandise I also remember going to the May Co. regularly to get my hair done at the African American beauty salon Soul Sisters.Over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the architecture of the mall, so one sunny day while I was visiting, I grabbed my iPhone and took a few photos outside. Remembering the tips my teacher Ford Lowcock gave me in my iPhone Photography class at Santa Monica College I shot from a variety of angles.

Background:

Later while researching my photos on the internet I discovered the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was built in 1947 and officially opened on November 2, 1947. Known as one of the “first regional shopping centers in the U.S. that was built specifically for the automobile” it’s still a popular neighbored destination.

Secured on both sides by two Art Deco buildings, that still remain excellent representations and retain their Streamline Moderne characteristics, are the Broadway Department Store and the May Co. Department Store.

Streamline Moderne is an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. It was inspired by aerodynamic design and emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and nautical elements. In industrial design, it was used in railroad locomotives, telephones, toasters, buses, appliances, and other devices to give the impression of sleekness and modernity.”

The Broadway Department Store:

The designer of the Broadway Department Store was Albert B. Gardner, and it’s located across the street from the May Co. Department Store.

The May Co. Department Store:

The May Co. Department Store opened as a “free-standing store” and was designed by Albert C. Martin and Associates. It was officially completed in October 1947.

Changes to the Mall:

During the 1980s a bridge was built to connect the two stores and “form a walkway for shoppers to the mall”. Today, in addition to a diverse group of stores occupying the mall, the two anchor stores are Macy’s and T.J. Maxx.

News of the Week: “Vision Theater” (Inspiration: Art Deco)

Art Deco, sometimes called Style Moderne was a type of visual art that first began in the mid-to-late 1910’s and lasted until the beginning of WWII. It was one of the first truly international designs.

Named after the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts held in Paris it influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theaters, trains, ocean liners and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners.

Simple and clean, with geometrically stylized details, its signatures include florals, animals and sun rays. Another characteristic of Art Deco, especially in architecture, is its use of man-made materials such as reinforced concrete.

Art Deco Influences:

Besides Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus, Cubism and Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes its designers were also inspired by the Native Americans, Egyptians and nature. One of the most famous Art Deco architects was from Finland and his name was Eliel Gottlieb Saarinen (1873-1950). Luxurious, glamorous and exuberant the goal of Art Deco was to represent “social and technological progress”.

Vision Theater:

The building I’m concentrating on in this piece is the Vision Theater (formerly the Leimert Theater)because not only is it exquisite, and an excellent example of 1930s Art Deco, it also has an interesting history. Located in a neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles at 4252 South Bronson Avenue the area it’s in, Leimert Park, was named by the developer Walter H. Leimert who developed it in 1928. It was one of the first planned communities in Southern California designated for upper and middle-income families.

The park itself, was designed by the landscape architecture firm operated and managed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903), the landscape designer of Central Park in New York City. On May 2018 the area between Vernon Ave., Crenshaw Blvd., 43rd Street and Degnan Blvd. became Historical Leimert Park Village. An enclave of African American cultural arts it’s often been called the Harlem and Greenwich Village of the Westcoast.

Vision Theater was designed in 1931 by the Morgan, Walls and Clements architectural firm and “erected by contractors from Lindgren and Swinerton Inc.. The structure itself is “made out of reinforced concrete and topped with a 115 foot ornamental tower.” Used to attract movie goers from their cars it was a smart use of advertising.

Stylistically the building is “representative of the streamlined Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco style” reflective of the era following the lushness of the Jazz Age.

Reportedly organized by president of Fox Westcoast Theaters Harold B. Franklin and Howard Hughes it was initially utilized for movie premieres. First opened on April 21, 1932 as the Leimert Theater it remained popular and showed many movies for years before it closed in 1968. The last film to premiere there was Bonnie Clyde.

News of the Week: Return of the Library (Trending)

I drew these illustrations from the “L.A. Times” Sunday comics section for our art lessons at “6th Street E.S.”

Beginning May 3, 2021 the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) opened up limited in-person services at 38 of its locations, including the Central Library downtown https://lapl.org.The hours the Central Library is open is Monday-Friday from 10-4:30 pm and the hours for Regional Branch Libraries are: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10-4:30 pm, Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30-7:30 pm.

“The Los Angeles Library Association was formed in late 1872, and by early 1873, a well-stocked reading room had opened in the Downey block of Temple and Main Streets under the first librarian, John Littlefield.”

LAUSD Students:

  • LAUSD students are automatically assigned a Student Success Library Card. With the card they can borrow up to three books, get digital materials, find an online tutor and never be subject to fines.
  • They can celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day in April and become exposed to books from diverse cultures, such as VAMOS! Let‘s Go to the Market by Raul the Third.
  • They can also register to participate in the Summer Reading Challenge which lasts from June 7-August 7, 2021.
  • Book Bundles To Go is another thing they can participate in by selecting up to five books based on a particular interest or theme, then letting the librarian select titles for them. My cat Zombie loves animal books, and since I read to him everyday, I put in his request for animal books and received the following: Orangutanka (Written by Margarita Engle and Illustrated by Renee Kurilla), Birds From Head To Tai(Written byStacey Roderick and Illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya), Wild Child (Written by Steven Salerno), Fabulous Frogs (Written by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by Tim Hopgood), and An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns (Written by Betsey R. Rosenthal and Illustrated by Jago). The good thing about the Book Bundles is you can request two of them per library card.