Santa Monica Celebrates Much-Needed Makeover with Interactive Art Pop-Up

Santa Monica is hosting the event on Saturday, December 4 as part of the Ocean Avenue Project, which aims to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

If you didn't already know, Santa Monica has been in the process of renovating key areas like Ocean Avenue and Palisades Park as a part of a broader initiative known as the Ocean Avenue Project. Some of those improvements will be celebrated at an interactive art pop-up where locals are invited to experience the area in a brand new way on Saturday, December 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There, you'll be able to engage with interactive art installations between Broadway and Colorado Avenue which will remain on view through early 2022. 

Saturday's event will examine ways to improve the area for a more people-centered experience and will temporarily feature a large-scale art installation mounted atop the park's edge between Broadway and Colorado. We don't want to give too much away, but the installation will include transparent wire letters that spell out the phrase, "WE ARE A DROP WE ARE THE OCEAN," offering L.A. a moment of reflection on all that we have to be grateful for, as well as photo opportunities for the 'gram. The placement of the installation was strategic – it seeks to draw attention to the west side of the street and to create a one-of-a-kind visual that further complements the ocean views. 

Photo: Courtesy of Here LA
Photo: Courtesy of Here LA

The event will also feature prototypes of large play furniture in an array of colors and shapes that invite visitors to let their inner child shine through by climbing and playing among the structures. Guests are invited to offer feedback on how they think the area could be improved, but not by depositing written notes into a suggestion box. Too old-fashioned. Guests will be picking their favorite option by throwing a ball made of colored powder on the ground. The activity will create a mural of color and give everyone a chance to cast a vote in a way they likely never have before, further enticing voters' more-playful-selves to come out for the day. And might we be so bold as to suggest that anyone feeling a bit of stress or anxiety, especially around the holidays, channel and release those feelings into the ball before slamming it down – trust us, it works wonders. 

The pop-up and activities included were informed by discussions with local stakeholders and over 500 survey responses conducted by the interdisciplinary design group Here LA. The group, which was founded in 2015 by designers Amber Hawkes and Shannon Davis, found that Angelenos value the street most for its natural setting – namely, its unique location with a park atop the bluff and stunning views. Wrestling this natural beauty, however, is the obnoxiously crowded street itself, which is a key gateway to nearby destinations like the Pier, Third Street Promenade, the Downtown Santa Monica Expo Station, Tongva Park, and the rest of downtown. Because of this, much of the corridor's physical space is dedicated to roads, which distances pedestrians from the park and views. 

Photo: Courtesy of Simon Cobb
Photo: Courtesy of Simon Cobb

To bridge this divide, Here LA has used urban planning and artistic activations like Saturday's, to explore methods of enlivening the street and to engage passersby as part of the Ocean Avenue Project. The Project grew out of the City of Santa Monica's desire to evoke its spirit of creativity and innovation and includes such developments as a protected two-way bikeway (finally). This connects the Colorado Esplanade and California Incline bikeways, creating a continuous protected route from the Downtown Santa Monica Metro light rail station to the beach. And on the east side of Ocean Avenue, several on-street parking spaces were repurposed to enlarge the sidewalk to allow additional outdoor dining space while also maintaining safe passage for pedestrians.

Recent adoption of the Downtown Community Plan, together with the opening of the Metro E Line (Expo), a 15-mile-long light rail line that runs between Downtown L.A. and Santa Monica, makes the Ocean Avenue Project particularly ripe for celebration.

If you're looking for a way to enjoy L.A.'s version of winter weather this weekend, head to the pop-up. Expect morning fog to give way to generally sunny skies in the afternoon so a sweater might come in handy.

Main image: City of Santa Monica

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