Okay, okay; the east side has had its time in the spotlight. (If that sentence has thoroughly confused you, check out our article on east-side museums). It’s time to mosey on over to the coast for our daily dose of culture in the form of amazing west-side LA museums.
Beyond the glitter of Hollywood, Los Angeles is more multi-faceted than your average visitor might expect. Art from all categories plays a central role in uniting this gigantic county—and when I say “all categories,” I truly mean it (have you heard of our Museum of Broken Relationships?) No matter the era of history, the niche style, the type of media, or the off-beat hobby you’re into: yeah, we’ve got a museum for that. In fact, the exhibits of the west side cover all of those topics, and then some. Let’s look at the highlight reel:
As one of J. Paul Getty’s many museum iterations—though, the only one the art collector was unable to see prior to his death—The Getty Museum is a testament to the long-standing cultural impact of art. Opened in 1997, the Malibu-based mega-campus is home to 24 acres of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. The featured pieces (manuscripts, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and decorative arts) are ever-rotating. In addition to the exhibits, the grounds include picturesque gardens and Roman-inspired architecture.
In our country’s current quarantined state, The Getty has been rolling out immersive online features, including an online collection, plenty of video walk-throughs courtesy of various YouTubers, and finally, a new offering of a digital art collection available for users of the popular game, Animal Crossing. We highly encourage you take a look if you’re unfamiliar… *the purest joy.*
Museum of Tolerance
For 27 years, the LA Museum of Tolerance has been doing immensely important work. Examining the causes and effects of racism and prejudice throughout history (with particular focus on the Holocaust), the museum holds a litany of events focused on educating the people—especially school children—on the history and the dangers of bigotry. They often work with schools and educators to set up tours and presentations, having been the background for many prominent speakers, including those whom have survived genocide. They are especially active during Black History Month and Women’s History Month (February and March, respectively) showcasing incredible films/documentaries, art, letters, and photos detailing oppression throughout history.
Museum of Tolerance (MOT) is a pertinent stop for any Angeleno or tourist visiting west-side LA museums. While, yes, the subject matter isn’t necessarily light and airy, its conclusions are crucial for all humankind to learn. During our lockdown period, MOT has transferred some of its content online, including a speech by a Holocaust survivor, author presentations, lesson plans for at-home education, and a virtual tour through their “African American Experiences in WW2” installation.
California Heritage Museum
Inside a pastel 19th-century home in Santa Monica lies an unexpectedly eclectic group of knick knacks. Of the west-side LA museums, this site is one of the most unique. The California Heritage Museum, though small in square-footage, is big into the history of art and culture in the Golden State. Constructed in 1894 for the son of Santa Monica founder John Percival Jones, the space was officially transformed into a museum in 1979. Much of the building’s interior is made up of small, rotating exhibits, while its permanent offerings include the history of the Jones family, the space’s Main Street location, and finally, an Ostrich farm popular in Ocean Park in 1893 (can you imagine how wacky that would’ve been in the 19th century?).
During times when the museum is open, the site is visited by some of the best food trucks in LA on a nightly basis. While you’re immersing yourself in quirky aspects of California culture, you can indulge in a wide variety of small bites, including Vietnamese food, east-coast lobster, coastal tacos, and beyond. Additionally, California Heritage Museum hosts a Sunday Farmer’s Market on their front lawn, displaying the best of local produce for purchase.
18th Street Arts Center
This inspiring site gives a whole-new meaning to the term “artist in residency.” Well… actually, it exemplifies the roots of that phrase. The 18th Street Arts Center is a nonprofit in Santa Monica, as well as the longest-running artist residence in Southern California. Founded in 1988, the site hosts artists of all backgrounds and styles, displaying their work in photography, physical art installations, performance pieces, and visual art. It truly feels like a community of creatives supporting one another. Visitors will interact with an incredibly wide variety of mind-expanding aspects at both the 18th street location and the center’s second site at the Santa Monica Airport.
In light of recent events, the center has launched “18 @ Home,” in order to immerse families in artistic content during COVID-19. Per their website, “To get your dose of arts and culture at home, we encourage you to follow our Instagram for the latest updates, peruse our fantastic YouTube catalogue of artist lab mini-documentaries, and continue to check our website for new online content at 18@Home.”