Downtown L.A. Art Walk on Last Legs?

On Thursday night, L.A.'s Downtown Art Walk went on as scheduled, after organizers raised enough money to keep the monthly event going, but some people say the walk has become more about dinner and drinking than art.

The return of Art Walk lured an estimated 20,000 to seven blocks between downtown's Main and Spring streets. Amid the throngs jammed between galleries and taverns, there's even some art to be found.

"Just the energy. It's crazy. It's great to see downtown alive again," said Breonna Walker, a downtown resident.

And yet, this monthly event almost died after becoming so popular, that security and clean-up expenses became more than the non-profit organizing board could cover.

"Property owners, we make money on this, and it's important for us to step up and pay back in kind," says downtown re-developer Tom Gilmore.

Gilmore took the lead in encouraging fellow business owners to contribute nearly a quarter-million dollars that revived Art Walk from a proposed hiatus.

"I would be happy if it doesn't grow too much for a little while. What I hope it does is actually spread," said Gilmore.

Gilmore is also personally taking steps to respond to the growing criticism that the art is playing second fiddle to the street party.

"I thought this thing's a circus," says artist Peter Shire.

Shire returned with an exhibit of his angels because Gilmore specifically enlisted Shire to try to help refocus art walk.

"It's having trouble, and that's why Tom asked me to do something really special," said Shire.

Artists do agree with the organizers it's not necessarily a problem that few visitors buy any pieces

"This is one of Los Angeles' premier, free events, where they can look at art and they will come back," said Bonnie Tseng, an Art Walk L.A. board member.

Meantime, with this younger demographic, the Museum of Neon Art's Kim Koga sees opportunity to expand the ranks of art devotees.

"If the fun of the event attracts young people, and people in general, and then they see the art, maybe for the first time, it's just a great opportunity for us," says Koga.

[Editorial Note: The Art Walk occurs in downtown's Historic Core neighborhood, not the Arts District, as originally reported.]

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