I recently visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on a “free Tuesday”. Everything was free except for the Frank Gehry exhibit. He’s an architect. Oh, and the food. That wasn’t free either. For the love of architecture, I was a little perturbed. It was $25 and I just can’t afford that right now. So, I figured the next best thing is to give myself a self-tour of his buildings on my own. After all, I live in L.A. He lives in L.A. So, no doubt, I would have carte blanche to see any of his buildings he built in L.A. There are a lot.
But this story isn’t about Frank Gehry. Or architecture.
One early morning I decide I’m going to do my Frank Gehry architecture tour. I look at the map of the Westside, particularly Santa Monica and Venice, and see that it’s saturated with his buildings. I thought I’d start there. It would be best.
I begin with the Edgemar Center for the Arts on Main Street, Santa Monica. Even though I worked in Santa Monica for many years, I never strolled south of Pico. But that’s where Main Street starts “happening” and that’s where the Edgemar is – Main St and Ocean Park. I’m kind of excited to explore something new.
I find it. I park. I whip out my camera-phone-text machine and start taking shots of the building. In one shot I notice a little more than a few shopping carts stacked up against the wall. They’re dressed with Christmas ornaments. I immediately recall a picture posted from a friend of some kind of Shopping Cart Christmas Tree. Is this where it is? I enter the Center’s courtyard and, surely, that’s where it is. The Shopping Cart Christmas Tree. In all its magnificence.
I’m mesmerized. As I stand there staring at it, trying to determine the best angle at which to capture it, I’m also trying to figure out: how the heck did they build this thing?
Anthony Schmitt, the artist, has been putting up the tree for the past 18 years. It has approximately 84 carts, 1,500 lights and is held together by about 4,000 zip ties, according to an article in the Santa Monica Daily Press. It stands approximately 35 feet tall. The decor varies from year to year. This year the tree is divided in half by red and silver balls representing the differences between the holidays.
It’s rumored that the shopping cart symbolizes both generosity and abundance as well as acknowledges the less fortunate by symbolizing that they only have as many possessions as can fit into one shopping cart. My sister recently commented on the tree, “It’s a true American Christmas Tree.” A meaning which she explains as Americans valuing consumerism as more important than the religious and spiritual significance of the holidays. Regardless of how one perceives the tree, it stands there bright and beautiful for anyone to enjoy.
As I am looking through my photos after snapping so many shots I feel like my eyes are going to melt, I speak to a waitress who steps out of the Brick and Mortar gastropub there at the center. She tells me that it took two days to build. She watched most of it. She was fascinated, she tells me. She shows me the stand where the base is attached and tells me they used scaffolding to build it up. I wonder if it takes just half the time to take it all down? Or maybe even a quarter of the time.
Additional businesses in the Edgemar Center are Peet’s Coffee; Crossfit Santa Monica, a gym; Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau; Hale Arts, an art and gift shop; and the Edgemar Center of the Arts Acting Studio. Not to mention the sturdy lines of Gehry’s architecture that houses the Center. Hale Arts art and gift shop supports local artists, and with that, I am impressed.
After spending that hour of gazing and taking photos of every imaginable angle of that tree, I decide to walk down the street. I have another hour on the meter. But with the distractions of shops, street art, Bulletproof Coffee, and a quirky little temple that I get invited into, I fed more into the meter and kind of forgot about the Frank Gehry tour.
Until I walk past this.
The Google building. Another Frank Gehry design. It’s just down the street. They have quirky Christmas trees too.
You can find the Edgemar Center of the Arts at Edgemarcenter.org
FYI – Bulletproof Coffee kept me “buzzed” for the rest of the afternoon. The quirky coffee recipe includes grass-fed butter and brain octane, made with coconut oil, along with the coffee beans. Check it out.