Esotouric Founders Resign from Downtown Art Walk

Now, full disclosure: I loves me some Bert Green, downtown gallerist & founder of the LA Art Walk. [waves] And I loves me some Gallery Row Organization (some stories I assigned & edited for the LA Alternative Press back in 05 & 06 brought me into repeated contact with the original GRO). And I really love Kim Cooper & her husband Richard Schave (founders of literary/historic tour company Esotouric), who for some time now have functioned as the burgeoning Downtown Art Walk’s curator & director, respectively. But now they’ve both resigned over the addition of Russell Brown, head of the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District, to the Art Walk’s governing body.

I’m currently reaching out to all involved parties & should have more info soon. It does strike me as odd that a nonprofit org, designed to enhance the cultural vibrancy of the area (independently of commercial enterprise) should now have as its head a leader of the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District. In a brief phone call with Richard, he mentioned it heralded a “privatization of the public space of downtown.” Is downtown public? Private? Both? I’m hoping someone can explain to me how and why this happened. I’m trying to keep an open mind.

Either way, all of Esotouric’s offerings have been removed from the monthly artwalks, so those expecting shuttles, knowledgeable tour guides, food tours from foodblogger Javier (TeenageGlutster) Cabral, historical-literary discussions and more will be disappointed.

5 Replies to “Esotouric Founders Resign from Downtown Art Walk”

  1. I sent this letter into the editor of the Downtown News in response to their story on this subject. Apparently they do not publish letters from residents that paint the politics of downtown in a negative light. Here it is:

    It was a sad day for the downtown community when we lost Richard Schave and Kim Cooper and their efforts to usher Art Walk into its new era. I am disheartened by their departure, but more than that I am embarrassed for us all. I’m embarrassed because as a fledgling community, we downtowners seem unwilling to pay enough attention to the crooked and petty politics that have always ruled here and to fight against them. Embarrassed because we seem unable to get out of our own way long enough to help our community to flourish. Embarrassed because with minimal effort we could help redefine downtown. And finally embarrassed because, in spite of seeing this clearly, I, like many of you, have heretofore been unable to attend the myriad open meetings (DLANC and its ARTS COMMITTEE, etc) in order to have my voice heard. This will all change, though.

    Politically, downtown is the Wild West and will continue to be so until we newer residents of the neighborhood become involved in defining it – not just the gallery owners, the restaurant owners, and the slumlords. As Cooper pointed out in her response letter to the Downtown News, the Art Walk SHOULD be an extension of the community and the people in it – not simply an extension of the desires of the BID and the business owners. It appears that the same handful of cronies run all of our community organizations downtown and only feel safe (read: allowed to continue their agendas uninterrupted) working with one another. I am comforted to know that these folks will be shocked and dismayed when eventually the new downtowners do start becoming involved, overseeing them and enforcing a policy of transparency. I wish that I could have been there at every meeting in order to do so, as it would appear Schave and Cooper were doing.

    I do not see Art Walk as something that should only benefit gallery owners and I worry about the corporatization of it, in particular given downtown stalwarts’ grumpiness toward those of us who enjoy the fun, dynamic atmosphere of Art Walk (fun-haters like Art Walk founder Bert Green). I especially appreciated Schave’s notion of expanding Art Walk into a diverse experience in the downtown area, rather than simply a shopping night, buying art from people who just so happen to sell it in my neighborhood. Anyone who has attended an Art Walk (and stepped outside of an art gallery) can see that the art is the preeminent feature of this amazing night, but it is not the only thing that occupies those 310 folks who come downtown once a month. Any vision of Art Walk to the contrary is simply antiquated. I do not think that anyone that is truly pro-downtown is against this inevitable reconfiguring of people’s perspective of the neighborhood. But perhaps some people were happiest when downtown was like an exclusive and abandoned playground.

    In an effort toward full disclosure, I am a three-year resident of downtown, and I have considered Richard Schave and Kim Cooper friends since I first met them on their Esotouric tours of Los Angeles. They asked me to lead walking tours from a downtowner’s perspective, and during the September and October Art Walks I did so.

    I showed off spots that are vital to the community and a huge part of our life in downtown and there is no doubt they are a large draw for 310ers to see 213 in a new light. My tours included visits to the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Hanks, 7-Grand, Broadway Bar, Varnish, tastings at Tiara Café and Bottega Louie, and an impromptu wine tasting class led by Pete’s sommelier. These places and others are a part of the downtown and the Art Walk that I love, and I am afraid that maintaining Mr. Green, Mr. Brown and their cronies’ vision of downtown’s Art Walk will lead to us “spoiled children” that “do not buy art” going to Culver City’s or Venice’s art walks for fun in the future.

  2. Jeremy, we would have been glad to print your letter. It didn’t arrive on our web Comments or in my email or our executive editor’s email. Here’s a link to the stories we’ve done in the past two months on Art Walk. You’ll see that there are both positive and negative comments. You can still post your letter to those stories if you want to. -Sue Laris, Editor and Publisher [email protected]

    http://www.ladowntownnews.com/shared-content/search/index.php?search=go&o=0&q=Art+Walk&d1=9-01-2009&d2=12-01-2009&s=relevance&r=Subject%2CAuthor%2CContent&l=20

  3. Thanks, Sue. I was disappointed that the letter was not published after I emailed it. I submitted it to the only email address I was able to find on the Downtown News website. I’m very happy to hear that you would have been glad to run my letter.

  4. Art Walk Collaborators remember working with Richard Schave and Kim Cooper:

    In memory of the five fascinating months when Richard was the Executive Director and Kim was the Curator of the newly formed Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk non-profit, we are honored to share these words of thanks from volunteers and participants.

    Despite the smears you may have read elsewhere suggesting that we were disconnected from the management, safety or community aspects of the event, the fact is that we lived, breathed and brainstormed to solve these issues, and formed dozens of valued partnerships to make Art Walk safer, more successful and more meaningful to every participant.

    This was what was really going on at our manifestation of the Art Walk: incredible people were coming together and working very hard to make something wonderful happen in the city, and to fix the aspects of the Art Walk that were broken or neglected. It’s sad that some in the community didn’t want to be part of it, sadder still that they didn’t want anyone else to be able to enjoy it either.

    But here’s the thing about magic: you can’t stop it once it’s out of the magician’s hat. All this good work was not for naught, and the relationships formed at Art Walk are going to survive and transform us into the new decade. We thank all our wonderful collaborators, and can’t wait to see where the magic takes us next. Stay tuned to the Esotouric.com weekly email list if you’d like to join us.

    *

    MAJA D’AOUST (Philosophical Research Society): I had a tremendous experience working with Kim and Richard on Art Walk. I found them to be very accommodating, present and interested in ensuring everything went smoothly and safely, and extremely involved in all the proceedings. There were many personal issues and questions I had to ask them during the process, which they dealt with immediately and effectively every time. I found them to be courteous and concerned with everyone involved and constantly asked people if they needed help, volunteering their aid. I had a wonderful experience providing Salons for the Art Walk events and it was a direct result of Kim and Richard’s participation in them.

    STEPHEN COOPER (Professor of Creative Writing, CSU Long Beach): Working with Kim Cooper and Richard Schave on the November 2009 Los Angeles Art Walk John Fante Salon was a delight. From the time they originally proposed the idea, through several helpful phone and email planning discussions, and culminating at the SRO event itself on the third floor of historic Clifton’s Cafeteria, the experience was smooth and rewarding. All I had to do was show up and talk with an engaged and appreciative audience. Kim and Richard did everything else, with efficiency, smarts and class.

    MIKE THE POET (tour guide, author): Over the last four years I have had a ball leading tours through the monthly Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk. I have led tours though the Art Walk just about every month since March 2006, with the exception of the month I went on my honeymoon and two other months when I had important poetry gigs at universities. The tours have evolved from beginning on DASH buses to 55-passenger buses and most recently walking tours. Over the last year and a half I have had the pleasure to work with Richard Schave and Kim Cooper of Esotouric Tours. They are two of the only people I have ever encountered that love Los Angeles as much as I do. Collaborating with them on the Art Walk Tour has been an unforgettable experience. Their devotion to sharing the real Los Angeles is unmatched. Anyone that takes a tour with Esotouric (Richard and Kim) will receive a historically accurate tour as well as a damn good time. They are professional and still manage to be whimsical. A tour with Esotouric supersedes the typical boring tour and sheds new and fascinating light on the City of Angels.

    THESSALY LERNER – THE UKULADY (musician/ Hippodrome host): I worked for over 9 months on the Downtown Art Walk’s free shuttles and it was always a privilege and a pleasure to work with Kim and Richard. They worked their fingers to the bone for Art Walk, always unpaid and underappreciated. To blame them for any shortcomings of Art Walk is outrageous, shameful and misdirected. I was privileged to work with them for over a year and I admire the countless hours of energy and time they poured into the broken machine of Art Walk. I am particularly appalled that they have been misrepresented to have been contemptuous of seeking corporate funding to support programming. No one is more an advocate for artists to get paid than Kim and Richard and they were constantly brainstorming how to harness corporate funding. Art Walk is a huge event, and blaming Kim and Richard for public safety issues at largest public event within Skid Row is ridiculous. It’s like declaring Obama responsible for George Bush’s Iraq. Iraq was a mess long before Obama came around, as was Art Walk before Kim and Richard. Kim and Richard had many great ideas to make Art Walk more accessible and give it higher visibility amongst Angelinos, and it’s Art Walk’s and L.A.’s loss that the dysfunction of the Art Walk and Downtown community and Art Walk board seem to have caused their resignation. I hope that Art Walk’s board grovels at Kim and Richard’s feet, begging them to return, because their collective energy, creativity and dedication to art and artists, is unrivaled.

    JAVIER CABRAL (tour guide/food blogger): Working in conjunction with Kim Cooper and Richard Schave made my walking tour “The Rise of LA Food Trucks” become an overnight success.

    LUCAS GONZE (guitarist, Hippodrome performer): I had a great experience playing music on the Hippodrome during Art Walk.  There was a remarkable sense of community; people met and mingled in a way you’d never expect.  I especially liked the safety that the bus created for people who would otherwise have walked from one corner of the Art Walk to the other.

    MICHELLE MILLS (journalist, San Gabriel Valley Tribune): When I first learned that Richard Schave and Kim Cooper were taking on the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk I was intrigued, as it was a big task to wrangle. Since then, I have watched it grow and become a unique event revitalizing a too-often overlooked area of L.A. Schave and Cooper offered walking tours, a bus and other ways of making the event more interesting and informative for both those new and familiar with the area. It is Art Walk’s loss that the couple have resigned. I wish both parties the best.

    RUTHANN FRIEDMAN (singer-songwriter, Hippodrome performer): The Art Walk is linked forever in my mind to Kim Cooper and Richard Schave. It was their energy and enthusiasm that swept many of us along. They will be missed.

    SARAH TROOP (attendee): Schave and Cooper are Los Angeles treasures. The concepts and experiences they brought and implemented to the Art Walk were unique and unforgettable to anyone who has attended. Their mutual love and passion for Los Angeles, it’s history, it’s culture and certainly the people make me LOVE this city.

    JOHN TOOMEY (attendee): I have known Kim Cooper and Richard Schave for years and have been continually amazed at their organizational and managerial skills. They excel at the talents traditionally associated with non-profit arts organizations, and ALSO (which is rare) know how to manage a business. Their love for, and desire to share their delight in our city is unparalelled. Art Walk will be very, very lucky if it can find someone else of their caliber.

    ED ROSENTHAL (tour guide/poet-broker): Esotouric’s involvement in the Art Walk was refreshing and inventive. I loved doing tours from Clifton’s. I haven’t caught up on the politics, but to me the Art Walk is about downtown and its history, not about the galleries or the property owners… I enjoyed their involvement very much and my tours which they created were a great success.

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