How a Back Alley in DTLA Became a Street Gallery and Listening Lounge
– VOL. 12
In a city as sprawling and lively as Los Angeles, finding your community can be a challenge. “When you live in a walkable city, it completely changes how you relate to the city. So in LA, the biggest challenge, and biggest opportunity for Venn, is that you need a community,” explains Pallavee Trehan, one of our LA Neighborhood Managers.
When our Neighborhood Managers started planning the LA launch, they wanted to be intentional in how they hosted the first event. What started as a grab-n-go taco truck, turned into a neighbor-led, outdoor listening lounge.
“LA is about creating experiences… so we put together a plan for a lounge,” explained the local team, “We thought of LA as a home, so we wanted to create a living room outside, with rugs and couches, houseplants, records, and make this like a listening lounge experience.”
Outdoor furniture, blankets, fresh flowers, and string lights set the vibe and neighbors made themselves right at home.
With limited space and an abundance of vision, our managers got creative and hosted the event in an alley behind one of our Venn buildings—a space that had previously been populated with a few dumpsters and not much else. They were able to turn it into a beautiful space. Pallavee hired a handyman to put up string lights and got it power washed.
Our managers tailored each event to suit the neighbors in Hollywood and Downtown LA, alternating locations weekly. They chose vendors that highlight the local community, like LA institution Border Grill and Hard Pops, a woman-owned start-up. They also hosted giveaways for classic LA experiences like Lakers games.
What made each event truly special was our Venn neighbors, who were excited to get involved. “The only reason we’ve been able to make this happen is because our community wanted to partake… and be a part of the event in whatever capacity,” says Pallavee.
The team of neighborhood managers connected with a local artist who was inspired to paint a mural in the alley.
First up was a mural-painting event which turned into an immersive art experience. Then, the team hired a neighbor to DJ and later pulled in the addition of a local mezcal distributor, Lafayette Royale. Next, they identified another creative neighbor named Nick Gonzalez, who offered to capture the event in photography. When he saw the alley space, he knew immediately that he could turn it into a gallery wall for his photographs and other local artists.
“It was really cool for people to be able to see my work in a different aspect, in a different place, and being able to curate the space,” describes Nick, who showcased his photography in the alley space, “When I was able to capture the moment and see people living in their moment, not being on their phones and engaging with other people, that was very rewarding for me.”
The experience was very much from the ground up. A neighbor living in a nearby building offered to DJ.
“When we think about Venn, especially for the creators in our community, we’re a platform to share what we’re doing with the neighborhood,” Pallavee says. “So to be able to help someone that is also in the very start of their business, felt rewarding.”
For Nick, what made the event all the more meaningful was that it “created a space where people can be unapologetically themselves and focus on the intention of being at the actual space.”
Without fail, Neighbors would stay late, lingering in the alley space long after the event ‘officially’ ended.
Two months in, Venn programming in DTLA and Hollywood is now almost entirely neighbor-led, with neighbors eager to connect with each other and share their passions at events like mezcal tasting and movie nights. Some neighbors already knew each other but never knew that they lived in the same building.
Connecting people from all walks of life is what Venn is all about. “We’ve met every type of person, people who have lived in our building for 10 years and people who’ve just moved in… we have a really good understanding of the people who make up our neighborhoods, so we want to be intentional about how we connect and build that bridge,” explains Pallavee.
These events are the first of many, creating deeper connections within the local community. “We don’t want to have events that feel like we’re changing the neighborhood but events that are highlighting it—making space for the people that have been here and call LA their home, but also space for the people who want to make it their home,” continues Pallavee.
Our team in LA hopes that neighbors will be inspired to create their own events. “Someone came to our event and said, ‘Wow, you guys are bringing the neighborhood back,’” recalls Pallavee. We call that—the Venn effect.
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