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Barnsdall Arts Free Family Art Workshop

Did you catch the word FREE in the title?

With the exception of bikes, I am a notorious cheapskate. Evidence of this includes the fact that I have shoe-horned my family of four into a home that would easily qualify as part of the "small house movement." When it was built in 1924 it was simply called a "bungalow," but now apparently we're part of a "movement." I love living in a small house because it forces me to get rid of my wife's stuff that I don't really need. It's called simplifying.

Anyhow, my miserly heart flutters on Sunday mornings because there is a FREE art class in Los Feliz from 10AM to noon at Barnsdall Art Park (check the schedule). Every week the class explores a different theme based on art from around the world. As a bonus, Barnsdall Park is home to Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock house and panoramic views of Los Angeles. It's a great place for a picnic.

Did I mention that it's FREE?

There is a deeper reason why I love this class: My four-year-old pedals his own bike two miles to get there.

Let me explain: My dad died when I was seventeen. This did not come as a surprise to my family since Dad enjoyed eating and drinking far more than he enjoyed exercise. When I was a teenager, Dad was self-aware enough to know that he wasn't long for this world, so he spent an inordinate amount of time preparing me for adulthood. As we sat in fast food booths, he would tutor fifteen-year-old me on parenting, marriage, career, home purchasing, investments, insurance - things I wouldn't need to put into practice until decades later. I believe my job as a parent is to do the same: Prepare my child for life in the world without me (although I've added healthier eating and more exercise to Dad's list).

This does not mean my child and I replay scenes from the Great Santini on our commute to art class. There is no shame in my game. He simply knows that if he wants to go to art class he is responsible for transporting himself there. We didn't reach this place all at once, it was a series of baby steps. First, he learned how to ride a bike. Then we tentatively explored the sidewalks along Sunset Blvd. Eventually, I gave him a goal in the form of a question, "Would you like to try biking to Triangle Plaza?" He was stoked to give it a try. Once he reached the plaza (with me scouting every driveway and cross-street for cars), we celebrated his accomplishment. Then I tossed his bike onto my bike as he rode with me the rest of the way.

Each week I extended the goal until he made it the whole way. There was an appropriate amount of whining on his part as he walked his bike up the steep hill on which Barnsdall Park is perched; he is four after all. When he arrived at the top he immediately forgot that he was supposed to be grumbling. He was too busy celebrating his impressive feat of endurance. Later, he bragged to Mommy about biking himself to class. Every time he is responsible for transporting himself to art class, I see his self-esteem and independence grow brick by tiny brick.

A photo I took last fall on our way to art class. He had pedaled himself halfway that week. We high-fived then loaded him onto my bike.

Below are photos from the art class's Thai Head Dress Workshop. Other weeks we have worked on Hindu drawings, Norse mythology, jewelry making, Matisse paper cut-outs - the ethnographically diverse list goes on and on.


4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

It's located one block west of Vermont on Hollywood Blvd. Which means Barnsdall is also very close the Sunset/Vermont Red Line station if you'd like to take the subway and walk. The Vermont Rapid 754 bus also runs up Vermont Ave from the south and stops one hundred meters from the park at Hollywood/Vermont. We ride our bikes down Sunset until Hollywood Blvd splits off. Then we follow Hollywood Blvd. to the destination.

The class is a little difficult to find within the park. Go to the very top of the hill. Walk southeast from the Hollyhock House - through the courtyard with the conifers - until you see stairs. It's the first classroom on the right after you descend the stairs.

After art class, you you can tour the Hollyhock House for $7. It's open for tours from Thursday - Sunday from 11AM - 4PM.

Because idealogical consistency is for people who aren't parents, if you're traveling back toward Silver Lake along Sunset Blvd after art class, there is a McDonald's with a play area where your child will entertain him or herself while you ignore them in peace. All you have to do is tell yourself that an egg white McMuffin isn't THAT bad for your child and it's the only fast food meal they'll eat that week...(unless, of course, it isn't).

If you're feeling ambitious, the Griffith Observatory is just up the (long, steep) hill.

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