The Muse of El Segundo
After opening a gallery on Main Street in 2014, artist Holly Socrates engaged her creative new community and helped launch the El Segundo Art Walk—which recently enjoyed a successful second summer. Holly guides us through the art, style and synergy of the city that inspires her.
Photographed by Monica Orozco
AFTER THE EL SEGUNDO MUSEUM OF ART opened a few years ago, Holly Socrates quickly zeroed in on the potential of the quiet but eclectic region of the South Bay. When a corner location came up for rent just two doors down from the museum, she jumped in.
“To tell you the truth, I had no idea what I was about to discover in terms of artistic culture,” she admits. But presented with an empty canvas, an artist must paint. And so she did.
With the presence of a high-caliber museum, local artisans and enthusiastic art patrons, the warehouses and storefronts of the “smoky” streets just north of Chevron began filling up with galleries, studios and restaurants. “Out of all the coastal cities, it’s El Segundo that lends itself to the arts,” says Holly. “The city has blue-collar roots and a small-town feel.”
With its red brick buildings—many intact from the early 1900s—and old manufacturing warehouses repurposed into creative studios, there’s a unique preservation and appreciation of history that certainly stands out. “I think artists are attracted to that,” she adds. “El Segundo doesn’t try to be cool. It just is.”
Both art and fashion have strong roots in Holly’s own family history. Her grandfather worked in the textile business in Europe, and he was also was a fine art oil painter.
“I grew up in a home where creativity and problem-solving were modeled and encour-aged,” she shares. “After college I worked in the fashion industry in Los Angeles for over a decade as merchandiser, designer and wardrobe stylist. Style and art intersect for me in a lot of ways. I’m such a ‘curator’ at heart. I love to put things together that work well together—whether it’s shoes to a dress or artists to venues at the art walk.”
As a small business owner of the Holly Socrates Gallery, she did much of the work herself to transform the space—including painting and scraping tint off windows.
“As I was working, often wearing my yellow dish gloves, my neighbors stopped in to welcome me to the neighborhood,” she remembers. “Aside from being incredibly friendly, I realized that each one of these business owners were in some sort of creative industry. The more people I met, the more I discovered. Around every corner there was something completely unique … and cool.”
Holly came up with a rough idea of an art walk and thought, “If I could get a dozen or so of these creative minds in a room to have a conversation, something great would come out of it.” Luckily it did. The El Segundo Art Walk just completed its second engagement this summer and will return again in 2017.
“I enjoy the people the most,” shares Holly, who personally showed us around the July installment of the event. “Everyone seems to have a smile on their face and are enjoying themselves … from the business owners to the artists to the patrons. It’s great to be around that.”
With an open house/studio tour vibe, each venue at the art walk is a creative local business. We stopped in photography studios, art galleries, production houses, as well as workshops for furniture, motorcycles and interior designers. With more than 30 venues and 50+ artists to engage, it can be a busy event.
HERE WE HIGHLIGHT A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE STOPS, MANY THAT YOU CAN ENJOY ANY TIME OF THE YEAR.
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine
Appropriate that a distillery by this moniker would open its West Coast headquarters here in Smoky Hollow. The building becomes quite lively during the art walk, which happens to time perfectly with happy hour shenanigans. Made from a 100-year-old recipe, the Appalachian brew comes packaged in mason jars and a variety of flavors, including the Original Unaged Corn Whiskey, White Lightnin’, Moonshine Cherries, Blackberry and their world-famous Apple Pie. olesmoky.com
El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA)
The cultural hub of the El Segundo arts scene, this incredible museum continues to surprise and inspire with cutting-edge exhibits and a formidable permanent collection. Since opening in January 2013, ESMoA has functioned as a catalyst for creative thinking and expression, sparking the light of inspirational sources while embracing creativity in a broad sense that distinguishes it from classic museums. 208 Main Street, esmoa.org
Old Town Music Hall
A treasured cultural landmark, this historic venue has hosted classic film screenings since 1968, not to mention notable jazz and popular music concerts. The main attraction is the Mighty Wurlitzer, a massive 1925 wind-powered pipe organ that has been meticulously preserved so silent classics can be experienced with live musical accompaniment, just as they did when they were first shown. It’s something you really have to see and hear to believe. 140 Richmond Street, oldtownmusichall.com
A blissful afterlife for airplanes. Since 2001 MotoArt has been turning vintage airplane parts into dazzling custom furniture, art and more. Just stepping into their massive warehouse in Smoky Hollow is like a time warp to an era when chrome was king and passengers flew with style. It’s satisfying to see these amazing artifacts live on in masterful and lovingly created pieces. 119 Standard Street, motoart.com
South Bay Custom
What MotoArt is to planes and nostalgia, South Bay Custom is to motorcycles and music. Part custom motorcycle shop and part art gallery and music venue, this awesome outpost does double duty with function and fun. Whether your ride needs service or you want to serve a party of 50 for a raucous event, this unique and eye-catching venue has you covered. 115 Penn Street, southbaycustoms.net
El Segundo Brewing Company
Leasing their space on Main Street in 2010, founder Rob and his crew put hops front and center in their local brew, producing more than 400 barrels a month. Their taproom features a rolling roster of drafts, all made fresh right next door. 140 Main Street, elsegundobrewing.com