New era for business in Leimert Park

Within a month, a quiet closure and a successful opening on Degnan Boulevard

Michelle Papillion | Kevin Tsukii

Michelle Papillion at her gallery. | Kevin Tsukii

March 15 marked the first month of business for Papillion, a contemporary gallery created and run by Michelle Papillion. The art space opened amid construction on the neighborhood’s anticipated Metro stop and the Leimert Park Village Committee’s plans to restore the historic Vision Theater. The gallery is the first new business to emerge from the “renaissance” of Leimert Park. Despite the closure of a neighboring business and anticipated rent increases due to the neighborhood’s proximity to the light rail, Papillion said the cutting-edge gallery has been a success.

She called the first month “amazing,” explaining, “We had our grand opening on Feb. 15 and 500 people showed up…what happened at our opening was exactly how I envisioned it.”

Papillion added that the initial days of any business are especially tough because the period of time usually requires a higher overhead cost to establish the business and deal with unforeseen issues.

But as Papillion began to look forward to more successful months, Zambezi Bazaar, a family-owned shop and Papillion’s next-door neighbor, quietly closed its doors.

“I didn’t know they were actually leaving,” Papillion said with a surprised look. [Read more…]

Leimert Park art renaissance in bloom at Papillion gallery

Art by | Stephanie Monte

Art by Raksha Parekh at Papillion. | Stephanie Monte

“L.A. is a beautiful flower of art right now,” said San Pedro-based artist Stephen Scheffle at the opening Saturday of Papillion. The contemporary gallery and the newest addition to Leimert Park Village, part of local efforts to restore the neighborhood’s reputation as an African-American artistic hub.

Papillion’s first exhibit, called “OPEN,” showcases the work of artists at the beginning of their careers from all over the world: the U.S., Great Britain, South Africa and Angola. “OPEN” features a variety of fine art elements, including sculpture, drawings, paintings, installations and digital media.

In the main room, you’ll find an installation of caramelized sugar cane paper that hangs like rope, created by South African-born Raksha Parekh. Each string of actual sugar cane is carefully tied and aligned to create boat shapes, meant to symbolize slave ships that were used in trade, Parekh said. For her, Papillion’s opening show is about re-emergence.

Jeffrey Deitch, former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, said the exhibition shows artists “creating a fresh vision.” “This is just the beginning of something very big in this neighborhood and in the art world,” he said. “It will get international attention.”

Michelle Papillion, the gallery owner, said in a press release that she chose Leimert Park because the neighborhood has “its finger on the pulse” of the arts scene both locally and globally. “The historic, artistic and culturally rich legacy that this community has built is unmatched anywhere else in the city,” she said.

The building was once home to the Brockman Gallery, one of the first places to exhibit Black art in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the next few years Papillion aims to promote Leimert Park’s art renaissance by introducing a wave of emerging and high profile artists working together.

Visit Papillion at 4336 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90008. Its hours are 12 – 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and by appointment. “OPEN” runs through April 13.

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