The Los Angeles Design Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary from June 22–25 with LA County–wide design events under the theme “Design for the People.” Led by executive creative director Erika Abrams, the festival aimed to give a voice to communities that have been excluded or overlooked by the design industry and beyond. The event seemed to accomplish its mission, with many of the featured artists and designers representing a wide array of backgrounds, including several notable creatives from the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Schessa Garbutt of Firebrand—a Black and queer-owned graphic design studio in Inglewood, Calif.—who led a screen printing workshop and a short talk on Black, queer, and Indigenous histories and design.
Launched in 2011, the festival started as a small event but is now a series of several events, with the main happenings taking place in the Helms Bakery District in West LA and Long Beach’s Design District. In Long Beach, many creatives—including Demar Matthews, an LA–based architectural designer, writer, and principal of OffTop Design; and Kevin Sherrod, arts and culture Leader at Gensler in LA—were hosted by Studio One Eleven, a local architecture studio in Long Beach that believes in repairing existing cities. “Build it up, don’t tear it down” is the team's motto, according to a statement on their website.
Attendance at the festival was shy of 20,000 people and provided a platform for young artists like Julian Stephen—founder of the Law Enforcement Accountability Project, a creative online organization and fund that uses film, photography, music, and art to bring awareness to police abuse in Black communities—to speak and share their work.
The festival also helped visitors rediscover important voices of LA’s design past. Architect James H. Garrott, for example, who was celebrated at a festival site in downtown LA, was one of only two Black American architects working in LA during the Post-War era. The festival’s Radical Practice of James H. Garrott exhibition was the first ever to feature his work. He built more than 200 buildings in the city and was an important figure of the Midcentury Modern period. Garrott also designed the Blodgett Tract, a historical development of homes in Watts, Calif.
The focus of the festival was architecture and design, but it also featured interior design, graphic design, fashion, and costume design, to name a few. Renowned New York–based dancer Francesca Harper, who started her career as a principal at the Dance Theater of Harlem and was a ballet consultant on the film Black Swan, contributed an original piece to Stephen’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project. Photographer Steven John Irby’s photo essay 41’ to 99’, commemorating Amadou Diallo's death by 41 bullets at the hands of four New York police officers in 1999, was also part of LEAP.
Additional reporting by Sandy Sha.