When Aline Barnsdall commissioned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build the Hollyhock House, she had dreams of turning the property on Olive Hill into an ambitious art community and a modern theater colony. Barnsdall, the wealthy daughter of an oil baron and radical rebel, was ultimately disappointed with Wright’s Mayan-influenced creation, which clashed heavily with her own vision of an exquisite theater and residence. She eventually donated the Park to the City of Los Angeles on the condition that it remain a center for culture and the arts.
Though Barnsdall had to go through many battles to get her vision recognized, she surely would be elated to see the way Barnsdall Art Park comes alive every Friday night of the summer for the foundation’s wine tasting fundraiser. All profits from the fundraiser go towards supporting foundation programs, from free Sunday art workshops for families and children to making sure community members can rent the Gallery Theater at an affordable rate. The wine tasting fundraiser is the foundation’s biggest moneymaker, and is now in its seventh season, often selling out weeks in advance.
For $30 attendees get to enjoy a four-wine tasting curated by local boutique Silverlake Wines, and can keep their Barnsdall Park wine glass to take home. They can also opt to pre-purchase a cheese box from local cheese purveyor Say Cheese, or can feast on food from food trucks parked right outside the event, such as Heirloom, Border Grill, and Salt & Straw. Outside food is also allowed, so others can opt to pack their own picnic baskets from home. The night begins at 5:30 pm, and continues as the sun begins to set over stunning views of the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory. As the evening progresses the grass right outside the Hollyhock House begins to fill up with people laying down blankets, sipping on wine, and chatting with friends. KCRW DJs provide a backdrop of smooth beats throughout the night, while children and families get to take part in art workshops. The event ends at 8.30pm, though people often linger a bit longer to sit under the summer sky and kick off a weekend of relaxation that seems far away from the rush of typical LA life.
Perhaps the most unique draw of the wine tasting event is that for an extra $12, patrons can take a tour of the newly restored Hollyhock House. According to Jay Lopez, Events and Operations Director of Barnsdall Art Park, all other tours take place during the day with a group of 30 other people, and no photography is allowed. But for these summer Friday nights, tours are limited to just 10 people, photography is allowed, and you can experience the house with its original lighting, making for a much more intimate experience with one of LA’s architectural landmarks.
It may have taken many years and some hard-fought battles, but it seems Aline Barnsdall’s vision of creating a community cultural center for the arts in Los Angeles may finally be coming true, one glass of wine at a time.