Complaints about drumming “noise” lead to popular art walk

Leimert Park event draws hundreds


Musicians jam at the Leimert Park Art Walk in 2019. (Rosio Flores/Community News)

Rosio Flores, Community News Reporter

For years, Leimert Park residents complained about “the noise” coming from a local drumming circle.

That’s what led Ben R. Caldwell to help organize the first Leimert Park Art Walk ten years ago.

“This neighborhood didn’t understand its relationship to the drum, so they were saying, ‘We should stop the drummers from drumming because they make so much noise,’” said Caldwell, a co-founder of the KAOS Network – a media production facility that works with universities on projects. “So what we chose to do with that, is to say, ‘Let’s see if we can…educate the people.’”

Now, the art walk, which focuses on African American art and culture, is a monthly event at Leimert Park Plaza, better known in the community as the “people’s plaza.” On a recent Sunday, the scene at the event was vibrant: Half a dozen people drummed in a half circle. Kids danced to the rhythm. Parents and others cheered them on.

More than 100 people were in attendance at one point in the afternoon, some stopping by to enjoy the music while others purchased produce, handmade clothes, jewelry, food and art from vendors and phantom pop up shops. Over the course of the day, the event typically draws hundreds – and sometimes thousands, depending on the theme or season, Caldwell said.

“People from the community can come and learn more about African American culture, the vendors rely on the community and the community relies on the vendors, too, in a way to educate them,” said Cindy Cruz, a West Adams resident, as she perused handmade paintings and clothes with a friend.

There’s a theme to each Leimert Park Art Walk and this one celebrated George Washington Carver, who invented hundreds of items involving peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. Carver’s belief in sustainability tied in well with some of the handmade goods for sale as earrings made of bottle caps.

Caldwell said, “There’s a [role] that artists have…in educating the community.” In Leimert Park, that education seems to be happening at least once a month.

The next art walk theme is the indigenous people of Africa. It will be on Feb. 24 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is held every last Sunday of the month.

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]