The arts complex known as Bergamot Station dates back to 1875 when it was a stop for the Red Line trolley that ran from Downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier. After the trolley cars stopped running in 1953, the site’s warehouse buildings housed several entities, including a celery packing operation, an ice-making plant, and then a factory for manufacturing water heaters.
Later it was purchased by the city of Santa Monica for eventual use as a transit stop. While long-range plans for the light rail inched forward, the city worked with gallerist and developer Wayne Blank to convert the complex into an arts facility that opened in 1994. With the current, much-heralded launch of Metro’s Exposition Line, Bergamot is at last also a real transit station again, and it’s now possible to reach the arts complex easily via public transportation and to explore it—and the surrounding area—on foot or on bike.
Here are our suggestions for being blissfully car-free at Bergamot:
Within the realms of Modern and contemporary art there is a vast range of styles and genres, and you can explore many of them at the thirty-five galleries at Bergamot Station. Have a penchant for photographs? Be sure to visit Peter Fetterman Gallery, which has one of the country’s largest inventories of classic 20th-century photography, including work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Ansel Adams, André Kertesz, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Lillian Bassman, and many others. The Salgado exhibit ends this weekend, June 4 and a show by Neil Leifer (who photographed great athletes including Muhammad Ali)
If your interests veer southward, check out Latin American Masters, which specializes in works by Modern and contemporary Latin American artists including famed Oaxacan Francisco Toledo, fiber artist Olga de Amaral, and painter Rufino Tamayo.
The largest exhibition now on display through June 25th at Bergamot Station is William Turner Gallery’s Moses@90, the first comprehensive retrospective in twenty years of the work of iconic LA artist Ed Moses. The installation occupies two venues, William Turner Gallery and the space that was formerly the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and includes examples of Moses’ drawing and paintings from the 1950’s through the present moment. At the age of ninety, Moses inspiringly continues to paint every day, and his vibrant canvases convey an ageless vigor. Be sure to venture back into the former museum space to experience the room covered with canvases that he blankets either in primary-colored crackled paint or mirrored surfaces; it feels like you’ve wandered into a carnival fun house.
In addition to the fact that bikes are allowed on the Metro trains at all times, there’s also a spiffy new Expo Bike Path that runs along much of the Expo Line’s new phase—between Culver City and Palms and then between Overland Avenue and Colorado/17th Street in Santa Monica. Additionally, thirteen bike racks and eight bike lockers are situated at Bergamot Station, so you can secure your ride while exploring the area on foot.
Two Santa Monica city parks are about a half a mile from the station. To visit the under-the-radar Stewart Street Park, walk east from Bergamot Station beneath the semi-covered outdoor path through the 1800 Stewart Street office complex. Stone sculptures by Woods Davy and stainless steel sculptures by Adam Berg—both Los Angeles artists—dot the breezeway that leads to Stewart Street. The park it to the right, and offers a play structure, basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and lots of grass on which to kick back and relax. In August come for the city-sponsored Jazz on the Lawn concerts, where neighbors gather to enjoy live music every Sunday from 5–7 pm (but note the galleries at Bergamot are typically closed on Sundays).
To the southwest of the station is the larger Virginia Avenue Park, the first park in the nation to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. This park offers large play areas for children with a water feature called the Splash Pad (open Memorial Day through Labor Day) and the Pico Branch Library, which boasts a cool, open design by Koning Eizenberg Architecture. On Saturdays a delightful farmers’ market operates from 8 am until 1 pm, with fresh produce for sale and prepared food to eat on site, too.
Bergamot Café, located amidst the galleries atop the loading dock of the one-time water heater factory, is open Monday through Saturday and offers breakfast, lunch, snacks, coffee, and smoothies. They have plentiful outdoor seating, so you can usually have your pick of shady or sunny. If you take the above-mentioned stroll towards Stewart Street you can stop in for a bite at Lime (1800 Stewart Street), a healthy cafeteria-style café open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch.
For a mock excursion to Australia but also just half a mile from the station, walk or bike east to Stewart Street and head north to make a right on Nebraska Avenue. This out-of-the-way, light-industrial area in Santa Monica is now a favored locale for creative businesses, and you’ll notice a bevy of architecture offices, production companies, recording studios, and design firms quietly inhabiting the cool little warehouses along the street.
Here you can enjoy a meal at Bondi Harvest (1814 Berkeley Street), an Aussie-inspired eatery near the back of New Roads School and next door to Tastemade , the happening food and travel video content production company. Bondi Harvest offers healthy, casual dining inspired by the lifestyle of Bondi Bay, the popular beach near Sydney that is one of the most visited tourist sites in Australia. The vibe at Bondi Harvest is expectedly laid back, and you order your sandwich, salad, or bowl at the counter and then eat at the communal table inside or outdoors at a picnic table in the charming/rustic alley walkway along the side of the restaurant. No, you are neither in Australia nor Brooklyn, but it sure feels like it. Bondi Harvest is open Monday–Friday: 7 am–4 pm.
By Stacey Ravel Abarbanel