Betsy Lohrer says she gets her inspiration from the heady combination of ocean and rugged coastline outside her Ft. MacArthur studio.
Six days a week, the 27-year-old artist works from this spot on the San Pedro headland at the Angels Gate Cultural Center, whose inhabitants are a creative colony of people that attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Known locally as "the gate," the nonprofit organization relies on the artists it attracts from throughout the country for its financial survival. About 40 artists rent the center's studio space, which is usually full.
The gate has three galleries. Each year it exhibits the work of about 60 Southern California artists. Much of the space is reserved for the work of emerging artists, but mid-career and accomplished artists also have showings.
Now the center is moving in new directions, gearing up to expand its activities and classes for the public. "We simply want to expand on what we already do well . . . for adults and children," said Jane Bledsoe, the center's new executive director.
The new classes include a six-week art workshop for children, beginning in July.
The center's current exhibit is "Four Artists by Nature," featuring Southern California artists William Leidenthal, Hilary Baker, Miki Warner, and Maryianne Saltiel. It runs through May 28.
A juried exhibition with works selected by Jay Belloli, a director at Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts, will run from June 11 to Aug. 6.
Annual events that are popular with the public include "Summer at the Gate," featuring a jazz concert and open studio tours. Scheduled for June 25, the festival usually attracts about 3,000 people.
The Gathering of the Elders, a four-day ceremony organized by the Native American group Iron Circle Nation, is held on the cliffs every October.
And every Tuesday night, a live model poses for a drawing class. The cost to the public is $5.
Bledsoe said the gate began as a grass-roots organization that has developed a solid reputation with artists and the community.
Artists were first drawn to the location in the late 1970s, when they took over 19 abandoned Army barracks and claimed the hilltop as their own.
In 1979, a group of local residents began talks with the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks to develop a cultural center, which finally opened in June, 1982, Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe said the gate is a vital bridge between artists and the community.
"Art plays a very, very central role in a society that is getting further away from its roots," Bledsoe said. "The role of art is going to be very important in the coming years."
The work of the artists who rent the Ft. MacArthur studios is as diverse as the individuals themselves.
Manuel Nunez, who has been at Angels Gate three years, is sought after for his work with acrylics and gold leaf on paper.
Hideo Sakata, a Japanese oil painter, exhibits his work all over the world.
The studio of Susan Rawcliffe is filled with beautifully crafted wind instruments, such as ceramic pipes and flutes.
Angels Gate Cultural Center is at 3601 S. Gaffey St. For information, call (310) 519-0936.