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Metropolis / So SoCal

Attention Folk Art Shoppers

September 05, 2004|MARGARET ASTON

The corporate world is catching on: Art is exhilarating. Of course, "corporate" in this instance means the gourmet-healthy bobo grocery chain Trader Joe's, where the black chalkboards used to spotlight products have recently "evolved into bigger works of art," says marketing vice president Pat St. John. These days, elaborate tableaux are executed in chalk or acrylic by local artists and store employees doubling as on-the-job Michelangelos. Chalk works, wall murals and arty product tags are made on-site. Freelancers snag gigs by word of mouth; a recent posting on the company website offered $9 per hour for artwork at the Pasadena store.

At the West Hollywood outlet, cashier Adolfo Haro does anthropomorphized sushi characters and weeping onions, and he has made about 300 unique price-tag templates for food items along with some chalkboard art. "It makes it fun to come to work," Haro says. In Studio City, staffer Wendy Heard does geisha girls and lotus blossoms in acrylic for wall murals, with the store's back lot doubling as an art studio. "It's not glamorous," she says.

Art Center College of Design graduate Tom Steck's contributions include a South Seas-themed wall mural that immortalizes staffers at the Burbank store as pirates and a mermaid. The best part, he says, was when a customer thanked him for adding something beautiful to the world. Aw, shucks.

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