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About 18th Street Arts Center

Our Vision

18th Street Arts Center is one of the top artist residency programs in the US, and the largest in Southern California. Conceived as a radical think tank in the shape of an artist community, 18th Street supports artists from around the globe to imagine, research, and develop significant, meaningful new artworks and share them with the public. We strive to provide artists the space and time to take risks, to foster the ideal environment for artists and the public to directly engage, and to create experiences and partnerships that foster positive social change.

Our Mission

Our mission is to provoke public dialogue through contemporary art-making. We believe that:

  • Art making is an essential component of a vibrant, just and healthy society
  • Creative action is a vital part of individual wellbeing
  • Humanity benefits when artists are valued

Please visit here to view our core values and most recent strategic plan.

Our History

Founded as a non-profit in 1988, 18th Street Arts Center has a long history as a space for artists. It originally served as studio space for a group of feminist artists in the 1970s – 80s, including Susanna Bixby Dakin (who ran for President in 1984), Judy Chicago, Barbara T. Smith, Linda Frye Burnham, and others. It became a hub for the West Coast arm of ACT-UP, an activist grassroots organization addressing the AIDS crisis, and was home to three of the NEA Four (Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes). It also grew out of early performance art, and was the site of publication for High Performance Magazine, and later, Highways Performance Space (still located on the 18th Street Arts Center campus). Once 18th Street incorporated as a non-profit, it became an artist residency program with a wide range of public programs and exhibitions.

With performance art, activism, social justice, feminism, and the gay rights movements in its DNA since the beginning, 18th Street has continued to foster and support the work of many of Los Angeles’ most engaging and diverse artists, and has built bridges to like-minded artist communities around the globe.

To learn more about the many diverse voices and projects that molded 18th Street over the years, please enjoy this series of mini-essays from our 25th Anniversary catalogue about groundbreaking and influential projects that helped pave the way for what 18th Street is today.

18th Street provides a hub for contemporary art through three program areas that reflect its mission:

1) A three-tiered Residency Program that fosters inter-cultural collaboration, dialogue, diplomacy through art, and mentorship and networking for artists;

2) A Public Events and Exhibition Program that focuses on engaging the public and revealing the art-making process through exhibitions, events, talks, publications and other opportunities;

3) And a robust Community Engagement Program (including our Arts Learning Lab series and Culture Mapping 90404 local oral history project), which seeks to center traditionally decentered voices and challenge our notions of “expertise,” providing art-making opportunities and a platforms for the vibrant art practices all around us.

Our Residency Program has three parts:

  • Long-term residencies of 1-3 years for local Los Angeles-based artists at both our 18th & Olympic and Airport Avenue campuses.
  • Organizational residencies, for non-profits who have helped to define the character and scope of the organization
  • Visiting international artist residencies, for national and international visiting artists and curators who live at 18th Street for 1-3 months.

The Public Events and Exhibition Program features a series of presentations guided by 5-year long themes, with annual sub themes. They comprise year-round solo and group shows, talks and events at the Airport Campus (in the Airport Gallery and the North/South Galleries), at the 18th Street Main Campus (in the Atrium Gallery and Artist’s Hearth), and on our website and social media platforms.

18SAC’s Community Engagement Program encourages artists to explore engagement in the public sphere and to develop community-focused projects in collaboration with local partner institutions, community leaders, and community groups in Santa Monica. Key events and projects include Culture Mapping 90404, an interactive website and archive, our Arts Learning Lab series of online and in-person art-making opportunities with professional artists, and our Pico Block Party, a semi-annual festival that brings together Santa Monicans and visitors from other municipalities and countries.

18th Street Arts Center’s Artist Residency Program has hosted more than 600 artists from dozens of countries around the world since it first began in 1992, and currently includes nearly 60 local artists at its two campuses. The program also includes artist professional development, intergenerational mentorship, networking, and support for self-organized artist projects emergent from this dynamic community. Over the past 31 years, more than 8,000 diverse visual and performing artists have participated in programs at 18th Street Arts Center ranging from group and individual exhibitions to special events and presentations.

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