"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
The above Elbert Hubbard phrase may easily be perceived as a no-brainer. Similarly, it's not unusual for coffee beans to be transformed into a tasty cup o' Joe.
What may not be such a no-brainer: life giving you an abandoned pedestrian tunnel and choosing to clean it up to transform it into an art installation. Yet such is the brain child of Yancey Quinones, owner of the open since Labor Day 2009 Antigua Coffee House, 3400 N. Figueroa St. (corner of Figueroa and Loreto St.) in Northeast L.A.'s Cypress Park neighborhood and director of the Cypress Village Tunnel Art Walk (CVTAW).
Yancey Quinones grew up in the Cypress Park neighborhood. Beyond his commitment to Antigua Coffee House to offer the best coffee and tea; this coffee house was created with a vision of being a place where people can meet, network and organize the old fashioned way: face to face.
Across Loreto St. from the coffee house is one of the 200 plus pedestrian tunnels (click here to view a map of L.A.'s tunnels) that were created in the 1920s and 1930s. These tunnels were built as a solution to the city of Angels' growing number of child pedestrian deaths that were occurring on the city's streets (click here to view a photo of a completed tunnel being utilized as it was intended to be used).
According to the July 9, 1987 Los Angeles Times article by staff writer, Denise Hamilton
"Pedestrian tunnels built in the 1920s and 1930s as a way across busy streets have become smelly, dangerous lairs for gangs, graffiti artists and drunken slumberers."
From the beginning Quinones had a vision for the corner of Figueroa and Loreto, which he sometimes jokingly refers to as "his corner" and the tunnel as "his tunnel". His story, the open tunnel and Cypress Village Tunnel Art Walk is one of persistence and patience.
With the assistance of Jose Gardea, chief of staff of former Cypress Park council member Ed Reyes and an approved Cypress Park Neighborhood Council grant for $9,000 the first Cypress Village Tunnel Art Walk became history on Saturday, May 11, 2013.
The CVTAW, which is also sponsored by Fine Art Solutions (3559 N. Figueroa St.) is now a monthly event occurring every second Saturday of the month from 6 to 10 p.m.
In December Modern Multiples Fine Art Studios, owned by Richard Duardo, chose Quinones' tunnel to be the first gift of many more to come Gift of Public Art community-based projects due to Modern Multiples recent launch of their Inkubator Arts Program in collaboration with Artists for Trauma (AFT).
Tunnel project curator, Luna George, coordinated CVTAW's December art exhibition which featured 200 ft. of public art by local artists, including a wheatpaste installation of past street campaign posters by OBEY artist, Shepard Fairey. (Please click here to be directed to the press release and a gallery of photos from this event.)
All of the art from December's installation is being kept intact through and including the June 2014 Cypress Village Tunnel Art Walk.
January 2014 CVTAW exhibited art by Kim Tucker. This was the first LGBT exhibit for the art walk.
February 2014 CVTAW found art walk attendees treated to the original photography which made its way into the HEART ON calendar. HEART ON was founded January 2009 by Martha Carrillo, a visual artist, designer and mom. With the money raised HEART ON was able to print their zine, which was made available at the 2014 Los Angeles Zine Fest held at Helms Bakery, 8703 Washington Blvd.
The March 2014 CVTAW will be March 8 and feature art from students from nearby Highland Park.
For those who don't mind a half mile walk, Antigua Coffee House and the CVTAW is accessible by L.A. Metro system's destination, Heritage Square Gold Line Station, 3545 Pasadena Avenue.