Next Stop; Bergamot Station
Stepping off of the Expo Line to arrive at Santa Monica College's new Center for Media and Design, can be very unfamiliar and confusing for students this semester. It is highly likely that students unfamiliar to the area might confuse Bergamot Station with their new campus. Since the new campus is very close to the station, it is easy to confuse Southern California’s largest single collection of art galleries for yet another satellite campus. With its numerous bungalows and wide open spaces, the official website itself refers to the grounds as “campus-like." Not only has Bergamot Station been in its current state as a sanctuary and breeding ground for art and cultural affairs for over two decades in Santa Monica, It may prove to be a welcome location for students from the CMD campus and beyond to rest, frolic, and take in the impeccable selection of exhibitions Bergamot Station has to offer. Whether they're a seasoned art lover or a curious passerby, Bergamot Station is quite the hangout.
The history of Bergamot Station dates back more than a century, with the name itself originally referring to a trolley station established in 1875. The Los Angeles Railway ran west to Santa Monica for several decades before the line finally closed in 1953. Bergamot Station’s website lists the various incarnations of the complex in the days following the shuttering of the railways, including a celery-packing plant and a factory for the production of water-heaters. By 1993, the station had fallen vacant, and the city turned to Wayne Blank, a developer and co-owner of the Shoshana Wayne Gallery at Bergamot Station. Blank was responsible for converting a hangar at the nearby Santa Monica airport into a space for artists. The city, being pleased with the work he had done at the Santa Monica Airport, asked Blank to find an artistic use of the empty property. The official reopening took place on September 17th, 1994.
Though housed on a particularly quiet stretch of Olympic Boulevard between Cloverfield Boulevard and Stewart Avenue, an area with very little foot traffic. Bergamot Station boasts an estimated 600,000 visitors each year, numbers that are very likely to climb with the completion of the Expo Line of early last year. Directly adjacent to the 26th St. Station for the CMD campus, the complex is nearly impossible to miss. Parking nearby Bergamot Station isn’t as bad as other areas of Santa Monica. With an SMC parking pass, students can simply park at campus and walk a single block.
Upon arrival, one may notice Bergamot Station's easy colors and quiet atmosphere. Its architecture retains the industrial feel of its historical usage. Bergamot Station is laid out in stylish disarray, with corrugated metal roofing, exposed structure and minimal windows. One needs only to step inside one of the calm, cool galleries spaces to experience the inviting, tall ceilings and low lighting. The art on display at each gallery ranges in styles and backgrounds, as do the galleries themselves. They highlight a variety of different voices and cultures, each aimed at illuminating a specific piece of the art world.
"There's such a diverse group of galleries," says Stephanie Mercado, assistant director at the Latin American Masters gallery, one of the many to be found at Bergamot. "I think one of the major strengths is because there’s so many galleries, not many people know about our gallery. Even though our gallery has been open for thirty years, a lot of times visitors will come to see another gallery and say, 'Oh, well I didn’t know you were here. I think that’s very significant. No competition because everyone has their own thing going."
Diversity is the quintessential aspect of what the Bergamot Station offers. Each gallery presents a different focus: the Latin American Masters gallery, for instance, exclusively shows the work of Latin American artists both contemporary and old. Currently displaying the work of Olga de Amaral, a Colombian textile artist whose genius incorporation of various materials and cultural influences results in astonishing art that blurs the line between the second and third dimension. Elsewhere in the complex, Revolver Gallery is an establishment concerned entirely with the work of Andy Warhol. The Gallery owns more than 250 pieces of his work, spanning multiple mediums and currently is showing a collection specifically curated for the 30th anniversary of Warhol’s death.
If patrons are hungry, thirsty, or perhaps just in need of a break from the art, Bergamot Cafe provides a quaint little location for lunch. They offer sandwiches, salads and variety of beverages. The patio outside is an excellent place to get a coffee and relax in the afternoon, particularly in the hot autumn afternoons Santa Monica has been experiencing as of late.
Overall, Bergamot Station is a worthwhile investment of one’s interest. Whether they are old or young, a dedicated patron of the arts or just looking for something to keep them occupied during the afternoon. Community members should consider hopping off the train a little early to see the best that Santa Monica has to offer in arts and entertainment.