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Downtown LA Scavenger Hunt Leads to Hidden Treasures

Leslie Velez |
September 20, 2011 | 1:58 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

 Leslie Velez)
Leslie Velez)
A walk in downtown Los Angeles this weekend revealed eggs on the sidewalk, a man who had lost his head, and pigs guarding bicycles.  

Typical, some might say, and as it turns out, none of these things is all that unusual and is all part of the city’s landscape.  

They were among a slew of other unlikely artifacts that were part of a lively seek-and-discover mission featuring extraordinary and largely unnoticed art and architecture in the city’s urban core.

Created by Out of the Box Events, a team-building business oriented toward the corporate crowd, and led by two friendly hosts, this “Seek Out Hidden Gems” scavenger hunt was designed to guide four groups (including my husband and me--we called ourselves “The Fervent Travelers”), directly toward a series of lesser—known landmarks through clues delivered at an secret starting location.  

The clues included a question that could be answered only by paying extra close attention to the structure to which they brought you.  Searchers were invited to explore the surroundings in which they stood, to read the wall plaques and signage everyone ignores, to look up and down and around corners, and then look again a second time. 

We found funny things.  Beautiful things.  Very odd things.  One building’s structural design plans were taken on at the advice of the architect’s brother—a brother who had been dead for six years.  Another particular theatre is marked with stone bones of an animal that is proof of the popularity of Westerns at the time it was built.  Did you know there is a circus ring in the middle of downtown Los Angeles?  

With a little sleuthing you can even find who would be sitting next to you at the show.  There’s a mural in town really ought to be hard to miss; it is a half-mile long, after all.  We read poetry written on the ground and found a place where you can “see” far back into time.  Somewhere there is an artistically-rendered fault line creasing the concrete.  Wouldn’t be Los Angeles without it, eh?  

Each location was like meeting a new person in a crowd.  Our scrounging around brought to light hidden signposts of downtown’s character, and there are yet more veritable legends around buildings, some that from the outside don’t look like much, and examples of brilliant artistic vision there for the finding.  Singular facades, statues, and sculptures show off downtown’s creative swagger, the real flair and personality of a neighborhood with an all-business, all-the-time reputation. 

Once the final scores were tallied, Team Fervent Travelers was not the winner of the scavenger hunt, although we did receive kudos for our photography of the sites we visited.  We left a greater appreciation for the works of the urban craftsmen and women who infused their talents into downtown Los Angeles.  Now, though, I feel sneaking suspicion that we saw only the tip of a creatively ingenious iceberg.  But no problem.  I know what to do to discover those hidden treasures: just take one more look around.




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