There’s nothing like learning about a city from those who know it best. We talked with Los Angeles artist Kenyan Armitage about her new mural, “Joy Will Prevail,” at AKA West Hollywood and the city that inspired it.
Kenyan Armitage’s Los Angeles
WT: Can you tell us about “Joy Will Prevail”?
Armitage: “Joy Will Prevail” is a vibrant large-scale mural I recently created for AKA West Hollywood, and it’s inspired by the notion of finding joy in the chaos. From the very beginning, I was already interested in delivering a message that was very timely and relevant because it’s easy to get lost in the darkness and in our own anxieties—particularly in the world we live in today. When Larry [Korman]—president of AKA—and I were brainstorming the idea for the mural, he mentioned living by the Louis Kahn quote, “Joy will prevail.” It made me smile when he brought up the quote because my dear friend had taught me the Swahili phrase “Mara Raha,” which means “All Things Joy,” and I knew Larry and I shared a similar mindset.
I think in these moments, we need to be reminded of that simple yet powerful sentiment. It’s important to remind people that we are much stronger than we think and that we have the ability to find joy, regardless of the chaos in the world. So I tried to imagine what that message would look like as a visual representation, and that’s how this mural was created!
The vibrant colors, paint splatters, and the movement emulate this feeling of overwhelming chaos, but of course, weaved along the colors and splatters are butterflies and the words “Joy will prevail.” My hope is to turn this statement into an affirmation mantra and a reminder for everyone that happens to pass by or lives at AKA West Hollywood to believe and trust in themselves that they are able to get through this.
WT: What makes the West Hollywood neighborhood the perfect location for this gorgeous mural?
Armitage: In my mind, West Hollywood has always been one of the top cultural and creativity hubs in LA. WeHo is known as “The Creativity City,” after all. I think it’s the perfect place to realize your creative vision and work. It’s also a very vibrant area and has always been a popular destination spot for both locals and travelers because of the nightlife and other entertainment venues. My hope is to spread this important message to as many people as possible, so choosing West Hollywood as the location for this mural is just very fitting.
WT: What do you love best about Los Angeles?
Armitage: There is always something for everyone here. Food, places, art, architecture, and of course, the weather – there are not a lot of cities out there that can top LA when it comes to cultural diversity. And there’s really no shortage of things you can do here. Concerts, museums, beaches, indie boutiques, hike spots – you name it. As an artist, I also find LA to be one of the best places that honor arts and creativity. You can find so many communities here that will support your work.
WT: Where are some of your favorite underrated places in LA?
Armitage: I’d say Franklin Canyon Park for hiking, Griffith Observatory for the best views in LA and Nat’s Early Bite for dining are some of my favorite underrated places. I also think people take for granted how accessible the desert and mountains are from LA. You can drive an hour and a half from LA and be in Big Bear or Palm Springs, which I think is one of the most special things about living here.
WT: If someone was visiting for the first time, where would you send them?
Armitage: I’d definitely send them though Kanan Canyon (a sunroof is a must!), where they would end up in the heart of Malibu. I’d recommend any stop along the Pacific Coast Highway—Zuma Beach—Tower 7, Little Dume, Santa Monica Pier, any rooftop bar and riding bikes in Venice. If they were looking for something more city-oriented, I’d suggest Sunday farmers markets, which are all over LA, as well as the Silverlake Flea Market, summer jazz nights at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the art districts in downtown LA for amazing food, art galleries and breweries.
WT: What’s your idea of the perfect night out in LA?
Armitage: My perfect night out would include a sunset drive with some good music or watching a sunset anywhere, followed by dinner at a new restaurant and then hitting up a venue for live music, dancing or comedy. The Troubadour and Black Rabbit Rose are great venues to experience live music, and Hotel Cafe is also a cool spot for amazing live music with up-and-coming artists. For dancing, a new favorite spot of mine is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang—a speakeasy disco club with a light-up dance floor and a great vibe. My ideal night out would also have to include Afro Funke events thrown at Townhouse Venice, which brings artists and music from all around the world together for a night of serious dancing. Another favorite of mine is Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre for a great intimate comedy experience.
WT: For travelers who have visited often and think they know the city pretty well, what are some off-the-beaten-path spots you’d suggest?
Armitage: LA is so big and has so much to offer. Although the bigger parts of LA are great and popular, I think there is so much to learn and experience from the smaller neighborhoods in the area.
Alhambra has the best dim sum and mom-and-pop shops. There’s also Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, which is one of my favorite places ever. Topanga Lookout has some cool graffiti, and the Wisdom Tree hike is also a special one.