Tommii Lim: A Fashion District Mural + Exhibit
#ICYMI, there’s a new mural in town! Let’s meet the local masterminds who brought this 2,000 square foot work of art to life — artist Tommii Lim and Ariana Nussdorf of AYAN.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourselves. How did you two become partners?
Tommii: Born in Seoul Korea, Came to SF at the age of 2 then LA at the age of 6. Lived and worked in DTLA for the last 12 years. I formed a friendship with Ariana while living down here. When Ariana came up with the idea of creating this community project a few years back, I was all in.
Ariana: I came to LA from NYC in 2006 and settled in the LA Fashion District in 2011. For years, I dreamt of producing a communal art project lead by locals to unite the diverse spectrum of people and businesses within the Fashion District. Tommii Lim was the right artist for the project. Not only is he deeply rooted in the Fashion District, but his impressive body of work has earned international acclaim. His murals are especially appealing because they’re entirely black and white and once outlined, can be filled in by anyone with a desire to help participate in their creation, opening up the possibility for the public to take part in it.
2. Tommii, what inspired you to become an artist?
Cartoons, comic books, music, movies, books and life is what pushed me in my journey for the need to create. At a young age I knew art was what I had to do. Entered a drawing contest when I was a child and got disqualified because they thought I cheated and some adult made the piece for me, that was when I knew this is what I’m going to do with my life.
3. Ariana, what is the story behind AYAN? What goals do you have for it?
When I moved to the Fashion District eight years ago, I fell in love with its deep history and rich culture and was inspired to be a part of its resurgence. I spent years volunteering within the community and helped with several Fashion District BID projects. The previous Executive Director of the BID, Kent Smith, suggested that I run for a seat on the Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council and when I did, I was elected to serve as the Fashion District Resident Director. It was a natural progression to formalize my passion for community into a startup, so while I was producing the mural and Mural Party, I created AYAN. AYAN is a community enrichment organization and our goal is to consult, connect, and produce for the people and businesses of Downtown L.A., especially in the Fashion District.
4. How did the design for the mural come about?
Tommii: The design of the mural is a snapshot of the creators that we are surrounded with in the Fashion District.
5. Thoughts on the mural party? Did it meet your expectations?
Tommii: Yes it did. Not only was the mural party strong in community participation, but also throughout the whole process. Community members and fellow artists from Bloody Gums Collective helped me paint during the week leading up to the event while others donated their services at cost or for free — Brand Sign Co. created signs & postcards for us, Pizzaboyzzz make enamel pins and Blue Hill Studios donated handmade screen prints of the artwork. It was an amazing way for people in the neighborhood to get to know each other while creating a piece of art for our community.
Ariana: The Mural Party was everything I hoped it would be. I was able to unite my eclectic community through an inclusive, cultural experience that leaves an iconic mark on our neighborhood. So many people and local organizations joined me to make this happen, which is a testament to the collaborative spirit within this community. The DTLA-based public art nonprofit NOW Art was instrumental in managing logistics for the mural, and Contemporary Cultural, a local marketing and event production company, played a key part in coordinating the Mural Party event. We received tremendous support from L.A. City Council District 14, who not only helped us secure funding from the City of L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs, but provided essential resources for the event. We also received generous contributions from the Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council, the LA Fashion District BID, and many property owners, residents, and local businesses. Additional funds to keep the Mural Party free and inclusive were raised through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and several volunteers that helped the event run smoothly. It was truly extraordinary to see so many people throughout the community and beyond believe in my vision and come together to make the Tommii Lim Mural and Mural Party a success.
There was a particularly impactful moment during the Mural Party that stands out for me. When I was painting the wall, I looked around and saw so much diversity: families, young couples, individuals, people of various ages and races, all uniting over a creative project with an acclaimed local artist. Derrick, a particularly appreciative participant, told me that he has terminal cancer and is homeless, but that it meant so much to him to spend the day painting with others. I feel so energized by the success of this project and am already looking forward to the next venture.
6. What’s next?
Tommii: I just wrapped my solo exhibition ODDMANOUT at Avenue Des Arts gallery. I will be going on a mural tour painting large scale pieces in SF, DTLA, LA, Columbia, Mexico and Japan. I also just released various brand collaborations in Japan this month, including a new energy drink called Kiiva, and my second season with premium Japanese Golf Brand Mark & Lona. You can follow my projects on my Instagram and my website — where I will be relaunching my new online store soon.
Ariana: I’ll continue to consult, connect, and produce through AYAN. To discuss possible projects, I can be reached at Ariana@ayan.la. I encourage people to see what we’re up to by following AYAN on Instagram and liking us Facebook at AYAN.
BONUS: See a timelapse video of the mural coming to life here.
Photography courtesy of AYAN, Dean Paul De Leon, Tommii Lim, and Chase Montgomery.