I was one of those kids who did creative and/or geeky things after school. I took an afterschool art class in the first grade (we experimented with all kinds of interesting media — it was the ’70s), took an afterschool class in simple electrical circuitry in the third grade (batteries and switches and light bulbs), took a disco dance class at a dance studio in the sixth grade (best not say too much about that), took the bus alllll the way up to a hobby store in Northridge to buy Dungeons & Dragons paraphernalia in the seventh grade, and so forth.
But one of the most formative experiences of my creative youth was taking pottery classes at Everywoman’s Village, the hotbed of ’70s do-your-own-thing women’s liberation on Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys.
The Village (not just for women, although mostly so) was like a cross between an ashram and the Learning Annex, with a dollop of macramé and a soupçon of consciousness-raising stirred in. They offered classes in all sorts of arts, crafts, and life skills, from the pottery and guitar classes I took to more practical skills like typography and layout. As importantly, in those late-’70s days when self-actualization was in the air, they embodied a vision of life that’s not so different from the Brooklyn of Etsy and homebrewed beer and curated moustaches. It was a place where people who had started off narrow, or with limited options, came to open their minds; the sorts of people I remember from my classes were like the women in 9 to 5 — which was a journey of self-actualization, too. The closest contemporary approximation I can think of is Brooklyn’s Third Ward, but the Village seemed much more politically charged.
Physically, Everywoman’s Village was a collection of modest beige stucco bungalows on an asphalt lot with some patches of scrubby grass, surrounded by cinderblock walls. (I’d call the style “High 1960s Community College Annex.”) It was a simple place, some studios and classrooms with metal folding chairs. But the vision transcended the surroundings. The colorful murals, like other wall art of the 1970s, put ideals and social commentary right in front of you in visual form. (Sandy Bleifer’s Can of Cardines, under the Hayvenhurst Avenue overpass of the Ventura Freeway, is from the same time period and only about two miles away.) And while on the grounds, you felt like you were part of a grand experiment in community — a crowdsourced place, back in the days when “crowdsourcing” required you to get an actual crowd all into the same place at the same time.
The Village is long gone — there’s a cheap-looking newish hotel on the site, verified by this Google Street View picture of the “Kauai Surf” apartment building I remember from just outside the back entrance to the premises, right behind where the pottery bungalow used to be, where my mom used to pick me up. But I think of it from time to time. It had a cameo in the script of Boogie Nights, so I know I’m not the only person who remembers it.
There’s not much left online, but the image above of “housewives on the way to practice yoga at Everywoman’s Village” will give you the flavor. More images from the same series here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.