Tucked away between upscale organic markets and abandoned warehouses in downtown LA’s bustling Arts District, there’s a little slice of home designed to minimalist perfection. It’s a cozy, nook-like space filled with greenery and marbled pillows, where creatives come together to craft, connect, and be inspired. It’s called Communal, and when you set one foot inside, you won’t want to leave. If you set two, you very well may not. At least not until the weekly mediation session is over and the lights (and iPhones) turn back on.
Founded by the warm and welcoming Mariana Orkenyi, event producer, creative consultant, and plant hoarder extraordinaire, Communal first opened its big red fire doors last July, and has been bringing culture-hungry folks together for intimate, curated gatherings ever since. When it comes to hosting and cultivating a contagious energy that people just want to be around, there’s a thing or two to be learned from Communal’s proprietor. Like, that there’s an art to hosting a successful gathering. And that more plants are always a good thing . And that sometimes it’s important to detach from Instagram for a minute and “Be real and hug people and just say hi.”
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Mariana, a self-described “nomad,” has quite a few cities under her belt. Before settling down in Silver Lake with her husband and dog José, Mariana bounced around from Barcelona to Mexico City and then back to her hometown, where she was working as an Art Space Director at a prestigious gallery when she met her now-husband, LA artist Tofer Chin, who persuaded her to get hitched and move to Los Angeles. “When I first got to Los Angeles, I wasn’t so in love with it, but I was so in love with him I didn’t even care,” she says in an adorable Portuguese accent that has a way of making everything sound intelligent and romantic, like out of a movie with cartoonish birds chirping and woven picnic baskets and cobblestone streets. “It’s not a city you fall in love with immediately. It’s not welcoming like that. You have to dig really hard for it.”
It was during this digging process that the seed for Communal was planted. Rather than waiting for this city to accept her, she decided to be proactive and make it happen for herself. And thus, Communal was born, in big part to help unearth the rich culture of Los Angeles and bring it to the surface for others to dabble in and enjoy. Since opening, Communal’s calendar of events has been non-stop jam-packed. From a Kinkfolk gathering and screening of a documentary about coffee to gluten-free baking classes and workshops about fermentation, fertility, and vertical gardens, Communal’s diverse programming is reflective of Mariana’s own personality, which is curious and desirous of knowledge, but never extreme. “I don’t like to be radical. I’m not vegan or holistic. I like to know about it and use it how I want it,” she explains. Perhaps its the European and South American influence. “I think of Communal as my little culture center. In Barcelona, they have a culture center for each neighborhood that offers classes and workshops. It brings so much life to each neighborhood, and that’s inspired me so much.”
In the next few months, Mariana will launch Communal’s project development and event planning division, and will further integrate her arts background into her business model. From music festivals to exhibitions and small performances, she wants to do it all. “I really want this to a be place for people to get together, where they leave with a different experience. I want everything that happens to here—whether its a small workshop or screening—I want that to be a whole experience.” Whatever comes next, you can count on her heart being in it.