This year the Frogtown Artwalk honors two long-time residents and artists who have donated their time and efforts in support of multiple causes in Elysian Valley; helping to make this community the vibrant, arts-oriented neighborhood we all love so much. We reached out to Bob Berg and Janet Workman to learn a bit more about their backgrounds and what they love about Elysian Valley/Frogtown.
Robert (Bob) Berg
Newell Street neighbor Bob Berg was the first-born son of Frankie and T. Ralph Berg who came to sparsely populated Elysian Valley from Arizona in about 1942. He was born at home in March of 1944. A brother and two adopted sisters soon followed. He attended local schools—Allesandro, Washington Irving, and Marshall High—but rarely had time to take part in sports or extracurricular activities as he was required to help his father in construction and maintenance of the many rental properties his parents purchased through the 1950s and 1960s, as Interstate 5 forced the demolition or removal of hundreds of homes and businesses.
Without support or encouragement from his parents, Bob put himself through college and eventually earned a Masters in Public Administration from USC. A mentor encouraged him to enter law enforcement. He served with Costa Mesa Police Department for 22 years.
He married and raised his two daughters there, and later served the cities of Anaheim and Long Beach in security and emergency management positions. Throughout his early careers, Bob simultaneously served in the California Army National Guard for 23 years, retiring with the rank of Major. After his father’s passing in 1988, Bob often made the drive from Costa Mesa several times a week to care for his ailing mother. He returned permanently to the neighborhood in 2001. In 2018, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell honored Bob as Veteran of the Year.
Janet, an only child, was a beach kid, insatiable reader, and lover of languages. She spent a year in Brazil when she was 16, and went on to major in French at USC, class of 1968. Her original career goal was international relations, but that was abandoned when her high school sweetheart—later husband—was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21. Instead of foreign service, she became a high school French teacher, later transitioning to marketing.
She relocated from Redondo Beach to Pasadena in 1981, and began years of study of calligraphy, bookbinding, drawing and botanical watercolor. She served on various boards of directors, including a domestic violence shelter, a botanical artist’s guild, and the Society for Calligraphy. In 2000, she completed a training course to qualify as a member of the Docent Council of the Gamble House, where she offered guest tours for eight years.
Janet’s art interests expanded in 2008 to include stained glass and mosaic. Most recently, she has added wood assemblage to her artistic experimentation. Reflecting her love of reading and writing, she has volunteered since 2017 as the manager of the Friends of Silver Lake Library used bookstore.
It was on a Sunday afternoon following a shift at the Gamble House that Bob first invited Janet to visit “his neighborhood.” Knowing he had workers every weekend, she came bearing milk and homemade cookies.
Bob and Janet
They married in August of 2005, launching a lifelong partnership to make Frogtown the family-friendly, inclusive, safe, and welcoming neighborhood that Bob remembered from his childhood.
Despite some level of culture shock in those early years, Janet has fallen even more deeply in love, not only with Bob, but with her friends and neighbors, the LA River, and the vibrant lifestyle of Elysian Valley. Together, Bob and Janet have contributed to the development of the Elysian Valley Community Garden at Blake and Rich, the demonstration garden of FARM LA on Rosanna, the community services provided by LA Mas, and the girls’ volleyball team, Eagles, at the Elysian Valley Recreation Center.
Bob’s photographic skills and generous commitment of time have become legendary throughout Frogtown. His annual “Santa’s Pop-Up Photo Studio” offered family portraits to dozens of neighbors for many years. The price was a pledge of $10 to one of many worthy nonprofit programs in the community. An exhibition of many of his photographs entitled “Life Through My Lens” celebrated his 75th birthday at the Frogtown Brewery on Gilroy.
Janet and Bob contend that, by far, the most influential and joyful aspect of their seventeen years so far in the community has been the Frogtown Artwalk; the flagship project of the Elysian Valley Arts Collective. The biennial event is the highlight of each summer. The creativity, friendships, and inspiration offered by the Artwalk, its founders, and hundreds of contributors have become—for Bob Berg and Janet Workman—the treasure of a lifetime.