LAUSD fails arts education test + Safe Halloween activities in South LA

LAUSD has cut arts programs dramatically and is now looking to reinstate programs. Above, Crenshaw High School.

LAUSD has cut arts programs dramatically and is now looking to reinstate programs. Above, Crenshaw High School.

Only 35 L.A. public schools get an A in supporting the arts: Budget cuts in LAUSD have diminished arts programs for students, but now the district is looking for new ways to reincorporate the arts into schools. (LA Times)

Families provided with safe Halloween across South LA communities: 25 intersections across South LA offered families the chance to enjoy a safe Halloween night in communities better known for violence. (ABC7)

The Father of Leimert Park, or the Octopus


Caldwell at a community meeting at Leimert Park | Sinduja Rangarajan

Ben Caldwell stopped in the middle of 43rd Street in Leimert Park, bent down, lunged forward, clicked a photograph and disappeared into the crowded street within seconds.

Something on the other side of the road had caught his attention.

This article was also published on KCET Departuresan online documentary series mapping LA neighborhoods through interactive portraits.

Perhaps it was the colorful quilted skirts swaying in the breeze in a makeshift clothing store, one of the many stands set up during Leimert Park’s monthly art walk. Perhaps it was the kids playing jump rope across the street. Or maybe it was one of the drummers tapping furiously in the drum circle by the fountain.

Caldwell never leaves home without his Canon DSLR camera, whether he’s going to a community meeting, a high-end innovation event at a private school or simply strolling across the familiar Leimert Park streets.

 “He documents everything, knowing things will have more value in the future,” said his daughter, Dara Marama Caldwell-Ross. “The value is not just monetary, it’s symbolic.”

Caldwell captures the world around him from behind the camera, but moves so quickly and quietly that he’s almost invisible. His customary faded black t-shirt and loose jeans don’t help him stand out either. But this low-profile artist is the tour de force of Leimert Park, a constant in this ever-changing community.

“He won’t like it if I say this, but he is like the father of Leimert Park,” said Maria Elena Cruz, an artist and teacher.

He calls himself an “octopus” with every tentacle working on a different assignment. In the last 33 years, he’s been a filmmaker, entrepreneur, ethnographer, documentarian, educator and community activist.  [Read more…]

Photoetry: A testament to the community

Photo credit: Sam Bendall

Photo credit: Sam Bendall

The concept of “photoetry,” the artistic combination of photography and poetry, was born eight years ago when two college students attended an art gallery downtown.

Professor and poet Hiram Sims, a USC undergraduate at the time, was inspired to have his own work hung for others to admire after seeing what another local artist could accomplish.

Nearly a decade later, Sims has revived the concept in his recent book, Photoetry: Poetry and Photography in South Central LA.

[Read more…]

Lynwood School District Hosts Music Appreciation Workshop

Inglewood welcomes growing art community

imageWhen Renée Fox moved to Inglewood five years ago, the local arts scene was starting to come into its own. She came for the reasons that many fellow artists moved to Inglewood—namely that rents in nearby artist enclaves were too just high.

“I thought about working in Culver City or Venice but getting a space there is so expensive,” Fox said. “And I had heard so much about this place. Inglewood has a great small town feel.”

Fox is now at the center of a burgeoning art community as the curator of the Inglewood’s Beacon Art Building. It is an unassuming structure off a busy section of La Brea Avenue; there was a series of commercial spaces there earlier. Inside is the familiar white box of a museum gallery, with artworks adorning the white walls. Right now, this is the only art gallery in Inglewood.

The building is the brainchild of Scott Lane, who saw the emerging art scene as a way to occupy– and beautify– many of the vacant building in the town. He found Fox through a Google search of local artists and hired her to run the space.

On the ground floor of the building is a gallery featuring work by up-and-coming as well as established artists. For the next few months, the exhibitions in the gallery will be guest-curated by prominent Los Angeles art critics.

Although Fox works within Inglewood’s tight-knit community of artists in town, she sees the work of the gallery as something that extends far beyond city limits.

“Inglewood is a very connected city, surrounded by so many freeways,” Fox says. “I don’t like to think of a show as being centric to any area. Right now we’re showing six artists. Five are L.A.-based; one is from Israel.”

Above the gallery are a series of lofts, where artists can rent space and create their works. Lane describes the situation in Inglewood as the perfect storm for an exploding scene.

“The high rents and the trendiness of many of the other artist areas are kind of a turn-off to the Bohemian class,” Lane said. “Since we opened it up a few years ago, it’s gotten bigger and bigger.”

Gentrifying areas through an arts scene has been a common theme for many of L.A.’s once derelict parts of town. Venice, Culver City, North Hollywood and most recently Downtown LA were all buoyed by incoming artists looking for a cheap place to rent space and show work.

It’s something with which artist Steve Hurd is very familiar. He’s been in Inglewood for 20 years and has seen many areas rise and fall from the movements of the creative class. But he’s impressed with what Fox has been bringing to the area.

image“Renee is part of this new renaissance over here,” Hurd says. “She fits in well with the older art community and the new people coming out of nearby art schools like Otis [College of Art and Design].”

Fox sees something special in the area beyond just a refuge from the higher prices. Inglewood, she says, is an area that embraces community and small business in a way that promotes independent establishments.

“I was so proud of the city for voting to oust Wal-Mart a few years back,” Fox says. “There is a great patchwork of different cultures that creates such an inspiring environment.”

Running a gallery is only half of her life in the art world. She also creates her own work—using colored pencil on paper as her medium. Fox aims for her artwork to be “conscious expanding and a reflection of our times” and focuses on depictions of the natural world. A recent piece, “Bad Seeds” is a series of pointillist images of tree seeds, bathed in the soft colors you might see in a California sunset.

Her work as an artist, though, is very different from the curating duties. When creating a show she takes pains to make sure that there is distance from her own pieces.

“We focus a lot on new genres and things like multimedia that push the envelope,” said Fox. “I love doing my own work, but it’s very satisfying when you can affect so many other artists.”

Images from an exhibit at the Beacon Art Building titled “Densities: Line Becoming Shape, Shape Becoming Object” curated by Peter Frank:

Photos courtesy of Renée Fox
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For a love of music, movies, and Michael

imageFor 15-year-old Justin Horton, music is more than just a pastime: it’s a way of dealing with hardship.

“It’s almost like when I sing a song that I know and like it will help get the pain out of me,” said Horton.

His sad experiences, or the “heavy stuff,” as Horton calls it, include the death of his uncle when he was four years old and the missing presence of his father. Horton’s dad has been in and out of jail, leaving Horton’s mother to raise two children alone.

“All my life my mom has always been there and my father hasn’t,” said Horton. “So I’m more close to my mom than I am with my dad. My mom knows how to care for me and cheers me up when I’m feeling sad.”

Horton loves to sing along to his favorites, especially Michael Jackson, when he’s feeling down. But he also loves watching movies with his mom.

Listen to Justin talk about singing his troubles away and being a movie buff:

In fact, it was a movie that inspired Horton to become a fan of Michael Jackson. He was introduced to the superstar through “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” a movie his mother suggested.

Horton is a big fan of the Jackson 5 and loves singing along to songs like “Who’s Lovin’ You.” But “You Are Not Alone” remains Horton’s favorite Jackson song.

“My uncle died when I was four so every time I hear that song I always remember that even though my uncle is dead, he will always be with me and that I’m never alone,” said Horton.

Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 came as a big shock.

“My heart was beating fast,” said Horton. “I know that he was a good entertainer and a good father, so I was just thinking what is his family going to do and how are his children going to get taken care of? Everybody was upset so I felt upset too.”

Listen to Justin sing, and discuss his love for Michael Jackson:

Activists seek new life for Downtown L.A. Theatre District

imageThe large electric sign that rose above Clune’s Broadway once read “The Time, the Place.”

Opened in 1910, Clune’s Broadway was one of the first two theatres built on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times described the theatre as “handsome” and “elaborate” upon its opening. Clune’s Broadway, which was also known as the Cameo Theatre, was built to be a “picture playhouse,” and that was what it remained during its 81-year-run as an operating movie theatre.

Today, Clune’s Broadway is no longer the “time” or the “place.” In fact, it is no longer a theatre. The seats are removed, the molding crumbled and the interior littered with boxes and unsold electronics.

Clune’s Broadway stands in the heart of Los Angeles’ historic Theatre District. The district is home to 12 theaters, many of which are shells of their former selves. The majestic buildings once awaited hoards of theatre-goers. Now, they prove mere interruptions to a landscape of magazine vendors, second-hand watch stores and lingerie shops.

The Tenth Wonder turns trash into treasure

This project was produced during an Intersections/Metamorphosis community reporting workshop. For more information please email [email protected].

Narration by Jimmy Dixon with photography by Albert Aguilar

Visit “The Tenth Wonder” at 1145 W. 62nd Street, Los Angeles CA 90044

Want to see what participants in our workshops have produced? Check out “Finding identity at the Center of Afrakan Spiritual Science” or visit our “From the Workshop” section.