Category Archives: Blog

Literary L.A.: Places, Spaces and Faces

It’s almost time for the 4th DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST here at Grand Park. This year, there have been even more ways to celebrate literature than ever with #SpringtimeReads. Look forward to bookshops, kid’s performances, readings, and panels – all of which center around Los Angeles and the theme “Places, Spaces and Faces.”

It goes without saying, the bookworms are excited about Downtown Bookfest. With over 30 independent presses and publishers on display in the Pop Up Bookshop curated by Writ Large Press, three stages for readings, panels and children’s performances, a dedicated children’s bookshop, and activities with some of the best literary organizations in L.A., why wouldn’t they be.

With this celebration of words, we wanted to crack open L.A.’s writers to see how their love of language and their love of L.A. live together. Here are a few glimpses:

Photo by Javier Guillen

Photo by Javier Guillen


David Kipen’s literary is career is quite expansive. He is not only the founder of Libros Schmibros, a teacher in UCLA’s Writing Program, and Critic at Large for the Los Angeles Times, but he is also the NORTH LAWN STAGE curator at Grand Park’s Downtown Bookfest.

DW: What is your favorite place to read in Los Angeles? 

DK: On a surfboard. Off Playa del Rey. Preferably in a pod of dolphins. In this context, my lifelong inability to surf might seem, at least at first, a disadvantage. And yet experienced surfers have proven singularly disinclined to read while surfing. I can only assume that surfing experience is, if anything, a disincentive to waveborne literary enjoyment. All surfing teachers interested in an eager if distractible pupil are hereby entreated to get in touch.

DW: What is one of your favorite places to write about in Los Angeles? 

DK: Just the next one. Just now I’m working on a Times op-ed for opening weekend of the Expo Line. Writers seldom get to choose their own headlines, but I’m thinking of it as “’When We Reach the City’: Ray Bradbury, L.A. Urbanism, and Stations of the Crosstown Train.” Which may help explain why writers seldom get to choose their own headlines. So my favorite L.A. place to write about at the moment is anywhere you can sit, nosh, bask, and watch the trains go by. Candidates include Goldstein’s Bagel Bakery in Arcadia, Cemitas Poblanas Elvirita in Boyle Heights, Nicole’s in South Pasadena, and now The Coop Pizza at Palms and National. All L.A. hungry ferroequinologists with ideas of their own are hereby entreated to get in touch.

DW: Who is your favorite L.A. writer? 

DK: My favorite L.A. writer is always the next one — even if he’s ten years gone, like the L.A. historian, John Cheever pen pal and Central Library savior John D. Weaver. Or screenwriter Mayo Simon, who wrote my some of formative favorites, like Why Man Creates, Phase IV and Futureworld, and who’s still kicking out there somewhere. Or Geoff Dyer, who just got here, and will be fun to watch as he discovers the city. All unbought champions of unsung L.A. literature are hereby entreated to get in touch.


Lou is an LA writer who has done just about everything you can do with a pen. As a novelist, his breakthrough LA Breakdown was honored by LA Times as 1999’s ‘Best Book’. As a journalist his work has appeared in LA Magazine, LA Times, Mother Jones and LA Weekly. His screen and stage plays have graced local theatres and international festivals alike. As an educator, Lou teaches for the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program and has been a National Endowment for the Arts fellow in fiction.

DW: What is your favorite place to read in Los Angeles? 

LM: For a writer that’s a two part question, there’s the reading you do and the readings you give.  I love to read late at night, when the house is quiet.  Usually at the dining room table.  When I read my work aloud, two favorites, Skylight Books, my home-bookstore, and the auditorium at the Skirball Center, where I read once a year for the UCLA publication party.  Best acoustics in town.

DW: What is one of your favorite places to write about in Los Angeles? 

LM: Two neighborhoods, one real, one imaginary.  Toonerville was where I spent most of my time when I was a kid, most of my friends lived there.  It’s a neighborhood bordered by Los Feliz Boulevard to the south, the L.A. River to the west, San Fernando road to the east and roughly Colorado Blvd to the north.  The imaginary neighborhood, which I’ve been writing about for thirty years, is Shaky Town, which is also the title of a book I’ve just finished.  Shaky Town, as I said, is an imaginary neighborhood, which means I’m not bound by actual boundaries, but it is roughly based on two real neighborhoods, Glassell Park and Highland Park, where I went to high school and misspent my youth.  My first novel, L.A. Breakdown, about illegal street racing in Los Angeles, mostly takes place there, centering on the monumental Drive-in restaurant, Van de Kamps,  at the corner of San Fernando Road and Fletcher Drive,  which was the central hub for street racers in the 1960’s.  I loved the neighborhood growing up and that affection abides.  Great taco trucks and restaurants, great street scene, great people.

DW: Who is your favorite L.A. writer? 

LM: I can’t answer that with one name.  A lot of great writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Budd Schulberg, lived here and wrote about the place.   John Steinbeck lived in Eagle Rock for a while. Raymond Carver once worked in concessions at the Cinerama Dome theater, but like Steinbeck, didn’t write much about the place.  I think of favorite L. A. writers in terms of generations. The early days, I would have to say Nathanael West. Day of the Locust is, I think, the best book ever written about Hollywood.  After that, Joan Didion, Wanda Coleman, Charles Bukowski and Lucia Berlin.  Currently, I have a lot of faves.   In no particular order, Steve Erickson, Susan Straight, Michael Jaime-Becerra, Aimee Bender,  Dana Johnson, Jim Gavin, J. Ryan Stradal, Lisa Glatt, Meghan Daum (even though she now lives in NYC).  They all bring a lot to the table.  By this afternoon, I’ll remember ten more.  There’s a lot going on in L.A. right now.


traci is a multi-disciplinary artist, writer, educator and community organizer who is one half of the PULLproject ensemble. She also leads the weekly Grand Park’s Writer’s Meetups as part of #SpringtimeReads (every TUES noon-1:30pm now thru May 10)

DW: What is your favorite place to read in Los Angeles? 

 tkk: one of my favorite places to read in LA –
There’s a coffee chain spot (Coffee Bean) right next to an exit off the 405 freeway in North Torrance. It has a good window in the front and I had been going there for quite a while to write and read before I realized that was exactly where my grandpa’s farm was.  He had completely started over with land there, after losing everything when he was put away in Manzanar during WWII.  In the 50s the government came back and told him he had to get out quickly to make way for the Crenshaw exit for the new freeway.  He pretty much had it with the government after that.  But I end up going there regularly to work and read at that front window where I can see the cars in a constant stream toward the freeway.  It’s odd, maybe, but I feel a kind of comfort there.  Maybe it’s like I’m looking out for signs of my grandpa or he’s watching out for me. Or, more likely, his spirit is totally done with that spot and I’m just trying to reclaim it. 😉

DW: What is one of your favorite places to write about in Los Angeles? 

tkk: one of my favorite places to write about in LA –
Little Tokyo is easily a longtime muse of mine.  There are endless characters, past and present, who made and make it what it is today.  I’m fascinated by its long history of redevelopment – an ebb and flow of popularity, abandonment, scarcity, darkness, abundance and vibrancy.  Most people walk through it for the tourist destination it most definitely has become and they pass by both – ghosts and living beings they have no idea are the tireless builders of a small, but mighty gem of our great city.  I’ll likely spend a lifetime writing about J-Town with utter curiosity and fierce love.

DW: Who is your favorite L.A. writer? 

tkk: That question astounds me. Can anyone pick a favorite in any given city?  But especially, I think, in Los Angeles?  That’s what makes it a great question if it is to open up a conversation, on not only writing, but what the rest of the country thinks of LA writers…and then of LA itself.  I’m a third generation LA gal and I happen to live a few houses down from one of my writing heroes – she is in her 80s and was one of the first Asian American women to be published in an anthology.  Several blocks north and then exactly half a mile east are two other writers, both playwrights I love dearly for totally different reasons.  And we all live in Gardena.  
See what I mean?  People may have imagined I was talking about the Valley or, I don’t know, Silver Lake?  But I think of my little neighborhood and I think of the webs and concentric circles extending from that point – neighborhood after neighborhood filled with writers who form, inspire, teach and fill me in ways as sprawling as this city’s geographic reach.  Baldwin Park to Venice, Redondo Beach to Toluca Lake, I never stop searching for my favorite writers in LA because that’s how big this city actually is. (And i love it.)


– Duncan Woodbury, Grand Park’s Blogworm

#SPRINGTIMEREADS: For the Love of Lit

The smells of Spring are in the air. The sights of flowers are in bloom. Young couples finding new love are everywhere you look. But at Grand Park, the love of literature abounds. To celebrate this literary season, the Park presents SPRINGTIME READS, a series encompassing a multitude of free literary events for all, including THE BRADBURY ROOM, weekly ¡LUNCHTIME! WRITERS’ MEETUPS, and DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST. Here’s a glimpse into SPRINGTIME READS’ faces and spaces:

The Bradbury Room. Photo by Javier Guillen

THE BRADBURY ROOM SAT MAR 12 // Click-Clack-Clickity-Clack. The sound of a dozen or so typewriters filled the air in Olive Court on a sunny afternoon in mid-March for THE BRADBURY ROOM. Fans of all ages, and all walks of life came together to celebrate the work of L.A.’s own Ray Bradbury and to kick off the literary season.

The Bradbury Room. Photo by Javier Guillen.

For some, it was their first time using such a device, but for other’s it was a trip down memory lane.

The Bradbury Room. Photo by Javier Guillen.

THE BRADBURY ROOM was part of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ The Big ReadGrand Park joined other L.A. schools, groups, museums and organizations in celebrating Bradbury’s seminal science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451. Participants of THE BRADBURY ROOM will get a chance to see their work in print on May 7th, at DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST.

¡Lunchtime! Writers Meetup. Photo by Javier Guillen.

¡ LUNCHTIME! WRITERS’ MEETUP EVERY TUES THRU MAY 10th // Every week creative and curious minds are gathering for ¡ LUNCHTIME! WRITERS’ MEETUPS. Writers of all backgrounds are encouraged to pop in and join a literary community led by multi-talented writer traci kato-kiriyama.

Photo by Javier Guillen.

GRAND PARK’S LITTLE LIBRARIES ALL YEAR ROUND // The Little Libraries are a perennial fixture in the park. If you’re looking for a new book to peruse, or to pass along a book you enjoyed. The concept is simple – leave a book, or take a book, and find a nook. The Little Library system is an organic way to spread the love of literature to fellow Angelenos.

Grand Park Pop-Up Park, The Last Bookstore. Photo by Javier Guillen.

POP UP PARKS // The pink landscape of Grand Park has a way of popping up in all sorts of places, including Macy’s and The Last Bookstore! Next stop is LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes’ Dia de los Niños on SUN APR 24.

Downtown Bookfest 2015. Photo by Javier Guillen.

DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST SAT MAY 7 // What would #SpringtimeReads be without a thrilling conclusion? DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST is that grand finale.

Downtown Bookfest 2015. Photo by Javier Guillen.

This year, DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST will explore, “Literary LA: Places, Spaces and Faces,” a celebration and reflection of where Angelenos love to read and write – past, present and future. Explore works from 31 independent presses and publishers at the Pop Up Bookshop…

Downtown Bookfest 2015. Photo by Javier Guillen.

…or hear readings from local authors on three stages, or poke your head into one of four literary panels spread around Grand Park’s nooks and crannies.

Downtown Bookfest 2015. Photo by Javier Guillen.

Youngsters can get excited for fun activities including performances by Birdie’s Playhouse, The Chameleons and more. And don’t forget to pop into the Skylight Books Children’s Bookshop

Downtown Bookfest 2015. Photo by Javier Guillen.

Bring your curiosity, your imagination and maybe your reading glasses, Springtime Reads is blossoming all season long for booksworms big and small.


Calder Greenwood: The Artist + The Environment

Every April 22nd, the world takes a day to honor and celebrate that planet we all call home. As people celebrate the connection between themselves and the environment, a sense of peace and love flourishes. Here in DTLA, we celebrate with EARTH DAY LA as Grand Park, The Music Center and the Department of Water and Power come together to present a day of composting, recycling, yoga, kids’ performances, tree giveaways and more.

I caught up with Calder Greenwood, a local artist whose work will be on display at Earth Day LA. Greenwood has made a splash in Downtown LA, with his giant animal sculptures highlighting the wild side of the city. His installation will consist of large dragonflies, largely made of cardboard and recycled materials, buzzing around in the trees on the Performances Lawn.

DW:    Your work has celebrated nature in some very urban environments. How did this juxtaposition come about?

CG: No urban environment is completely devoid of nature – it surrounds us, is above and below us, even if we only see it creeping through cracks in the sidewalk.  I try to make these contained slices of nature more noticeable by drawing attention to them.

DW:    Can you tell us why you chose to create a dragonfly?

CG: As a child my school celebrated Earth Day by visiting a nearby park.  I remember seeing giant dragonflies buzzing around us, taking note of their translucent wings when they landed on a plant.  It seems fitting to celebrate that image now, to share that sense of wonder with a younger generation, which may have never seen a dragonfly in real life.

DW:    What inspires you about Grand Park?

CG: My dog actually – she responds to the park, to the sights and sounds and smells, the way a child would, with curiosity.

DW:    How does the setting of a piece affect your perspective?

CG: Setting is the most important aspect of a publicly-installed piece, because it draws attention to the environment it’s in.  A well-placed piece should make you more conscious of the world around you, which you might otherwise never notice.

DW:    What steps can Angelenos take to honor their environment more?

CG: Every human should regard nature with respect, we share this planet with everything else that inhabits it, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  We should all be more conscious of how our actions effect the environment, and we should all try to leave less of a footprint.  Reducing waste and recycling is a way of life that anyone and everyone can do and should do.

DW:    Do artists have a responsibility to inform their audiences about the environment?

CG: The responsibility lies with everyone, not just artists.  We are all stewards.

— Duncan Woodbury, Grand Park’s Green Blogger

And if you really want to get into the spirit, check out Grand Park’s 8 Tips To Help The Environment This Earth Day.


Grand Park has a new landmark on the way…

Paper Airplanes by Elenita Torres and Dean Sherriff

The results are in! L.A. has chosen the design to make A COOLER GRAND PARK. Soon, Paper Airplane will soar over Olive Court. Artists Elenita Torres and Dean Sherriff have created a whimsical vision, inspired by both Grand Park and the Downtown landmarks that surround it. This project has been made possible by the Goldhirsh Foundation’s MyLA2050 Grants Challenge, which sought creative and innovative solutions to shape a better Los Angeles. The grant received by The Music Center will make it possible for Grand Park visitors to enhance their enjoyment and comfort by gaining much-needed UV protection, while increasing the park’s potential as the site for performances, exhibitions and festivals. Paper Airplane will be featured in the park for two years.

Elenita Torres and Dean Sherriff. Photo by Javier Guillen

When Elenita and Dean first moved to Los Angeles five years ago, their love of their new city was immediately galvanized when they first discovered Grand Park. “I ended up coming here by accident,” said Torres who was instantly enamored, ”What is this place?!” When they heard about this design challenge they knew they had to throw their hats into the ring.

“I think it goes well with the architecture in the area, with Frank Gehry’s building, and it’s even a nod to the art deco architecture (of City Hall). It looks like it all belongs together,” said Dean. They have sought to synthesize DTLA’s classic past with its bright future while still complimenting the essence of Grand Park. “With the beauty of the park when everything is blooming, and all the different colors, we didn’t want to take away,” Elenita added.

Torres and Sherriff explain their design reflects the hopeful nature of Grand Park with a universal concept – the paper airplane – that appeals to all ages and is understandable no matter what language one speaks.  Like the park’s emphasis on providing free, accessible programming, the artists describe the paper airplane as free to create.
The artists chose white as the main color for the planes to provide a neutral palette that would complement the surrounding garden landscape, add an element of elegance and symbolize peace.

Of course, the function of this new structure is to provide some much-needed shade, but it also will also serve as a place for the Angelenos to gather. “It’s such a vibrant county, there’s so much movement going on, you need a park like this in the center of it to give people a sanctuary,” said Sherriff.

Paper Airplanes by Elenita Torres and Dean Sherriff

With summer on the horizon, work on this project is about to get underway. And what better way to usher it in than by catching a bit of cool shade on a beautiful day in the heart of DTLA.

Thanks to Goldhirsh Foundation, the community of talented artists who submitted their beautiful designs, and all of Los Angeles for helping build a cooler future for Grand Park.

L.A., which do you LOVE?

Thanks to the Goldhirsh Foundation’s My LA2050 Grants Challenge to make Los Angeles the best place to play, Grand Park is piloting the installation of a permanent shade structure featuring the design of a local artist at The Park for Everyone in Downtown Los Angeles.

Over 50 submissions were received from L.A. artists. Now it’s time to help the selection committee decide on which of the three final designs will be piloted this summer.


  • The theme of the design should reflect the park and its role in civic life in Los Angeles County
  • The shade will be installed in Olive Court – the gathering area between the fountain and the Performance Lawn
  • The inaugural design will be featured in the space for 2 years
  • The selected artist will receive a commission of $15,000
  • Voting has ended as of March 25, 2016


Springtime in Grand Park

Events that focus on mind, body and spirit sprout in Grand Park, with invitations to explore the nooks and crannies of the park for everyone.

GRAND PARK’S SPRINGTIME READS launches a season of free reading and writing activities, creating interesting places and ways for bookworms of all ages to indulge in their passion for the written word, including THE BRADBURY ROOM, ¡LUNCHTIME! WRITERS’ MEETUP, and the beloved DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST:


THE BRADBURY ROOM // SAT MAR 12 / NOON – 4:51 //  Olive Court will be transformed into an art installation of DIY typewriting inspired by Ray Bradbury’s own experience writing Fahrenheit 451. All are invited to type away, prompted by quotes from the famous book, amidst Grand Park’s trees, fountain and spring breezes.


¡LUNCHTIME! WRITERS’ MEETUP // EVERY TUES MAR 15 – MAY 10 / NOON – 1:30PM // All are welcome, from the novice writer to published authors to meet, greet and create works of the written word.  An instructor will provide writing exercises, and writers are encouraged to bring their own projects to work on.


DOWNTOWN BOOKFEST // SAT MAY 7 / NOON – 5PM // Los Angeles’ only book festival focused entirely on the local literary community, Downtown Bookfest is a free event that offers book lovers of all ages access to the largest coalition of Los Angeles-based authors and publishers, all in an outdoor bookstore setting.


LAUSD GRAND ARTS FESTIVAL // SAT APR 16 / 10AM – 7PM // Presented by the LAUSD in partnership with Grand Park, the LAUSD Grand Arts Festival features work by more than 2,000 students from all over the LAUSD in addition to performances by professional artists, family art activities, food trucks and presentations by community arts partners.


EARTH DAY LA // FRI APR 22 / 9AM – 2PM // The Music Center, Grand Park and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power collaborate to offer Downtown L.A.’s residents, workers and visitors ways to live clean and go green.  Discover energy efficiency and water conservation displays; sustainable gardening tours; composting, electric and solar vehicle demonstrations; tree giveaways; recycled art projects; E-waste drop-off; fitness and yoga classes; and the opportunity to eat lunch and enjoy a walk-through of Grand Park’s sustainable landscaping.


KETCHUM – DOWNTOWN YMCA HEALTHY KIDS DAY // SAT APR 30 / 11AM – 2 PM // Presented in partnership with the Ketchum-Downtown YMCA, this special festival is part of a national initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of kids.  Healthy Kids Day features kid-friendly fun, prizes, healthy games and snacks, and more.


¡LUNCHTIME! CONCERTS // EVERY OTHER THURS MAR 2 – MAY 26 / 12:15PM – 1:30PM // Enjoy a lunchtime break with concerts by advanced students from L.A. County High School of the Arts (LACHSA).


¡LUNCHTIME! YOGA reTREAT // EVERY WED + FRI THRU MAY 27 / 12:15PM – 1:00PM // Relax, rejuvenate and re-energize into Grand Park bliss


¡LUNCHTIME! FOOD TRUCKS // EVERY TUES, WED + THURS / 11:00AM – 2:00PM // Take a break, grab a meal, and enjoy some fresh air in Grand Park’s Olive Court (between Grand and Hill) and Grand Park’s Marketplace (between Broadway and Spring).


¡LUNCHTIME! YARNOVER TRUCK // FEB 24 + MAR 23 / 11:00AM – 2:00PM // The Yarnover Truck makes its final appearances in Grand Park’s Marketplace (between Broadway and Spring) offering free crafting lessons.


Remember to enjoy Grand Park’s fountain, playground walking paths, gardens, dog run and little libraries throughout the year.

Grand Park is an L.A. County park powered by The Music Center.

Call for Artists for a Cooler Grand Park

As winners of the Goldhirsh Foundation’s My LA2050 Grants Challenge to make Los Angeles the best place to play, this summer Grand Park will pilot the installation of a permanent shade structure featuring the design of a local artist at the Park for Everyone in Downtown Los Angeles.

Grand Park’s Olive Court, a highly trafficked central gathering space for park events & weekly food truck events (22K DTLA residents & employees a year).  Visitors consistently request additional shade particularly for our most vulnerable visitors; children and elders. Adding shade areas will increase capacity and enhance the comfort of the 1M people who access Grand Park annually to play, enjoy quiet green spaces and attend free events in downtown LA.

The theme of the design should reflect the park itself and its role in civic life in Los Angeles County. Artists are encouraged to draw on their own experiences with and at Grand Park in developing their designs. The inaugural design will be featured in the space for 2 years. The selected artist will receive a commission of $15,000. Prior public art experience is not a requirement.

Artist Commission: $15,000

Eligibility: This call is open to emerging and established professional Los Angeles based visual artists who are legally authorized to work in the United States (per U.S. Department of Labor).

Application Deadline: 5:00 PM (PST) Friday, February 26, 2016

Info Meeting Date: 5 PM, Wednesday, February 10, 2016 @ Grand Park on Olive Court (between the fountain and the Performance Lawn). Please visit our page, Getting Here for tips on how to arrive. If you plan on attending please email us at Thanks!

Entry Procedure: Entries are officially closed, thank you to all who have submitted!

You can review the Call for Artist request at Grand Park LA2050_Call to Artist.

Finalist Announced: Saturday, March 12, 2016

Contact: Alejandra Cisneros



It’s the 3rd year for Grand Park + The Music Center’s N.Y.E.L.A. and it’s going to be sweet! There is an awesome lineup of artists, food vendors, family-friendly photo booths with the help of Kaiser Permanente, and a 3D video mapping projections on (go ahead and nerd out) on 2 sides of City Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the L.A. County Hall of Records to ring in the New Year.

Needless to say, there is A TON of excitement and a whole lot of juicy energy encompassing thoughts of 2015’s wrap up, the future of L.A. and its heartbeat, told through the lens of our closest friends and family.

We asked some N.Y.E.L.A. artists to share their insights on how they see the future of L.A. and to capture this moment in the form of a playlist. This is the the music that is inspired by our beautiful, vibrating, Angeleno energy as we transition from 2015 to 2016.

This page will be updated with every new playlist delivered in the spirit of #NYELA, the dopeness starts here:

Louis Vivet

“We’re most looking forward to unveiling our live show in 2016. After working tirelessly on it for the past year, we cannot wait to share it with you all and debut the full vision for our music. But most importantly, we are extremely grateful for the year we’ve had in 2015 and our amazing supporters; we couldn’t have done it out without all of you. So here’s to an even better 2016!”     -Louis Vivet

Lost Midas

“I look forward to sharing new music in 2016.” -Jason Trikakis, Lost Midas

DJ Ry Toast


“2016 will be a year of growth and new music!” -Waterbed

++++++More awesome playlists from last year’s artists:++++++

Omid Walizadeh

Chris Douridas (KCRW)

Garth Trinidad (KCRW)

“With a myriad of variables encouraging a state of flux across the city, LA’s modern creative renaissance will continue to flourish. I envision a brilliant future for it as an idyllic metropolis. This is a chilled out play list with some of my recent favorites from LA based artists and labels. Something to toast the new year to and say a prayer for better public transit and less traffic.” 

Alex Hwang & John Chong (Run River North)

Alex: I picked upbeat/energetic tracks that were released in 2014, since they are the most recent. It seems like people want more raw emotion and energy at shows.

John: I picked a mix of two of my favorite tracks released this year and two that I will always listen to every year. There’s a tension of push and pull, of hold or let go in these tracks that speak to me about how to approach the transition into the new year. From the fun middle finger waving of Jenny Lewis to the introspective, communal waiting of James Vincent McMorrow – there’s always that battle to enjoy the ride, be grateful of where you been, and how to look ahead. But I think the Local Natives say it best – Who Knows, Who Cares.

Aaron Byrd (KCRW)

Big Ups On City Hall

Read up to prep for this year’s bigger, better celebration which includes Grand Park and The Music Center. Grand Park + The Music Center’s N.Y.E.L.A. is the flagship West Coast New Year’s Eve celebration and is THE place to ring in the New Year alongside not just all of Los Angeles, but also with the world’s capitols.

Mitchell Colley asks “WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT N.Y.E.L.A.?” Here’s the skinny-minny on the brains behind the operation, why no fireworks, the purpose of public countdowns and the down-low of what makes us tick as the clock strikes midnight.


Julia Diamond, Grand Park’s Programming Director

Garson Yu, Artistic Director of yU+co, GP’s collaborators (and technical geniuses!) in creating Hall’s projections this New Year’s Eve.

Julia Diamond, Grand Park’s Director of Programming. Photo by Javier Guillen.

MC:  How do you begin to wrap your head around countdown celebrations? What do you see their purpose as? 

JD: New beginnings are so exciting. They mean limitless possibility. When we mark the transition from old to new in a festive and communal way instead of alone, it means not only are our new beginnings about intimate personal things, they are about bigger picture parts of our lives. When we celebrate together, we can feel excited about the possibility of what we will achieve and experience together whether that is about a couple, a family, a team, a neighborhood, or a county.

MC: New York has this long-standing event involving a ball dropping and swaths of people gathering in Times Square. How did you begin to distinguish the characteristics of a Los Angeles ‘style’ of countdown? 

JD: L.A.’s countdown reflects its role as the creative epicenter of our world. LA has always been home not only to creative artists but to artists who are harnessing technology to push new mediums forward. We have done this particularly in filmmaking and animation. N.Y.E.L.A.,  with its use of 2D and 3D mapping technology sits at the forefront of what art and technology can create. I like to say that it is a true 21st century countdown. The ball is analog.

MC: How did the idea of video mapping City Hall come to the forefront of your mind?

JD: A video mapping artist approached me in early 2013 and told me that City Hall was a dream for anyone in his world. He planted the seed of interest and the realization that Grand Park was well suited for mapping projects. When we started planning last year’s N.Y.E.L.A., our collaborators were also excited about the possibility. It has just felt like a natural fit from day one.

MC: So I have to ask, why not fireworks?

JD: 2 reasons:

1. We do fireworks at 4th of July so we like to switch it up.

2. Fireworks are not story-telling mediums. They pretty much just go boom. It doesn’t leave a lot of room to talk about L.A. and to customize the show every year.

MC: The event has grown significantly from the first year. What can patrons expect to find that is new? What has the Grand Park team improved upon?

JD: We did a lot of listening and we appreciate that L.A. gave us feedback after the event last year. We have worked hard to improve the infrastructure of the event, those things that really impact the audience experience. So that means:

– More bathrooms

– More food vendors

– More room in the streets for people to stand

– Two additional live music stages so you can really explore the whole event space and pick the experience that suits you

– Added photo booths = shorter wait times

– The projection on City Hall will be on two sides of the building. It will also enable more people to have a great view.

MC: What / Who should I bring with me?

JD: Bring your whole family and all of your friends! Bring your whole block with you. Just bring ‘em all. Except maybe doggies who might get spooked by a crowd.

I would also bring a camera, a jacket, a comfy pair of shoes, a snack, and a smile. Please check the website to be sure about what you can’t bring in so you don’t have any frustrations day of.

MC: Any resolutions on behalf of yourself or Los Angeles you’d care to share?

JD: For me: To keep exploring. As Programming Director of Grand Park, my job is to keep learning about L.A. County and bringing what I find to the audiences that come to Grand Park.

For L.A.: Not to forget that the drought is very real even in winter when we are getting rain. We have to resolve to remain vigilant, adaptive, and resourceful.

MC: Tell us a little bit about your work, expertise, and a bit about yU+co

GY: I am a film title designer with a fine art and graphic design background. I have always been interested in time-based story telling. I design short sequences for the beginning of a film, setting up the tone and mood for the audience to enter the film maker’s world. I also design motion graphics for television show opens, commercials, and new media.

Recently, I have started shifting my focus into multi- media public art projects. A year and a half ago, I created my first large-scale multimedia public art installation at Pier 57 in New York City, called The Interactive New York (T.I.N.Y. Show). The installation was a collaboration with Madrid-based architect Jose Maria de Churtichaga and incorporated projection mapping and interactive sound.

yU+co was founded in 1998. We have evolved from being a title design company into a multi-disciplinary design agency. We have a division called yU+co(lab) that focuses on experiential design and multimedia interactive projects. We have expanded from one office in LA to include 6 offices in China.

MC: How was the experience of working with Los Angeles’ City Hall as a canvas? How has the architecture informed the work?

GY: City Hall is a very unique building. It’s a long vertical tower. There are 18 stories with windows centered vertically between 2 pillars plus another 4-story high triangular tower on the top.  The architecture informed me to design the flow of imagery entering from the bottom to the top. I took advantage of applying my images to the canvas vertically. However, in some cases I break the rhythm, entering horizontally.

MC: What was the process like? (Give us a taste)

GY: It’s been a very creative collaboration with Julia and the Grand Park team. The biggest challenge at the beginning was to come up with the theme and concept. Based on Julia’s direction on what Grand Park wants to communicate to Angelenos, we developed the concept of “The Beat of The City”. Once awarded the project, we free-floated ideas, and we tested each other’s brain waves. I thought, “Should we do what everyone expects — 3D visual tricks and illusions, cool motion graphics? Or should we try something unexpected and give Angelenos an experience?” Julia was pretty keen on the narrative and I knew people would want to see 3D effects. I also wanted to bring an interactive component to the projection mapping medium. The result is a show that gives it all to the people in the park on that evening.

MC: Has your perception of public countdowns changed since taking on the N.Y.E.L.A. project?

GY: I don’t know yet. I look forward to experiencing it on NYE I hope this short-form narrative will touch people at the park when they are watching it. It is a moment that we will all share together, a feeling about our unique city and life. I hope to bring people together emotionally. Taking on the Grand Park + The Music Center project definitely changes my perception of how public countdowns can be different. This will mark a new milestone in public countdowns. I am proud to be part of it.

Messi is the best-i

–Mitchell Colley, Grand Park’s Resident Walter Cronkite


Puppets Grandmother and Grandfather. Photo by Javier Guillen

Travel back to the beginning of time with El Teatro Campesino and Center Theatre Group, at Grand Park October 10th and 11th.

On October 10th and 11th, El Teatro Campesino, the renowned Chicano theatre company, will be at Grand Park to perform their latest work “Popol Vuh: Heart of Heaven”.  Brought to Los Angeles by Center Theatre Group, they are set to share a stunning visual rendering of the Mayan creation myth.

Generated by a yearlong process between company members and Boyle Heights’ residents, “Popol Vuh” brings the heartland of California within the heart of Los Angeles.

Diane Rodriguez, Associate Artistic Director at Center Theatre Group, shares personal experiences with with El Teatro Campesino.  In her formative years as a theatre artist, she traveled the world as a member of ETC.  She stopped by Grand Park to offer a unique perspective on this upcoming collaboration.

“It’s an authentic California company that grew out of the land practically”, says Rodriguez.  In 1965, founder Luis Valdez approached Cesar Chavez in Delano.

“He went to Cesar and said ‘I want to start this theatre company that would organize farmworkers and educate them on the issues of the day, within the strike’, and Cesar said ‘You can do that, but you have to be an organizer, and you have to do that at night.’ And so that’s what he did.”

The activist spirit rang loud amongst the company.  They drew from the land, they worked with their surroundings.  Performing in the backs of pick-up trucks, Valdez summoned artists from the midst of the farm community, to share their message throughout the Central Valley.

A performance of El Teatro Campesino featuring Don Sacato, location unknown. John A. Kouns. 1966

By the mid 1970’s, ETC had become a force in the global theatre scene, touring the world and worked with artists such as Peter Brook.  Their collaboration with Center Theatre Group came in 1978 with Valdez’s landmark “Zoot Suit”, forging a relationship with the Los Angeles community that still runs deep.

Birthed directly from the community, the concept of a collaborative ensemble has always been important.  “Within El Teatro, it was an ensemble”, reflects Rodriguez “we would improvise the work, and Luis Valdez would then script it.”  That same collective spirit is alive in the “Heart of Heaven.”

In this case, locals are thrown right into the ring and are letting their creativity thrive, allowing the collective ensemble consciousness to steer the play.  “On top of that”, adds Rodriguez, who has sat in on rehearsals “they’re larger than life!  You have these community members being treated as professionals.”

The puppet Kukumatz. Photo by Javier Guillen

Diane was blown away by how quickly these 40 performers adapted to the work.  “They’re moving, they’re tumbling balls, and they’re carrying puppets, and its like, ‘Oh My God, it’s so complicated!’”

Staging the piece in Grand Park seemed ideal to those involved.  “El Teatro’s project was perfect because it worked with a community that is very close to us, the Boyle Heights community and East Los Angeles.  They were able to do a whole yearlong process with these community members, and culminate in the presentation right in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles,” beams Rodriguez, “It’s a very symbolic claiming of the land.”

“How Popol Vuh: Heart of Heaven, in terms of being a creation myth it told, is visual, which makes it very universal.”  The universality, as it seeks to break down cultural preconceptions, make the Grand Park a fantastic backdrop.   “Sharing a creation myth from another culture is always universal.  And the physicalization, people will relate to it.”

“It’ll be a great gift for Los Angeles, even if you pass by and happen to catch it”, Rodriguez added.   Get ready to turn back the clock to the beginning of time, in the Park for Everyone.