September 20, 2018 - From the September, 2018 issue

LA Phil's Centennial Bash Opens With an 8-Mile CicLAvia Street Festival of the Arts - Sept. 30

Come one, come all to Celebrate LA! The Los Angeles Philharmonic is publicly opening its centennial season by throwing the biggest carnival of arts the city has seen in decades: an eight-mile open streets festival, in collaboration with CicLAvia, that brings a mélange of LA-based artists, musicians, and performers into the streets of iconic Los Angeles. The free, interactive, day-long event will showcase LA’s thriving cultural sphere while drawing in participation from all corners of the county—raising the bar for the LA 2028 Olympics Arts Festival the city will soon host for a global audience. Also part of the Phil’s "thank you" to the city of LA, renowned architect Frank Gehry is designing an elegant new home for the Phil’s Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), funded by Judith and Thomas Beckmen, which promises students in underserved communities free instrumental education, performance opportunities, and academic support. In this interview, LA Phil Centennial Director Summer Bjork and Community Arts Resources president Aaron Paley fill TPR readers in on LA Phil 100: Celebrate LA!, happening September 30 along a car-free CicLAvia route from Disney Hall to the Hollywood Bowl.

Summer Bjork

"Celebrate LA! is the Phil's way of saying thank you to the city—by inviting everyone in town to a season-length party." —Summer Bjork

"Celebrate LA is a community day that literally ties together the LA Philharmonic's two homes—the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall—along the CicLAvia route with an incredible array of public performances and activities that is unprecedented." —Aaron Paley

Summer, share the LA Philharmonic's plans for kicking off its centennial year, and where the Celebrate LA! event September 30 fits in.

The LA Phil's centennial is a celebration of the city we call home. Whatever successes we've had as an organization has been tied to our relationship with the community and the extent to which we reflect its diverse and creative spirit.

Celebrate LA! is our way of saying thank you—by inviting everyone in town to a season-length party that includes free public events, like the LA Phil 100 concert at the Hollywood Bowl and Refik Anadol's WDCH Dreams, as well as long-term investments in our community, like the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood.

These events set a template for our next 100 years—a century we would like to be as outward-facing and community-oriented as possible—and express the values of our Music and Artistic Director, Gustavo Dudamel, who believes that music and music-making should be accessible to everyone regardless of where they come from or how much money they have.

The Frank Gehry-designed, $14.5-million Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood will be a glass-fronted box with a transparent roof pop-up allowing sunlight to stream into the 260-seat concert hall below. Share how the Phil's investment in YOLA will give assist the next generation the next generation of musicians in LA.

YOLA provides students in underserved communities with free instrumental education, performance opportunities, and academic support. It's a transformative experience for students, opening doors to resources they might not otherwise have access to while affording them all the benefits that come along with a music education: a sense of discipline, an appreciation for teamwork, and a positive sense of self.

With the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center, the program is gaining a permanent home that will support not only students, but also families and the Inglewood community at large. While a few students may go on to become professional musicians, the program is most interested in producing engaged citizens—young adults invested in their communities and prepared to lead. The Beckmen YOLA Center will go a long way to advancing that goal. 

The centennial year agenda aims to advance orchestral music and music education and prepare venues for the next century. Address the impact you hope the campaign will make and the voices you seek to incorporate into the productions. 

Our centennial season is a collection of incredible creative voices, many from Los Angeles, who are more diverse in respect to gender and ethnicity than any other orchestra in the country. This doesn't mean we don't have more work to do, but it is a reflection of our values. We want to reflect the community we serve and of which we are a part.

We also want to play a meaningful part in people's lives—whether by commissioning 50 new voices with something to say, investing in the young people of our community through programs like YOLA, or offering something like Esa-Pekka Salonen's Weimar Republic program, which is relevant to the political discourse in our country today.

Finally, speak to the promise of the LA 2028 Olympics for the arts, and how an Olympics Arts Festival in 2028 could be a vehicle to show off LA Phil's place in Southern California culture. 

In thinking about the potential of an Olympics Arts Festival in 2028, it's impossible not to think about the 1984 festival, which brought more than 400 performances from 18 countries to Los Angeles. For the LA Phil, the impact of the festival was most significantly felt in 1987, when then-General Manager Ernest Fleischmann invited director Peter Sellars to pick up where the Olympics left off and create the first Los Angeles Festival.

The LA Phil developed many new community-based partnerships during that time, and the Los Angeles Festival became known for, among other things, illuminating the full diversity of the city's cultural landscape. A 2028 Olympics Arts Festival has the potential to continue this work—showing the world and ourselves the immense richness of Los Angeles' creative community. We'd love to be a part of it again—whether in the next iteration of the Celebrate LA! model or in something completely new. The future is wide open!

Aaron, given Summer's description of how the Los Angeles Philharmonic kicks off its centennial season, share how the Phil and CicLAvia, with your assistance, have created a platform to involve the public in an eight-mile open street party on Sunday, September 30.

Aaron Paley: Community Arts Resources and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have spent nearly two years envisioning this event: a community day that literally ties together the Phil's two homes—the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall—with an incredible array of public performances and activities.

When we sat down and started envisioning the LA Phil's centennial celebration, one idea was to seat the orchestra on a flat-bed truck or a Rose Parade-type float and have them play along the streets. But all agreed that it was important to create a publicly engaged event—not something where the performance would go by and people would wave at it from the sidelines, but where people were actively engaged in the event itself.

Ultimately, we settled on the idea of marrying the Philharmonic with CicLAvia to create something entirely new for both organizations. This event is not by any means business as usual for either of them.

Both the Phil and CicLAvia were very excited about how their organizations and brands would complement each other. CicLAvia has now been around for almost 10 years, but this is an opportunity for it to reach an entirely new audience. It's also an opportunity for the Phil to connect with a new audience. And we felt that both CicLAvia and the Phil would be able to reach audiences throughout the county.


My company has been involved with all kinds of things over the years, starting before the 1984 Olympics; the Philharmonic came to us specifically because of the large-scale projects we've incubated, including CicLAvia. And yet, I've never seen anything like this—the sheer audacity of the number of things that will be happening at once.

It's so generous of the Phil to give a gift of this scale to the people of Los Angeles, and to work almost entirely with Los Angeles-based groups so that we can show off the incredible breadth and depth of the art community here.

Elaborate on the Phil's and CicLAvia's plans for the upcoming day-long arts and open streets event September 30.

The event is many-layered. CicLAvia is going to secure the streets for pedestrians, bicycles, and activities. But what the LA Phil and Community Arts Resources have done together is create an overlay of programming along the route that is unprecedented.

The route stretches through iconic Los Angeles, and everything is free and open to the public. There are six different hubs, each of which is basically its own festival with a tremendous amount of activity.

Like all CicLAvia events, you can join at any point; there's no true beginning or end. But let's start with the hub from 1st Street to 5th Street along Grand Avenue. There are two outdoor stages in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall, with 12 hours of amazing performances. The dance stage features Lula Washington, for example, and on the music stage will be everything from Pink Martini to Phoebe Bridgers and members of the LA Phil and their Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.

As you move through the streets, the next hub you'll find is at MacArthur Park. We're partnering with the Levitt Pavilion, which has that beautiful bandshell, to produce another festival there. It's headlined by Ozomatli and also features TAIKOPROJECT, the Syncopated Ladies, Alfredo Rodriguez, and a huge assembly of 130 Oaxacan musicians and dancers.

Moving west, the next hub is at Western and Wilshire, right in Koreatown—two outdoor stages with the Wiltern as their backdrop. Moving north on Western and west on Melrose, the next hub is right in front of the Paramount Gates. Moving to Vine and heading north, there's a major stage in front of Capitol Records. From there, you can catch a shuttle bus every ten minutes or so to the Hollywood Bowl, where there's a stage in the box office plaza featuring performances by the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and the LA Phil.

Those six hubs have an amazing array of free entertainment. But we didn't want the celebration to be confined to these specific areas. We wanted you to experience art, music, and dance performances all along the way. So, there are six additional site-specific locations along the route, which will feature everything from members of the LA Phil performing in small ensembles, Armenian dance, Klezmer music, gamelan from Indonesia, Thai dance and music, a performance by Diavolo, and more.

On top of that, many different performance groups will be moving through the route. No matter where you are, you're going to stumble upon something. You might see the Centennial High School Marching Band from Compton playing along the way, or the USC Trojan Marching Band. You might see giant puppets by Wayne White, or a group of skeleton puppets on bicycles by Self-Help Graphics. You might see a moving set of Taiko drums. We've also commissioned two custom-made pedicabs; one will pull a baby grand Steinway piano, and the other will carry quartets made up of members of the LA Phil performing.

I can say without exaggeration that I've never seen an event this complex and layered. Between the festival hubs, the site-specific pop-ups, and the traveling entertainment, this event is basically eight miles of non-stop music, dance, and performance.

Lastly, given your decades of experiencing engaging the public in the arts, how might the might the Phil's day-long public festival celebrating LA's greatest places and artists inspire similar arts events leading up to the LA 2028 Olympics?

As Los Angeles thinks about the 2028 Olympics, we have to think not only about venues for sports attractions, but also about the Olympic Arts Festival.

The 1984 Olympics Arts Festival played a big role in my life personally, but I also saw how it transformed Los Angeles—the audiences, the things that were presented, and the venues they were presented in. It had a lasting legacy.

I think Celebrate LA could be a template for LA's 2028 Arts Festival. It is sui generis; no other city has done anything quite like this that I know of. And it truly shows off Los Angeles. It's very LA to have a celebration on the streets, to incorporate CicLAvia, and to have local artists, big and small, performing.

It would be great if we could project this model onto the marathon route, for example. It would open up the Olympics to Angelenos, so that hundreds of thousands of people could be a part of the event, celebrate in their communities, and viscerally stitch together the city.

But even if that doesn't happen, I think this event is a big kick in the butt for all of us in the LA arts community to see so many different groups here. I hope it gets the attention it deserves, because this is a history-making event.


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