Carmageddon, meet ARTmageddon
August 28, 2012
Last summer, Southern Californians learned the art of dodging a 53-hour freeway shutdown. Now, as Los Angeles braces for a follow-up 405 Freeway closure, a collective of arts groups is offering an even more creative response.
As crews prepare to close ten miles of the 405 Freeway on September 29 and 30, more than 100 arts groups are planning a weekend-long celebration of local art and culture, highlighting thousands of offerings from mariachis at the Ford Theatres to organ recitals at Pomona College to flash mobs in Long Beach.
“People here drive across town to theaters and museums and movies,” says Diana Wyenn, marketing and media relations manager at REDCAT, a participant in the campaign. “But they often don’t even notice the local galleries or theaters just a few blocks away that put on incredible shows.”
Working with the online listings database Experience LA, Metro, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and others, the consortium is inviting Southern Californians to help create “the biggest art pARTy of the year” by patronizing the arts in their communities or taking public transportation to an art event nearby.
An ARTmageddonLA.com web site, currently being constructed, will guide Carmageddon II refugees to performances, concerts, exhibitions and screenings that are accessible by Metro, or—better yet—down the street from their own homes.
“We live in an arts metropolis, and we rarely stop to pay attention to it,” says Ezra LeBank, a CSU Long Beach theater arts professor who conceived ARTmageddon with Wyenn. “This is the moment when we can move above the constant buzz of busyness in L.A. and embrace local arts.”
Wyenn and LeBank, who are both arts advocates and artists, say their idea rose from a discussion with friends last autumn about the difficulty artists have in promoting their work across Southern California’s sprawl.
“We’re so separated physically that it’s hard to feel community, as artists or audiences,” LeBank says. “We often don’t feel a sense of togetherness, and we started playing with that idea.”
LeBank says they discussed a collaboration that might draw from throughout the region, and timing it to coincide with “a moment or a day when people were all paying attention to one thing and united that way.”
Then they remembered how Carmageddon seized the public imagination last summer—and that Carmageddon II was coming.
“It was perfect because it’s going to be the central event in L.A. for that weekend—and it’s a moment that’s all about stopping,” he says.
The result is the latest effort—from CicLAvia to Pacific Standard Time to the Watts Village Theater Company’s Meet Me At Metro—to encourage Angelenos to think locally and to create a sense of community and human-scaled connection across L.A.’s vast geography. It’s low budget because the date for Carmageddon II wasn’t announced until July, Wyenn says, so they had no time to fundraise.
Nonetheless, so many L.A. artists and advocates quickly joined the effort, she says, that getting the word out via social media and word-of-mouth hasn’t been a problem. Volunteers from organizations such as the Circle X Theatre Company, the Center Theatre Group and Grand Performances are involved already, and the list has been growing daily. (Organizations, artists and businesses interested in being included when the web site goes live are encouraged to contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ARTmageddon web site or Facebook page.)
LeBank, who teaches movement, says his students will be performing on campus that weekend at Cal State Long Beach State, and putting on “flash mob-type performances” around the community. Wyenn is excited about “Butoh Meadow::Meadow Butoh,” a piece in which more than 50 people covered in flour plan to cross Silverlake Meadow, and the final performance of “Rodney King” at the Bootleg Theatre that weekend. But surprises await in every neighborhood.
Topanga denizens may want to check out “The Women of Lockerbie” at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum that weekend. Mid-Wilshire types might want to stroll over to the Mimoda Studio Theater’s African dance show, “The Essence”. The New Short Fiction Series will be presenting short stories about the LA driving experience at the Federal Bar in NoHo.
“There are galleries everywhere, some of which I know are planning ARTmageddon parties, and people will be playing music in public spaces,” LeBank says. “There’s a lot more happening than people realize.”