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Festival of sacred world music debuts with a soulful Afro-fado beat

Posted January 30, 2015 by | 0 Comments | ]
Waldemar Bastos on the Aratani stage in Little Tokyo

Surviving imprisonment and then escaping the civil war in Angola for Brazil, then Portugal, Waldemar Bastos survived because of music.  Today, he’s considered the voice of his native country, where he now lives again.
You don’t have to speak Portuguese or understand the situation in Africa’s 7th largest nation to appreciate Bastos’ divine sound. He spoke to KCRW’s Lisa Napoli about the life events that inspire his …

Arts & Culture, News »

Let there be light (again)

Posted January 26, 2015 by | 0 Comments | ]
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When the International Jewelry Center opened on the east side of Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles in 1982, the building’s architecture (by firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) was panned as “inhospitable” and “an overwhelming loser.”
But the 270-foot long, computer-triggered, neon sculpture commissioned to adorn the front of the building got a rave: “All that saves the building from almost total offensiveness is a …

Arts & Culture, News »

‘One girl can light a candle:’ Students use music to tell the story of Anne Frank

Posted January 21, 2015 by | 0 Comments | ]
A tech rehearsal for The Passion of Anne Frank at Grand Arts HS in downtown Los Angeles

For years, the Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts downtown, nicknamed by those who know it as “Grand Arts,” has struggled to find and keep a principal and make its place in the community. The imposing futuristic structures that comprise this campus look like dramatic cousins to the Disney Concert Hall up the street.
Now, a new show called “The Passion of Anne Frank” will allow the …

Arts & Culture, Environment, News »

Pass the oak trees and the camellias and you’ll find art

Posted January 14, 2015 by | 0 Comments | ]
Photo by Robert Wedemeyer

A contemporary art gallery in the woods? That’s what you’ll find if you take a walk on one of the glorious paths at the Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. The latest art show in this unique space fits it perfectly. It’s a colorful, playful group exhibition titled Elemental: Seeing the Light.
The history of the space is just as intriguing as the new show and …

Arts & Culture, News »

‘Like bubbles in a glass of Champagne:’ Toasting an all-but-forgotten Hollywood star

Posted January 9, 2015 by | 0 Comments | ]
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Were it not for the fairly recent restoration of the site known as the Annenberg Community Beach House, many of us might never have heard the name Marion Davies. Indeed, it’s easy to dismiss the long-ago movie star, who died in 1961, even when you visit the spectacular public space along the Pacific Coast Highway that was once her home: The structure here that bears her …

Arts & Culture, Interviews »

A dingy, forgotten space transformed by art

Posted January 7, 2015 by | 0 Comments | ]
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From blighted underpass…

…to vibrant art space
Out-of-sight spaces often harbor the unsavory aspects of a city, best overlooked. But from 2006 to 2013, the underpass on the fringe of downtown near the LA River was the site of a glorious re-invention, one that included all manner of art and people from all walks of life. “God’s most destitute place on earth” as nearby graffiti declared it, …

Arts & Culture, Interviews, News »

The year that was: Lisa Napoli’s 2014 in review

Posted December 30, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
The world's first cardboard car is available in a convertible model, too

Los Angeles can be a daunting place to explore, which is why I love what I get to do here at KCRW–root out interesting people who are doing interesting things that might otherwise not get much media attention.
To that end, here’s a short-list, in no particular order, of some of my favorites stories I had the privilege of telling in 2014, in case you missed …

Arts & Culture, economy, News »

Playing Santa to total strangers

Posted December 23, 2014 by | 1 Comment | ]
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Where do all those letters that kids write to Santa go?  For over 100 years, the US Postal Service has made it possible for people to “adopt” letters from the neediest kids, based on their zip codes–and fulfill their Christmas wishes.
In Los Angeles, ground zero for Operation Santa is the massive postal processing facility on Central Avenue.  Weeks before the holiday, people stream in …

Arts & Culture, News »

The major source of state arts funding? You won’t believe it

Posted December 19, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
One of about a dozen celebrities who've signed on to endorse the plate

California ranks near the bottom of state-funded per-capita arts spending in the nation–44th, to be exact.
What’s the unusual source for the lion’s share of state-funded arts education? Turns out, it’s the sale of specialty license plates.
You may have seen the so-called “ArtsPlate” by artist Wayne Thiebaud, since it’s been in use on the roads for 20 years. But you probably didn’t know that $35 of …

Arts & Culture »

The perfect last-minute gift: A good read

Posted December 17, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
Funk, and a spaceship

Carolyn Kellogg, who covers publishing for the Los Angeles Times, sits on the board of the National Book Critics Circle and is one of the most influential journalists in the industry. In other words, she reads more than most mere mortals and really knows her stuff. Over a cup of coffee, we talked about books as dandy last-minute gift ideas.
First, she recommends using the services of your …

Arts & Culture, News »

How ‘Tradition’ became a classic: Celebrating ‘Fiddler’ at 50

Posted December 12, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
Lines of people swarmed the box office as soon as Fiddler opened/photo: Photofest

The Tony award-winning Broadway show turned Oscar-winning film, “Fiddler on the Roof,” didn’t look from the start to be a work that would endure for decades. It took the team who wrote the work, based on the 1905 writing of Sholem Aleichem, a number of attempts to massage it into the classic it became. “Twelve things a day,” was the mantra after early lackluster reviews in pre-Broadway tryouts, as …

Arts & Culture, Cargoland, Environment, Interviews, News »

Cargoland: Artist Cathy Opie on her 10-day cargo ship ride

Posted December 3, 2014 by | 1 Comment | ]
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I didn’t go to artist Cathy Opie’s house explicitly to see the bunnies, but before I got to talk to her about what did lure me over to West Adams, I got a tour of this extension of her existence. Her partner, Julie Burleigh, has, over the last five years, converted an eyesore abandoned lot down the block from their house into a community …

Arts & Culture, News »

The show must go on: Bob Baker’s supporters vow to keep the puppets moving

Posted December 2, 2014 by | 1 Comment | ]
Young puppeteers keep Baker's work alive.  The theater is home to 3-thousand marionettes.

In his last days on earth, puppeteer Bob Baker waxed poetic about shows he hoped to stage and moved his hands for a hospice worker as if he were still manipulating one of his marionette creations. Though the 90-year-old with a life-long passion for puppets passed away last Friday, his imprint on the industry he helped to craft won’t soon fade away, says trustee …

Arts & Culture, Interviews, News »

Art meets kitsch: Self-described snob displays mom’s vast collection of turkey platters

Posted November 25, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
Art dealer Mat Gleason and his mother, Helen

Mat Gleason, a longtime figure in the LA art scene, admits that he long pooh-poohed his mother’s proclivity for scavenging through antique stores and swap meets. “I was always snobby about her collections,” he told me as we stood in a gallery he’s just taken over next to his Coagula Curatorial.
Then his mother, an 80-something year old mother of seven, asked to see a show of …

Arts & Culture »

Punk Rock Marthas serve up ‘guerrilla philanthropy’

Posted November 21, 2014 by | 1 Comment | ]
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The name was catchy enough, although Anji Williams says she isn’t sure she’d have chosen it if she’d known the group would be around so long: Punk Rock Marthas, a riff on a group in a book called “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. (Those Marthas were preppy.)
When Williams was a teacher at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood, the idea was to make the …

Arts & Culture, Interviews »

When AM radio ruled Los Angeles and made musical stars

Posted November 12, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
Influential DJ Dave Diamond passed away this spring

When was the last time you listened to AM radio in search of some great new music?  Harvey Kubernik’s latest book, “Turn Up the Radio! Rock Pop and Roll in Los Angeles, 1956-1972″ is an homage to the time when people toted around transistor radios with great devotion–when AM deejays discovered acts you hadn’t heard before.
Few personified the power and charm of that medium more …

Arts & Culture, News »

Bringing the street back to plein air: Art ‘diplomats’ paint downtown

Posted November 5, 2014 by | 1 Comment | ]
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Sometime over the last month in downtown Los Angeles, you may have seen some guys with paint-stained clothing, standing in front of easels, intently working to capture the world around them. The French tradition of plein air painting is typically associated with serene landscapes, not gritty cityscapes. But John Kilduff, Steven Thomas Higgins, and Alex Schaefer vowed 30 days ago to bring the street …

Arts & Culture, News »

When a walk becomes a pilgrimage

Posted October 29, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
The 500 mile long and winding road

Long before writer Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and published a best-selling book about it, pilgrims were searching for peace and salvation along the Camino de Santiago, a series of roads that wends through Spain and France.
This weekend, “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,”  a documentary about this medieval pilgrimage, opens for a week-long screening here in southern California. We talked to Annie O’Neil, who has a …

Arts & Culture, Interviews »

Psychedelic: Pakistani truck artist brightens the LA roads

Posted October 24, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
Truck artist Haider Ali and his finished product

For the last few weeks, Karachi-based artist Haider Ali been working around various spots in southern California, mostly in the parking lot of his hosts at the USC Pacific Asia Museum at Los Robles and Union in Pasadena, spiffing up a Ford cargo van.
In his native Pakistan, Ali is one of a handful of prominent truck artists who do brisk business around the country.  India, he says, …

Arts & Culture »

How teaching Shakespeare to middle schoolers transformed a struggling actor

Posted October 22, 2014 by | 0 Comments | ]
Mel Ryane and her new book at KCRW

Mel Ryane, a classically trained actor, thought the idea seemed simple enough: Volunteer at a local public school to teach kids an appreciation for Shakespeare. Share the joys of literature and the Bard’s life lessons with kids who might not otherwise learn them. Her time on the stage had to have prepared her for the task–no? Well, it turns out, definitely not. Nothing could have primed Ryane for the terror and …

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