Wed, Aug

Connecting LA’s 93 Neighborhoods

DISCOVERY, FUN, SECRETS … FREE - For the average visitor to Los Angeles, the conventional wisdom directs them to the places that only scratch the surface of what the city is all about.   Our beaches are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, as are all the other attractions that tourists flock to, such as the Hollywood Sign, Beverly Hills, and Universal Studios.  But the real Los Angeles is found in our many neighborhoods--93 in the City of Los Angeles alone, according to official statistics--and each one has its own identity and its own stories.  

For example, two weeks ago, I spent a Saturday afternoon in San Pedro.  It was a wonderful time with two San Pedro residents as my guides. We ate and chatted at a local hangout (Lighthouse Deli), walked through pleasant neighborhoods and experienced two cultural festivals–one Croatian, Cevapcici Festival, and one Filipino, Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture.  

I felt like I was on vacation as we slowed down and took our time to enjoy the sights, tastes and sounds–eating Cevapcici (a special grilled sausage) and delicious strudel, dancing to traditional Croatian music, and listening to hip hop played by Filipino hipsters.

We are so fortunate to have access to many fantastic neighborhoods like San Pedro, and more importantly, an appealing cast of characters willing to serve as guides.  

Back in 2002, I founded an organization called LA Commons with the goal of connecting people to neighborhoods often thought of in not so positive terms--think Leimert Park, Highland Park and MacArthur Park–but which are in reality the richest destinations in the city, full of culture, and wonderful stories and storytellers.   We drive by them on freeways every day, not realizing the intimacy and fullness of Los Angeles that they provide.

To make these great places more visible, LA Commons connects emerging artists with students in the creation of public art that shares the unique local history and current reality.   And, we host Trekking LA tours which bring people from all over the city to experience the art, music, food and people that are main attractions.  

In an effort to scale-up the success of our Trekking LA program, on October 1 we are debuting Found LA, a free, citywide event that will see 20 tours in neighborhoods across the city.  The key to Found LA is that these tours will be led by local residents alongside celebrities and renowned artists.  

These people know their neighborhoods in a way we couldn’t possibly know wandering there on our own—from exploring that secret staircase to a hidden garden, knowing the local bakery or that special artist studio.  These are the things that make our vast metropolis more connected, hands-on, and accessible, and helps to break down preconceptions of areas and people.

In Leimert Park, Karen Collins will share her African American Museum of Miniatures, an incredible, artistic tribute to the history of the African American community.  Shadow boxes contain scenes created with found objects: Martin Luther King at the pulpit, Mohammed Ali in the boxing ring and the various kings and queens of Egypt.  

In Atwater Village, LA City Council President Eric Garcetti will walk tourgoers around this enclave on the banks of the LA River.   Tourgoers will experience its pleasant residential streets and quaint commercial center along Glendale Boulevard. And in San Pedro, the duo behind the Warner Grand Theater, sisters Liz and Taran Schindler, will share their grand vision for the arts district in the neighborhood as it transforms  into a haven for artists, galleries and a range of cultural happenings.  

Additional neighborhoods that will host tours including Little Tehran, Inglewood, Santa Monica (not the beaches!), Thai Town, and more.  It will be a day full of experiences, with something to appeal to and engage everyone.  

To find out more and sign up for a free tour, please visit Found LA here.

(Karen Mack is the founder of LA Commons and serves on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.) -cw

Tags: Karen Mack, LA Commons, Los Angeles, LA neighborhoods, San Pedro, Leimert Park, Thai Town, Atwater Village, Eric Garcetti, Highland Park MacArthur Park

Vol 9 Issue 77
Pub: Sept 27, 2011