Los Angeles, Home of Local Culture?

With summer winding down, kids going back to school, and all of us returning from vacations, or staycations, we looked around town to see what last bits of summer we could eke out for ourselves here in town.

Now bear in mind, I’m a native Angeleno, so I have heard all the jokes about Los Angeles being a cultural wasteland.  I know the arguments from both sides.  And I’m here to tell you, even as a native, that there is culture springing up everywhere.

I was reintroduced this summer to the West Los Angeles Bandshell, a sort of miniature 1950’s neighborhood version of the Hollywood Bowl (picture the Hollywood Bowl in a Jetson’s comic strip).  The introduction was made through my daughter and her fellow actors from Veterans Center for the Performing Arts and the U.S. Veterans’ Artists Alliance. This summer, they produced a five week run of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Bandshell. (LA Weekly said “the show is just good comedy, boasting some polished clowning.”)  And now that I’ve rediscovered the Bandshell, I want to pass it on to you.

Although the Shakespeare festival has concluded for the season (look for it again next summer), free concerts are continuing at the bandshell through September 2, and concerts begin at 7:15.  The facility is lovely, and I recommend a blanket or beach chairs and a picnic (wine is welcome).  Kids are welcome and have lots of room to run around.  The schedule of events is here. The bandshell is located at the West Los Angeles Civic Center, off Santa Monica Blvd & Corinth Ave. (just west of Sawtelle/405) behind the Public Library. There is street parking on Corinth, and a free parking lot on Corinth & Iowa, directly behind the civic center complex.

As for other end-of-summer freebies, consider Santa Monica’s “Jazz on the Lawn” series.  With room for a picnic on the front lawn of Santa Monica City Hall and fresh breezes from the beach nearby, Jazz on the Lawn is the place to be for four Sundays from 5-7pm. The series features free jazz and world music performances from hot talent and future stars. On August 30, in the final concert of the summer and fresh from selling out the Roxy, Louisiana native John West will arrive in Santa Monica. This talented singer-songwriter creates soul without crooning, R&B without formula and pop without gloss. His musical influences range from Otis Redding, Cat Stevens, Jill Scott, and Jack Johnson, and fold together jazz and soul with a bluesy undercurrent. Catch this rising young star on the intimate Jazz on the Lawn stage while you can!

The Getty Center, our notable local art destination, is offering kids a chance to enjoy their own Summer Concert Series. Garden Concerts for Kids features rockin’ tunes for fidgety feet in the Getty Center’s Central Garden. Enjoy the kid-friendly, sing-along tunes of  Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Trio in the great outdoors. Roberts’s catchy and sophisticated songs, and his ability to play in a wide variety of styles, has earned him comparisons to artists like Paul Simon and Elvis Costello.  This will be a concert for kids that will appeal to the adults as well.  The concert will be held on bothAugust 29 and 30, from 4-5:30, in the Getty Central Courtyard.

If you are out Malibu way, check out all the happenings at the Getty Museum Villa this summer.  A fun, activity-filled experience for children (ages 5 and up) and adults to enjoy together is the Art Odyssey for Families. Held on Sundays at 2 PM, this is a 45-minute tour through the galleries explores trade and travel in the ancient world. Space is limited, and sign ups are at the Tour Stop outside the entrance 15 miutes before.

While you’re at the Villa, drop by to explore travel and trade with your kids in the classical world. Every weekend from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. at the Getty Villa, you and your kids can explore the high seas with a day of artistic adventure. Take to the waves with the Trading Game, which ferries you from port to port across Greece, Egypt, and Colchis to deal in precious gold, fine spices, and rich olive oil. Go on an Art Odyssey tour and explore artworks from the many lands visited by the legendary heroes Jason and the Argonauts; and, on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., hear the rollicking tale of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece performed by storytellers. These events are held every Saturday and Sunday through September 6, and Monday, September 7.

If all of this doesn’t satisfy, then there is always the quintessential Los Angeles Summer Experience, the Hollywood Bowl.  Look at the schedule online, pack a picnic and go.  You can find classical, jazz, contemporary, opera, showtunes, dance, and Broadway events, all in one of the arguably best venues ever built for outdoor concerts.

Go out, and enjoy a little Los Angeles Culture.  There, I said it, and it’s no oxymoron!

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