CALARTS AS AN L.A. ICON

Cities can be simply distinguished by a particular attribute, however arbitrarily. For example, New York it is finance, the symbol, money, the setting, Wall Street; Washington, D.C., the attribute, government, the symbol, the politician, the setting, the U.S, Capitol building.

Distinguishing Los Angeles is more problematic, as I comment this week on public radio 97.5 KBU, and websites everywhere.

Thinking beyond the benign weather and semi desert setting by the sea, I propose it could be arts and entertainment, and its personification, the gazpacho of cultural diversity. The setting is more debatable.

There is, of course, the iconic Hollywood sign. Some say the Venice boardwalk, or a beach scene, on a warm weekend. Others more contrarian, the traffic choked freeways.

From my perspective, L.A. more than most world cities is an evolving metropolis, and therefore an apt descriptive setting in my opinion would be a happening place.

With this as a measure, and as an idiosyncratic critic, I suggest the setting be CalArts, the Valencia based undergraduate and graduate school of 1,500 students pursuing careers in the visual, performing, and literary arts.

Though there are other art oriented schools in L.A. what makes CalArts special for me is not any physical icon, but the diversity of its students reflecting L.A.’s ethnicity , energy and excitement. After all, what is a city, but its people.

And I like the idea expressed by CalArts president Steven Lavine, that the school can only be good as its students, and that CalArts IS committed first and foremost to attracting a diverse student body that reflected L.A. and the world.

Indeed, I love the school’s catalogue that declares admission is based solely on the applicant’s creative talent and future potential; that test scores are not particularly important, and that the students who do best in CalArts tend to energetic, enthusiastic, self-motivated, fast learners, idiosyncratic aesthetes, verbal and visual adventurers, risk takers, those who are smart and vocal and possess a critical eye.

It adds that having formal skills helps, but those are things that can be taught; that having raw intelligence and an adventurous side matters more. Above all, it was found the students who do best are those committed to design and who are willing to put the time and energy into their own development and learning.

What made me think about CalArts – the so-called news peg for this piece – is the imminent retirement of Lavine, whose nearly 30 noteworthy years as president, from the school’s early struggles to its present prominence, in many ways parallels the rise of L.A. as the disputable creative capitol of the world.

To be sure, this category has not yet been christened by those who keep lists. But I feel it’s deserving, and in the tradition of L.A. as a trendsetter, beginning as a boomtown, then a tinsel town, and today the new media, and tomorrow, who knows.

But whatever, I feel CalArts will persevere and prosper, if it indeed stays true to Lavine’s vision of an intercultural , international and interdisciplinary pursuit of the arts, as an integral element in an evolving of democracy, addressing the pressing social issues of the times.

 

 

 

 

 

POST ELECTION PONDERINGS, NATIONAL AND LOCAL

It might be another benign sunny day in my mellow Malibu, but to be sure there is a dark cloud on the horizon. It has been there since Election Day, and I am still in shock.

Call it PTMD, post-traumatic media disorder, but the Trump triumph, and the Clinton collapse, still reverberates, and I expect it will for some time as the obnoxious TV personality, casino operator and debatable developer prepares to assume the Presidency of the United States.

It is frightening, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net, and in select websites and print.

So take a deep breath, and get ready for a political roller coaster ride, through the peaks and valleys of rhetoric and reality. And watch out for those walls.

And yes, there was a local election, and in some respects it also was a populist referendum, a protest of sorts against business as usual in government. But unlike the national election, the vote count in Malibu was heartening.

The victory of the slate of Mullen, Wagner and Peak definitely was a repudiation of what has been characterized as Malibu’s persevering political machine.

However labeled, whether the friends of former mayors Barofsky, Rosenthal and Sibert, or what, they have been perceived as a tag team in serial elections empowered by a daisy chain of endorsements.

This is, of course, what small town politics is all about.

At City Hall, there were lots of self aggrandizing, perks, such as expense paid trips, and wallowing in the fawning attention that comes from sitting on a dais. And let us not forget the $300 councilpersons receive monthly as compensation, though I suspect that doesn’t cover the phone bills or gas.

The problem for the machine is that it more and more was identified as pro development, yielding to the entreaties of special interests, represented by lawyers and facilitators, (some call them fixers) with a major focus on the civic center.

The Civic Center is not really very civic, or a center, but has morphed into a fractured shopping mall with fewer and fewer local stores or services, and more pricey boutiques aimed at the tourist trade and Malibu’s increasing deep pocket part time residents.

\Whether characterized as old timers, or the young couple that bought last year, residents who actually make Malibu their home did not like what they saw. And they especially did not like the traffic it generated on PCH, which because of the hundreds of thousands attracted to the beach on weekends, and the inexorable daily crush, has become the bane of Malibu.

Repeatedly over the last several years, one resolution followed another in Malibu addressing growth, with convincing votes in opposition to a succession of projects, no matter what mustache was put on the pig-of-the moment

And while council members inevitably declared to be for slow or no development, they tended to vote otherwise, earning the ire of activist residents.

At the same time, there has been an explosion of sort of the social media, with residents increasingly communicating with neighbors their frustrations with City Hall. And immodestly no doubt raising the community consciousness was the establishment of a local radio station 97.5 KBU, featuring an informative daily local news report that tells it like it is.

Recognition also should be given to the newspaper, aptly bannered The Local, which took up the promotion of the slate and directed its cudgel against what it labeled the evil forces of rapacious development.

POST All this makes for a heartening and also challenging sense of community for a misanthropic Malibu. We await the seating of the new council with what we hope will be an enlightened majority. We hope.