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robertogreco : sanbernardino   3

A Boom Interview: Mike Davis in conversation with Jennifer Wolch and Dana Cuff – Boom California
"Dana Cuff: You told us that you get asked about City of Quartz too often, so let’s take a different tack. As one of California’s great urban storytellers, what is missing from our understanding of Los Angeles?

Mike Davis: The economic logic of real estate and land development. This has always been the master key to understanding spatial and racial politics in Southern California. As the late-nineteenth century’s most influential radical thinker—I’m thinking of San Francisco’s Henry George not Karl Marx—explained rather magnificently, you cannot reform urban space without controlling land values. Zoning and city planning—the Progressive tools for creating the City Beautiful—either have been totally co-opted to serve the market or died the death of a thousand cuts, that is to say by variances. I was briefly an urban design commissioner in Pasadena in the mid-1990s and saw how easily state-of-the-art design standards and community plans were pushed aside by campaign contributors and big developers.

If you don’t intervene in the operation of land markets, you’ll usually end up producing the opposite result from what you intended. Over time, for instance, improvements in urban public space raise home values and tend to become amenity subsidies for wealthier people. In dynamic land markets and central locations, nonprofits can’t afford to buy land for low-income housing. Struggling artists and hipsters inadvertently become the shock troops of gentrification and soon can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods and warehouse districts they invigorated. Affordable housing and jobs move inexorably further apart and the inner-city crisis ends up in places like San Bernardino.

If you concede that the stabilization of land values is the precondition for long-term democratic planning, there are two major nonrevolutionary solutions. George’s was the most straightforward: execute land monopolists and profiteers with a single tax of 100 percent on increases in unimproved land values. The other alternative is not as radical but has been successfully implemented in other advanced capitalist countries: municipalize strategic parts of the land inventory for affordable housing, parks and form-giving greenbelts.

The use of eminent domain for redevelopment, we should recall, was originally intended to transform privately owned slums into publicly owned housing. At the end of the Second World War, when progressives were a majority in city government, Los Angeles adopted truly visionary plans for both public housing and rational suburban growth. What then happened is well known: a municipal counter-revolution engineered by the LA Times. As a result, local governments continued to use eminent domain but mainly to transfer land from small owners to corporations and banks.

Fast-forward to the 1980s. A new opportunity emerged. Downtown redevelopment was devouring hundreds of millions of dollars of diverted taxes, but its future was bleak. A few years before, Reyner Banham had proclaimed that Downtown was dead or at least irrelevant. If the Bradley administration had had the will, it could have municipalized the Spring-Main Street corridor at rock-bottom market prices. Perhaps ten million square feet would have become available for family apartments, immigrant small businesses, public markets, and the like, at permanently controlled affordable rents.

I once asked Kurt Meyer, a corporate architect who had been chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, about this. He lived up Beachwood Canyon below the Hollywood Sign. We used to meet for breakfast because he enjoyed yarning about power and property in LA, and this made him a unique source for my research at the time. He told me that downtown elites were horrified by the unexpected revitalization of the Broadway corridor by Mexican businesses and shoppers, and the last thing they wanted was a populist downtown.

He also answered a question that long vexed me. “Kurt, why this desperate, all-consuming priority to have the middle class live downtown?” “Mike, do you know anything about leasing space in high-rise buildings?” “Not really.” “Well, the hardest part to rent is the ground floor: to extract the highest value, you need a resident population. You can’t just have office workers going for breakfast and lunch; you need night time, twenty-four hour traffic.” I don’t know whether this was really an adequate explanation but it certainly convinced me that planners and activists need a much deeper understanding of the game.

In the event, the middle class has finally come downtown but only to bring suburbia with them. The hipsters think they’re living in the real thing, but this is purely faux urbanism, a residential mall. Downtown is not the heart of the city, it’s a luxury lifestyle pod for the same people who claim Silverlake is the “Eastside” or that Venice is still bohemian.

Cuff: Why do you call it suburbia?

Davis: Because the return to the center expresses the desire for urban space and crowds without allowing democratic variety or equal access. It’s fool’s gold, and gentrification has taken the place of urban renewal in displacing the poor. Take Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris’s pioneering study of the privatization of space on the top of Bunker Hill. Of course, your museum patron or condo resident feels at home, but if you’re a Salvadorian skateboarder, man, you’re probably headed to Juvenile Hall."



"Jennifer Wolch: Absolutely. However it’s an important question particularly for the humanities students, the issue of subjectivity makes them reticent to make proposals.

Davis: But, they have skills. Narrative is an important part of creating communities. People’s stories are key, especially about their routines. It seems to me that there are important social science skills, but the humanities are important particularly because of stories. I also think a choreographer would be a great analyst of space and kind of an imagineer for using space.

I had a long talk with Richard Louv one day about his Last Child in the Woods, one of the most profound books of our time, a meditation on what it means for kids to lose contact with nature, with free nomadic unorganized play and adventure. A generation of mothers consigned to be fulltime chauffeurs, ferrying kids from one commercial distraction or over-organized play date to another. I grew up in eastern San Diego County, on the very edge of the back country, and once you did your chores (a serious business in those days), you could hop on your bike and set off like Huck Finn. There was a nudist colony in Harbison Canyon about twelve miles away, and we’d take our bikes, push them uphill for hours and hours in the hope of peeking through the fence. Like all my friends, I got a .22 (rifle) when I turned twelve. We did bad things to animals, I must confess, but we were free spirits, hated school, didn’t worry about grades, kept our parents off our backs with part-time jobs and yard work, and relished each crazy adventure and misdemeanor. Since I moved back to San Diego in 2002, I have annual reunions with the five or six guys I’ve known since second grade in 1953. Despite huge differences in political beliefs and religion, we’re still the same old gang.

And gangs were what kept you safe and why mothers didn’t have to worry about play dates or child molesters. I remember even in kindergarten—we lived in the City Heights area of San Diego at that time—we had a gang that walked to school together and played every afternoon. Just this wild group of little boys and girls, seven or eight of us, roaming around, begging pennies to buy gum at the corner store. Today the idea of unsupervised gangs of children or teenagers sounds like a law-and-order problem. But it’s how communities used to work and might still work. Aside from Louv, I warmly recommend The Child in the City by the English anarchist Colin Ward. A chief purpose of architecture, he argues, should be to design environments for unprogrammed fun and discovery."



"Wolch: We have one last question, about your young adult novels. Whenever we assign something from City of Quartz or another of your disheartening pieces about LA, it’s hard not to worry that the students will leave the class and jump off of a cliff! But your young adult novels seem to capture some amount of an alternative hopeful future.

Davis: Gee, you shouldn’t be disheartened by my books on LA. They’re just impassioned polemics on the necessity of the urban left. And my third LA book, Magical Urbanism, literally glows with optimism about the grassroots renaissance going on in our immigrant neighborhoods. But to return to the two adolescent “science adventure” novels I wrote for Viggo Mortensen’s wonderful Perceval Press. Above all they’re expressions of longing for my oldest son after his mother moved him back to her native Ireland. The heroes are three real kids: my son, his step-brother, and the daughter of our best friends when I taught at Stony Brook on Long Island. Her name is Julia Monk, and she’s now a wildlife biologist doing a Ph.D. at Yale on pumas in the Andes. I’m very proud that I made her the warrior-scientist heroine of the novels, because it was an intuition about her character that she’s made real in every way—just a remarkable young person."
mikedavis  2016  interviews  economics  california  sanfrancisco  losangeles  henrygeorge  urbanism  urban  suburbia  suburbs  jenniferolch  danacuff  fauxurbanism  hipsters  downtown  property  ownership  housing  populism  progressive  progressivism  reynerbanham  planning  urbanplanning  citybeautiful  gentrification  cities  homeless  homelessness  michaelrotundi  frankgehry  richardlouv  gangs  sandiego  friendship  colinward  thechildinthecity  architecture  fun  discovery  informal  unprogrammed  freedom  capitalism  china  india  england  ireland  famine  optimism  juliamonk  children  teens  youth  development  realestate  zoning  sanbernardino  sciarc 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Vital Signs: Revitalizing the Pulse of San Bernardino | San Bernardino | Artbound | KCET
"Not all that glitters is gold under the bright California sun, but there's still something to be said about the ever present, dust-like sparkle embedded within a worn and stained sidewalk.

Poet Juan Delgado and photographer Thomas McGovern explore the vibrant melding of Hispanic and Anglo-American cultures indigenous to San Bernardino County in their collaborative exhibition "Vital Signs", currently on view from April 19th through July 24th, 2014 at the Robert and Francis Fullerton Museum of Art in San Bernardino. A work seven years in the making, "Vital Signs" moves through the duo's stark, yet poignant documentation of the frequently overlooked hand painted signs and murals found within their home region, capturing everything from a barely discernible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle to the frequently depicted Virgin of Guadalupe. With paintings and text that serve far beyond any base utilitarian need, the union of Delgado and McGovern's work conveys a perceptive understanding of the aesthetic created, and sometimes neglected, by the urban population, continually paying homage to the artistic vigilance indicative of a time before the market became so heavily saturated with ubiquitously low cost forms of advertising."
handlettering  lettering  signs  sanbernardino  photography  2014  juandelgado  thomasmcgovern 
january 2015 by robertogreco
End of the Road: LACMA9 Wraps Up Its Countywide Journey | Los Angeles | Artbound | KCET
"Nine cities. Sixteen months, 47 filmmaking workshops provided, 113 distinct films screened, 61 oral history dates, with numerous stories told, heard, and created, both on- and off-camera. There were countless communities inspired, and connections made.

In June 2013, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's educational initiative education department sprung the LACMA9 Art + Film Lab on Redlands, San Bernardino, Altadena. Monterey Park, Hacienda Heights, Montebello, Compton, Inglewood and Torrance. Over the course of 16 months, and using a big red steel and plywood structure, designed by sculptor Jorge Pardo, as a traveling mobile installation/event/community space, the Lab camped out in parking lots, community spaces, and parks in some of these nine cities for five weeks at a time. Each weekend, its crew screened movies, hosted musical bands, taught workshops on film and video, and gathered oral histories from community members. Supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, the events and classes were free. It was a boon for the participants, many of whom had never heard of LACMA before.

While LACMA9 may have been the institution's first traveling educational endeavor, Sarah Jesse, associate vice president of education and public programs at LACMA, explained that the Lab was just a different iteration LACMA's outreach philosophy. "[We want to] build relationships with people on their own turf, in their own neighborhoods, before expecting them to come visit us." She added, "The nine cities were purposely picked so LACMA could have a chance to form relationships with organizations and individuals that we've never met before."

[video: https://vimeo.com/90709049 ]

And for many of the participants -- from community members to LACMA staffers to artists involved in the event -- the project was immeasurably moving. Hanul Bahm, LACMA's community engagement manager, produced the Lab and was part of every set-up in every city. (Read her missives from the road here). Bahm said, "The experience gave me a groundedness in California because it is home for so many different kinds of people, and I got to encounter so much of this area." A transplant to Los Angeles from New York by way of San Francisco, she added, "It was a big gift to encounter and serve so many Angelenos and hear their personal stories, share culture, and turn people on to filmmaking."

Participants came from all over for different reasons: some wanted to learn to be filmmakers and took part in the workshops. Some wanted to tell their stories in the oral history booths. Others wanted to dance and party during the opening nights, and others wanted to watch the free movies screened. "It made me think of our journeys as Angelenos and all the different places we come from, and fates that led us all to this place," Bahm said."

[video: https://vimeo.com/100325305 ]

The Lab connected families, developed cross-cultural interactions, and -- most importantly -- empowered the people. "We've had people who've never used a camera in their lives keep coming back to our workshops and now they want to make feature-length documentaries," Bahm said. "[LACMA9] gave [participants] access to all these world-class filmmakers who are giving you everything they can to make sure you can own this process [of filmmaking]. It's like, you have a camera in your hand, here's how to edit."

The sense of radical friendliness and accessibility that the LACMA9 staff tried to embody was especially effective given that Southern California houses a monolithic film industry that's so closed off to regular people, Bahm said. "I said that if even one person comes out of this project and self-identifies as a filmmaker, then we've succeeded. And hundreds of people now do that, and continue to collaborate with each other because they met each other at the Lab. We wanted to take away the exclusivity of relating to this medium, and I think we did that."

Other partnerships are continuing on beyond the LACMA9 lifespan as well. LACMA is developing an in-depth partnership with school districts in two cities, Compton and Torrance, wherein LACMA will provide teaching artists to select elementary and middle schools over the course of four years. LACMA will provide the schools artists who will expose students to works from the LACMA collection and inspire them to create hands-on art projects, and LACMA will provide NextGen passes to all the students. "We're providing an art curriculum where there may be a gap [in those communities]," Jesse said.

LACMA also commissioned artist Nicole Miller to create videos for every city. She filmed two residents who took part in the oral history booths to create an 18-piece video installation. The videos of every city were screened at LACMA during the days when the museum provided free admission to residents of those cities; highlights from the whole piece will be screened on Sunday, October 19 and Sunday, December 21 at 12:30 p.m. in LACMA's Bing Theater.

[videos:

Miller approached individuals interested in storytelling and cinema, the ones whose personal stories were somehow intertwined in these ideas. Her subjects include a man playing the harp speaking about abuse, a woman doing laughing exercises, a painter who nearly died in jail. "In every instance there was a transmission to be made," she said. "They all met me knowing exactly which of their stories needed to be told and why they should tell these stories on screen."

Artist Miller says watching her subjects watch themselves on the big screen in the LACMA theater was extraordinary -- a circle of each subject's experience, which was made into story, and then into image. At the first screening, Miller featured Ndinda Spada practicing exercises from a laughing yoga class. "Her beautiful smile and the ringing of her joyous voice projected to the audience from the giant screen. There happened to be a full audience of children, when Ndinda come on the screen laughing, they all responded with a chorus of ecstatic laughter, a wonderful back and forth between screen and viewers. This is the ideal of how my work is supposed to function, changing reality just so," Miller said.

Bahm says providing artistic venues to underserved communities is something more institutions should do. "To know that you're in a place that's hungry for creative outlets, and that LACMA was able to meet that hunger and transform it into something really life-giving, was a remarkable act, but it was possible because of the people who participated, not just the Lab," she said. "I hope to see more institutions and communities enact change, and solve problems together creatively.""

[http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/lacma9-inglewood-art-film-lab.html
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/compton-artfilm-lab.html
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/montebello-art-film-lab-lacma9.html
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/hacienda-heights-art-film-lab-lacma9.html
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/monterey-park-lacma9-artfilm-lab.html
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/lacma9-art-film-lab-altadena.html
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/san-bernardino/san-bernardino-lacma9-art-film-lab.html
http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/san-bernardino/lacma9-art-film-lab-redlands.html ]
lacma  lacma9  art  arteducation  education  mobility  jorgepardo  openstudioproject  lcproject  filmmaking  redlands  altadena  sanbernardino  montereypark  haciendaheights  montebello  compton  inglewood  torrance  losangeles  outreach  sarahjesse 
october 2014 by robertogreco

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