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JULY 9, 2019

Meet Thomas Coston of Light Bringer Project

Today we’d like to introduce you to Thomas Coston.

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Thomas, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always been interested in the arts and have been writing for many years. It was almost 30 years ago that I met other individuals from the Pasadena area and we decided to launch an organization that would involve the participation of artists throughout Los Angeles. Our nonprofit, Light Bringer Project, began small, producing local performing arts events and exhibits, and grew over the years. In 1997 we expanded to include youth development with an arts program known as Cultural Passport. It partnered with the library system and introduced creative professionals to young people from underserved schools. The program won the California League of Cities Helen Putnam Award of Excellence for Public-Private Partnership. Since then we have grown to deliver four innovative arts education programs to over 1,500 diverse students in ten public schools throughout the County.

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We are also producers of major events, including the Pasadena Chalk Festival, LitFest Pasadena and Doo Dah Parade. We attract total audiences of well over one hundred thousand people. All of our events are offered free-of-charge to the public. I have been really fortunate to be part of this process. It has been a most rewarding journey watching young people take hold of opportunities and see their dreams and aspirations become real. They are the future of the cultural life of Los Angeles, after all. Personally, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow by practicing servant leadership having participated on several nonprofit boards of directors. I am also chair of Room 13 International, a worldwide network of creative studios driven by young artists! All of it is about learning together!!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, every journey like this comes with its challenges. As an arts organization funding is very difficult. We have had to come up with really innovative solutions. To sustain a nonprofit organization for the arts that’s community-based you have to be very entrepreneurial. There is always learning involved – but that’s the [art that also makes it exciting and worthwhile!

Please tell us about Light Bringer Project.
Light Bringer Project provides unique arts and learning opportunities for those of all ages and backgrounds. We do this by delivering:

• Innovative Arts Education Programs
• Public Art Events and Cultural Activities
• Partnerships with Schools, Industry, and Community

Our Vision is to become an invaluable contributor to the cultural fabric of the greater community, and a leader in creating pathways into higher education and creative disciplines for young people.

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The organization began as an oral history project, documenting the contributions of artists and arts supporters to the local environment, including the development of our cultural institutions. Early on, Light Bringer began producing small visual, media and performing arts events at local venues. Eventually, the organization began producing larger-scale special events and, in 1997, turned its attention to youth development and public education. At that time, we engaged in a partnership with our public library system known as Cultural Passport. Young people visited the library to dialogue with creative professionals and were exposed to multiple career pathways. They received specially-designed “young adult” library cards which entitled them to free admission for themselves and their family members at our leading cultural institutions. The program received the Helen Putnam Award of Excellence for Public-Private Partnership from the California League of Cities.

Current programs offered by Light Bringer Project are Literature for Life, a reading promotion program; Expressing Feelings Through Art, a prevention and visual arts and literacy program; Room 13, which provides arts practice at public school sites; and L.A. Futures, a communication arts, work-based learning program. Each of our four programs serves low-income, highly diverse student populations and each are designed to help students in the following areas: personal development through arts practice, communications, and leadership training improved academic performance and school engagement, mapping career pathways in creative disciplines, self-expression, and prevention. Overarching goals are to incorporate the four C’s, which are considered hallmarks of 21st-century learning. They are Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Sitting in my bedroom with my grandmother’s old typewriter and making up projects and businesses. It was like I was embarking on my own self-guided learning. I feel like the development of our nonprofit organization is an extension of all this early idea-making. I was excited everyday to get up and create something new!

Contact Info:

  • Address: 99 So Raymond Avenue

  • Website: www.lightbringerproject.org

  • Phone: 6265901134

  • Email: thomascoston@msn.com

  • Instagram: #lightbringerproject

  • Facebook: Light Bringer Project

  • Twitter: lightbringerp

May 31, 2019

POLAHS Student Wins LA County Creative Writing Prize

Megan Vidovich displays her first Place Literary Award

Megan Vidovich displays her first Place Literary Award

Megan Vidovich, 11th grade Port of Los Angeles High School student, has won First Place in the prestigious Tomorrow Prize. The Tomorrow Prize is a science fiction writing contest open to all Los Angeles County high school students. POLAHS student Antonio Torres received an Honorable Mention.

Presented by the Light Bringer Project and Sci-Fest L.A, the competition inspires students to explore their present through speculating about the future and provides an opportunity for students to excel in the art of creativity and storytelling.  A celebrity guest read Megan’s winning story aloud at LitFest Pasadena, May 19. Megan’s story is to be published in Parents Magazine and she will receive a $250 award plus free tuition for a college-level writing course.

Megan is the Junior Commissioner in POLAHS’ Student Council. She is also a clerk in the San Pedro delegation for the Youth and Government Model Legislature and Court Program, as well as former Presiding Commissioner of the National Issues Commission at the Youth and Government Spring Conference. Amid everything, she has a 4.4 GPA.  After high school, Megan will attend a four year university and is interested in studying marine biology, journalism, conservation, and music. She hopes to pursue a career in her main passion, which is songwriting.

Megan was inspired to write a piece after she heard about Tomorrow Prize from her creative writing teacher, Mrs. Clark.

“In her class, I enjoy being able to branch out of my comfort zone and be experimental with my work,” Megan said. “The class gives me a chance to write scripts and stories that I would never have thought of writing outside of class. The story I submitted was based on feeling disconnected from society. I’m passionate about this topic because it’s something that many people experience and struggle with. I wanted to let the readers know that even if you don’t feel as if you belong now, you will find your place one day.”

Creative writing class teacher at POLAHS, Ms. Clark, said they are proud to unveil POLAHS’ 2019 Literary Journal- a student created, published, and promoted magazine under the direction of the creative writing class. Creative writing students contribute submissions as well as many students outside of the class who are also published.  Journal pieces range from stories to poems to artwork.

The creative writing students take ownership of the process as they work in a professional writers’ group setting. They review and revise the guidelines for submissions, make fliers and posters to advertise for submissions and visit classrooms to read samples of their own work to encourage school wide involvement. As submissions came in, students discussed the format and structure of this year’s Journal. Next, they reviewed covers for the Lit Journal made by advanced graphic design students. Once it was pieced together, copies were printed, further reviewed by students, then finally it went to the print shop.

The Lit Journal was unveiled at Open Mic Afternoon where many students recognized that there are ideas for writing everywhere, and that their words have the power to touch others.


May 13, 2019

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LitFest Pasadena Brings Over 150 Authors to Pasadena's Historic Playhouse District for Weekend Event

Even more in store for the unique two-day literary festival in the District’s theater, businesses and outdoor spaces 

Pasadena, CA (May 13, 2019) – The 8th annual LitFest Pasadena presents a weekend packed with stimulating panels, interactive performances, inspiring readings, and engaging workshops on Saturday and Sunday, May 18th and 19th. As the shadows of the afternoon move into the cool of the evening, LitFest Pasadena welcomes writers and poets from all walks of life and cultural and ethnic backgrounds to discuss topics from “The Bookstores We Love” and “What You Need to Know About Publishing” to “Diving into the Wreck: The Inheritance of Trauma” and “Motels, Money, Murder & Madness: True Crime as Entertainment.” LitFest Pasadena seeks to offer viewpoints, experiences, and observations that will provide context and insight, expand understanding, embrace our diversity, and celebrate all things literary. Additionally, Vroman’s Boostore will be selling LitFest Pasadena authors’ books not only in their store, but in its “satellite” shop in the Wells Fargo Lobby of the Pasadena Playhouse. As always, the Festival is offered free of charge. 

LitFest Pasadena invites the public to stroll amid the historic architecture of the Playhouse District, visit the plentiful courtyards, enjoy the varied restaurants, and even stop at the  Haiku Guys + Gals on El Molino Avenue for some free poetry!

LitFest Pasadena is thrilled to welcome international bestselling author  Lisa See, author of the instant  New York Times  bestseller  The Island of Sea Women , Janet Fitch , author of the classic  White Oleander  and the upcoming  Chimes of a Lost Cathedral , and  Nina Revoyr , author of the  LA Times  bestseller Southland  - three highly acclaimed Los Angeles novelists gathering on stage for a conversation about fiction, writing, characters, and creativity. 

The editors of  Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018 and the  Paperback LA: A Casual Anthology  series,  David Kippen and  Susan LaTempa , talk shop with the audience about conjuring up Los Angeles purely from essays, stories, poetry, diaries, letters, beach glass, and old Dodgers ticket stubs.

A writer-driven literary festival, each day begins with workshops from 1:00pm to 3:00pm on subjects from learning to observe and write nature poetry with  Anne Yale to the return of  Camari Carter-Hawkins’ popular “Combchella: Normalizing Natural Hair through Literature.” Other interactive events include Cindy Rinne and  Bory Thach ’s “Letters Under Rock” with costumes, reading, dancing, and audience participation and  Amber West leading her readers and engaging the audience and passerby as she honors Walt Whitman and the “radical optimism of America’s first bard of democracy.”

From 3:00pm to 10:00p.m., panels, readings, open mic opportunities, and performances fill the district with all things literary. Get your mystery fix with Sisters in Crime LA ’s every popular panel discussion,  Xach Fromsonpresents his ever-popular “Shades & Shadows” - readings that make you jump from the bump in the night!  Ashley Santana explores the female archetype in “No Longer the Scream Queen: Women’s Roles in Horror Lit” and best selling author  Naomi Hirahara poses rapid-fire questions to  Gary Phillips ,  Joe Ide ,  Tod Goldberg ,  Steph Cha , and  Paddy Hirsch in “Interrogating the Crime Writer.”

KPCC reporter Adolfo Guzman Lopez brings Project 1521 artists and writers together as the 500th anniversary of Mexico’s conquest approaches and they try to make sense of current acts of detention and killings - their response being making art as acts of resistance in this “Writing Our Own Codices” reading and performance. 

As podcasting is an increasingly fashionable medium, writer and teacher Keenan Norris asks Badass Bookworm podcast host  Cassandra Dallet , KPFK’s  Bibliocracy Radio  host Andrew Tonkovich ,  Los Angeles Review of Books  editor  Medaya Ocher , and co-hostof the LARB’s “Radio Hour” podcaster  Eric Newman , “can literary podcasts do more than simply kill a few minutes while stuck in traffic on the 405?” Also, public radio legend  Kitty Feldehas turned to podcasting too - audiences of all ages will be engrossed by her live taping of her Kitty Felde Book Club for Kids.

Keeping it local, LitFest Pasadena presents Community Lit LA’s “Community Storytellers,” Locavore Lit’s “What Are Teenagers Reading Today?,” “The Future of LA Media: Hyped Up on Hyper Local Stories” with  Sophia Kercher , and Pasadena Weekly  contributor  Justin Chapman moderating “Alternative News Sources: How Alternative Newsweeklies Are Going Strong in Changing Times” with  Pasadena Weekly editor  Kevin Uhrich , deputy editor  Andrê Coleman , Arts Director  Carl Kozlowski , and columnist  Ellen Snortland .

Lifelong activist  Stephanie Ballard discusses with her panelists “Fighting Justice, One Word at a Time” while  Sehba Sarwar brings “Lenguas Revoltosas: Writers of Color Disrupting Traditional Literary Zones,” a “multi-genre reading (that) features Latinx and writers of color with unruly tongues disrupting English-only literary zones.”  Carla Sameth delves into “writing one’s truth” in “Queer, Adoptive, and Nontraditional Families” and  Corey Roskin explores “You Might As Well Live: Traversing Pain, Pleasure and Everything in Between in the Queer Memoir.”

Local author, teacher, and LitFest Pasadena co-founder  Jervey Tervalon discusses Memoirs of Black LA, takes on the provocative subject of Toxic Masculinity and will lead the celebration of his dear friend Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic  Jonathan Gold  who died last year.  Laurie Ochoa-Gold gathers Jonathan’s friends and colleagues - including  City of Gold Director Laura Gabbert - to honor and remember his unique life, wit, and wisdom - and discuss “How Jonathan Gold Reinvented Los Angeles.” 

LitFest Pasadena  is presented by  Light Bringer Project,  the Pasadena-based arts and education nonprofit, and Literature for Life, the literary journal and resource for educators. In partnership with Sci-Fest L.A. two annual short science fiction writing competitions are awarded at LitFest Pasadena. The competition’s mission is to identify and nurture up-and-coming science fiction writing talent of Los Angeles and worldwide.  The Tomorrow Prize  is awarded to the best original science fiction by Los Angeles County high school students. The  “Green Feather Award”  presented by L.A. Audubon recognizes an outstanding science fiction short story by a teen author that celebrates overcoming today’s environmental challenges.  The Roswell Award  is presented to outstanding short science fiction by adults. Over the years, submissions have come from dozens of countries. The  “Women Hold Up Half the Sky”  recognizes a science fiction story that embraces feminist themes and has a strong female protagonist. The winning story will be published both by Artemis Journal and Hollywood NOW. All prize winners’ works are read aloud on stage by guest celebrities. 

LitFest Pasadena is made possible by the support of the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Playhouse District. 


April 26, 2019

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LitFest Pasadena Brings Over 150 Authors to Pasadena's Historic Playhouse District 

The unique two-day literary festival includes dozens of readings, panels, literary performances in the District’s businesses and outdoor spaces. 

Pasadena, CA (April 26, 2019) – The 8th annual LitFest Pasadena features a host of special guest authors in panels, readings and other activities on May 18th and 19th. From late afternoon into evening, LitFest Pasadena welcomes writers and poets from all walks of life and all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, discussing widely diverse topics, presenting their works, and offering interactive events, aimed to attract people of every interest. Amid the historic architecture of the Playhouse District, the plentiful courtyards, the varied restaurants, and the sidewalks leading from one venue to another, LitFest Pasadena seeks to offer viewpoints, experiences, and observations that will provide context and insight, expand understanding, embrace our diversity, and celebrate all things literary. As always, the Festival is offered free of charge. 

This year’s LitFest Pasadena is thrilled to welcome international bestselling author Lisa See , author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Island of Sea Women , Janet Fitch , author of the classic White Oleander and the upcoming Chimes of a Lost Cathedral , and Nina Revoyr , author of the LA Times bestseller Southland - three highly acclaimed Los Angeles novelists gathering on stage for a conversation about fiction, writing, characters, and creativity. Award- winning and critically acclaimed author Attica Locke (Bluebird, Bluebird , Pleasantville , and Black Water Rising ) is also a writer for TV and she joins writers and show runners Gina Fattore and Jim Gavin to dissect the challenges of telling stories and developing characters for the page and for the screen in Book to TV: Is the Story Still a Story? 

As podcasting is an increasingly fashionable medium, writer and teacher Keenan Norris asks Badass Bookworm podcast host Cassandra Dallet , KPFK’s Bibliocracy Radio host Andrew Tonkovich , Los Angeles Review of Books editor Medaya Ocher , and co-hostof the LARB’s “Radio Hour” podcaster Eric Newman , “can literary podcasts do more than simply kill a few minutes while stuck in traffic on the 405?” Also, public radio legend Kitty Felde has turned to podcasting too - audiences of all ages will be engrossed by her live taping of her Kitty Felde Book Club for Kids. 

Speaking of kids, middle grade author Dana Middleton ( The Infinity Year of Avalon James , Open if You Dare ) shepherds a panel on the Modern Wave of Middle Grade books and authors, Christina Hoag addresses with her fellow panelists the challenge of writing Strong Female Teen Characters in Our Current #MeToo Era, and Be True to You: Owned Voices and Empathy in YA discusses the “owned voices” movement as a transformative voice in YA literature. 

Keeping it local, LitFest Pasadena presents the “spitfire poetry and short story showcase” of Community Lit LA with Hiram Sims , Literature for Life online publication and educational resource with Kevin Stricke , Hyped Up on Local: Why Local Journalism Matters with Sophia Kercher , and Pasadena Weekly contributor Justin Chapman moderating Alternative Newsweeklies Find a Niche with Pasadena Weekly editor Kevin Uhrich , publisher Dina Stegon , deputy editor Andrê Coleman , Arts Director Carl Kozlowski , and columnist Ellen Snortland . 

Local author, teacher, and LitFest Pasadena co-founder Jervey Tervalondiscusses Memoirs of Black LA, takes on the provocative subject of Toxic Masculinity and will lead the celebration of his dear friend Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold who died last year. Thanks to the distributors and film director Laura Gabbert , LitFest Pasadena presents a screening of City of Gold , which has been described as “a love letter to Los Angeles,” followed by a panel discussion featuring the director, Laurie Ochoa-Gold and Tervalon. 

LitFest Pasadena is presented by Light Bringer Project, the Pasadena-based arts and education nonprofit, and Literature for Life, the literary journal and resource for educators. In partnership with Sci-Fest L.A. two annual short science fiction writing competitions are awarded at LitFest Pasadena. The competition’s mission is to identify and nurture up-and-coming science fiction writing talent of Los Angeles and worldwide. The Tomorrow Prize is awarded to the best original science fiction by Los Angeles County high school students. The “Green Feather Award” presented by L.A. Audubon recognizes an outstanding science fiction short story by a teen author that celebrates overcoming today’s environmental challenges. The Roswell Award is presented to outstanding short science fiction by adults. Over the years, submissions have come from dozens of countries. The “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” recognizes a science fiction story that embraces feminist themes and has a strong female protagonist. The winning story will be published both by Artemis Journal and Hollywood NOW. All prize winners’ works are read aloud on stage by guest celebrities. 

LitFest Pasadena is made possible by the support of the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Playhouse District. 


 April 5, 2019

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Announcing Issue 6 of Literature for Life

Literature for Life, a program of local nonprofit arts organization, Light Bringer Project, seeks to spark a love of reading and writing in Los Angeles’ diverse youth. Filling the gap left by expensive and often outdated textbooks, our literature and artwork are selected to resonate with young people and to celebrate L.A. culture and people.

We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, April 7th to celebrate the launch of Literature for Life’s sixth issue. This spring, we’re proud to feature writing and artwork from local creatives, including hip-hop artist Andrés Guzmán, multimedia artist Janine Lim, and recent UC Santa Barbara graduate Kate Kesner.

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Congratulations to our Issue 6 authors!

Angelina Coppola grew up in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her B.A in English with a concentration in creative writing. Her writing has been covered in Los Angeles Magazine , The Washington Post , and CNET Australia , among others. She has extensive experience as a teaching artist and has worked for several organizations in this capacity, including South Pasadena Arts Center (SPACE), WriteGirl, Bold Ink Writers, and Day One. She currently writes and teaches in Los Angeles. She is the In-Schools Program Coordinator of Literature for Life.

Emma Demorest is a second year at UC Santa Barbara who is double majoring in film and the College of Creative Studies’ writing & literature major. A long-time admirer of sketch comedy and humor writing, she is the assistant editor of the humor column of UCSB’s Daily Nexus . Emma considers short fiction too serious most of the time, but if everyone else is going to do it, she’ll get on board.

Andrés Guzmán was raised in Union City, New Jersey. He recently earned his B.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern California. He currently lives in Los Angeles. He is a voracious reader of Mexican American and African American history, and he loves hip-hop music. He is pursuing a career as a hip-hop artist and seeking work in hip-hop radio or in education to help low-income, first-generation students achieve their college degrees.

Kate Kesner thinks writing is the most reliable form of transportation. A recent graduate of UC Santa Barbara’s global studies major, she is currently trying to figure out life. She likes sci-fi, dancing, and most people and is honored to be included in Issue 6 of Literature for Life .

Janine Lim is a Los Angeles-based multi-disciplinary artist. Her short film, “Grandfather Clock,” and photographic work were exhibited in San Francisco and Los Angeles. She is a former student of theater and a long-time student of martial arts. Her personal essays have been published in Youth Outlook Magazine andThe Bold Italic . In 2018, she co-produced the monthly reading series Drunken Masters for Writ Large Press and performed in contemporary dance piece “Solid as a Rock” as part of the REDCAT’S New Original Works Festival.

Sophie Marie has just earned her creative and professional writing degree with First-Class Honours. Since then, she’s moved from Canterbury to Wales to enjoy a quieter, slower way of life. She’s had short stories published online and in print but is currently focusing her efforts on writing a much longer piece. When she is not writing, Sophie can usually be found with an energy drink in her hand, a notebook in the other, her doggie Leia on her lap, and her pup Chewie by her feet.

Vivian McInerny is a journalist and a writer. Her short fiction is published in805 Lit+Art , Dunes Review , and The Cardiff Review . She’s a Fishtrap Fellow and recipient of a Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission grant for fiction, and her first children’s book is forthcoming in 2021. She is at work on a second YA novel and a memoir about traveling overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India at age eighteen.

Jamila Osman is a Somali writer, educator, and organizer living in Portland, Oregon. She teaches high school English and facilitates poetry workshops for marginalized youth, including currently incarcerated and immigrant and refugee youth. Her writing explores the tension between place, history, and identity. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, Catapult, The Establishment, BOAAT, DIAGRAM, and other places. She is a Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA) workshop alum.

Asha Parekh is a licensed clinical social worker who devotes time to improving Utah’s refugee systems to be welcoming and effective in facilitating refugee integration. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tim Stiles lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. His poems, stories, and lyrics have been published and recorded throughout the United States and Great Britain. His poetry and photography collaboration with photographer Jay Tyrrell, entitled Botmerica: Repeat After Me, was published in 2016.

Jervey Tervalon , MFA, is the award-winning, Los Angeles Times best-selling author of five books, including Understand This , a novel based on his experiences teaching at Locke High School in Los Angeles, for which he won the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices award. His newest novel, Monster’s Chef, was released by HarperCollins in 2014. He was the Remsen Bird Writer in Residence at Occidental College and is now an associate professor at National University and a lecturer at the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He’s lectured at USC and Occidental College. He is also an award-winning poet, screenwriter, dramatist, and the Founder and Editor of Literature for Life . Jervey was born in New Orleans and raised in Los Angeles. He received his MFA from UC Irvine and studied with Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s Ark .


Issue 5 Author Ximena Salas speaking to students about her story, at West Adams Preparatory High School, Los Angeles

Issue 5 Author Ximena Salas speaking to students about her story, at West Adams Preparatory High School, Los Angeles

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

The launch party will be held on Sunday, April 7th from 3 to 6 p.m. at the home of Jervey and Jinghuan Tervalon: 55 W. Manor St., Altadena, CA 91001. There is a suggested $5.00 donation at the door. 

At the home of Jervey & Jinghuan Tervalon

55 West Manor St.

Altadena, Ca 91001

Time: 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

$5 suggested donation

DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE AS A PDF

 
 
 

March 5, 2019

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“It's easy to miss the many interesting elements that make up the neighborhood, while you're driving through.”

I first met Gordon Henderson when I was working at SPACE in South Pasadena. He is a multidisciplinary artist, entertainer and radio announcer at KPCC. His latest body of work, Unknown Landmarks, a new exhibit of over 20 paintings, opens at Bermudez Projects on Saturday, March 9th and runs until April 27th. Here’s a little about the story behind Unknown Landmarks and Gordon’s inspiration for the project. 

Unknown Landmarks began when Gordon started commuting to and from work on foot and train. He has lived in Highland Park for over a decade and the artery of Figueroa from the Metro train station, past the oh-so-delicious Penny’s Burgers and onward up North Figueroa, is his usual route. Along the way, he started to notice the city’s hidden treasures—gloves, an abundance of them, melted psychedelically-colored ice cream cones, high-top Converses with no shoelaces on them (only to return the next day to witness them perfectly laced) and of course bananas, in all states. He started taking photos of these abandoned objects and posting them on his Instagram. One of the stranger oddities that crossed his path, was a stuffed shark on a telephone pole. Gordon contemplated taking it home, but took a photo instead, and left it for others to enjoy.

Bus Stop at Springvale and Figueroa

Bus Stop at Springvale and Figueroa

During his walks, he started taking photographs of the businesses, particularly on North Figueroa above York Boulevard—Joe’s Upholstery & Auto Service, Lucy’s Beauty Shop, Uno Produce Market, Italiano’s Pizza, Obsession Beauty Salon and others. He was inspired by the thoughtful hand-painted signs and the usage of color and design. 

“These are ordinary businesses; bakeries, bars, auto repair shops and pizza shops. What distinguishes them for me is the handmade quality of their presentation, from the signage to the buildings themselves,” said Gordon. “These are mostly independent businesses that have served the local community and reflect the community, as well.”

These businesses stand next to the steady hum of North Figueroa, a corridor with little foot traffic. To many Angelenos in transit, these landmarks are mostly framed by their car windows.

Uno Market

Uno Market

“The landmarks on Figueroa Street are known to anyone familiar with the neighborhood. But I didn't take a second look until I was walking,” he said. “Figueroa Street is a busy thoroughfare; it’s a river of cars, like many Los Angeles streets. It’s easy to miss the many interesting elements that make up the neighborhood, while you’re driving through.”

Joe’s Auto Service was one of the first businesses to catch his eye. It was evocative to him, an old gas station with three units on the same lot, painted a nice primary blue and white, layered with red lettering on the side. He made a triptych on wood of Joe’s, and then set out to paint the other businesses. Now, he has over twenty paintings of these landmarks, places that, to him, have an emotional impact, an emotional pull. 

“I appreciate these landmarks because they evoke the beauty of Los Angeles,” said Gordon. “As the neighborhood changes, local landmarks, like these, have begun to disappear. With this in mind I have taken on this project, documenting my favorite places in the neighborhood, as it looks now.”

The opening reception for Unknown Landmarks will be held from 7pm-10pm on Saturday, March 9th at Bermudez Projects located at 1225 Cypress Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90065. We hope to see you there! 

UPCOMING EVENTS

3/8 & 10/11 : 6pm to 9pm. ArtNight Pasadena Light Bringer Project and Day One

4/7 : 3pm to 7pm LocavoreLitLA Issue 6 Launch Party - @Home of Jervey and Jinghuan Tervalon, Altadena

5/18 & 5/19 : 3pm to 10pm LitFest Pasadena in the Playhouse District - Free

5/19 : 2pm to 4pm Expressing Feelings Through at Art Center College of Design - So. Campus

6/15 & 6/16 : 10am to 7pm Pasadena Chalk Festival at The Paseo on Father's Day Weekend - Free

11/24 : 11am - 1:30pm Pasadena Doo Dah Parade East Pasadena - Free


 
 

December 13, 2018

Photo by Brian Biery at  The Battery Bookstore

Photo by Brian Biery at The Battery Bookstore

“To me, writing is freedom. It allows me to fly, sometimes with a parachute and sometimes without.”

I met with Gerda Govine, the Poetry Lady of Pasadena, at The Battery Bookstore on Los Robles and was immediately struck by her elegance and style. A natural poet, she has helped to shape the literary arts community in Pasadena, and beyond, through the power of poetry.

Originally from the Virgin Islands, she made her way to California, by way of New York City, in 1982, and now, calls the megalopolis of Pasadena, Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana home. She has cultivated friendships and creative collaborations across these divides, through her work with La Casa del Tunel (The House of the Tunnel), a converted art center along the Tijuana border, co-founded by Gerda’s partner, artist Luis Ituarte, and most recently, with the opening of DesEscondido/No Longer Hidden: Public Address at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. DesEscondido is a group show that features multimedia artwork by seventeen artists and poetry from Gerda’s latest collection, Poetry Within Reach In Unexpected Places.

Gerda speaks about the process behind her fourth book, “I collected and harvested words and phrases, for over a year and a half, from the other seventeen artists, and was able to connect each artist to their work and their work to the title of the show.” She describes her writing practice as “opening that space and allowing it to stay open” and “hav[ing] the confidence that the words won’t fail me.”

For the past year and a half, Gerda has facilitated “Poetry Within Reach,” a poetry reading series at the Pasadena City Council Meetings. After six months of reading her poetry at the meetings, she received a call from Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, thanking her for her work and asking her to continue. “Poetry Within Reach” was born. Gerda says, “I believe that as poets we have a right, a responsibility, to give back, to be civic-minded, to be citizen poets, and that’s why I started the readings at City Council.” Her goal is to create a “chorus of poets” who read at City Council meetings across the country.

The Pasadena Rose Poets are members of this chorus. Founded by Gerda, the Rose Poets include Teresa Mei Chuc, Mel Donalson, Kate Gale, Damian Gonzalez, Hazel Clayton Harrison, Gerda Govine Ituarte, Shahé Mankerian, Carla Sameth, Annette Wong and Toni Mosley. The group is comprised of poetry advocates and ambassadors, who hold readings through out the city, including at the Pasadena Public Library, the Pasadena Museum of California Art and “The Noontime Reading Series” at the Pasadena Senior Center.

Gerda describes reading to an audience as taking a bath in the words on the page, “It’s organic. I use my hands. I use my body, my intonation, my speed…Each poem I read differently, to keep the words alive…”

Looking forward, Gerda plans to continue to build connections and hopes to curate shows internationally, and to, of course, keep writing. “I have a lot of poems running around in my head,”she says. “They’ll come out when they’re ready.”

UPCOMING EVENTS

3/8 & 10/11 ArtNight Pasadena Light Bringer Project and Day One

5/18 & 5/19 LitFest Pasadena in the Playhouse District - Free

5/19 2-4pm Expressing Feelings Through at Art Center College of Design - So. Campus

6/15 & 6/16 Pasadena Chalk Festival at The Paseo on Father's Day Weekend - Free

11/24 11am Pasadena Doo Dah Parade East Pasadena - Free


Actress Jasika Nicole (“Fringe”) reads a finalist’s story for The Tomorrow Prize Reading & Awards at LitFest Pasadena. PHOTO BY ROSALIND HELFAND

Actress Jasika Nicole (“Fringe”) reads a finalist’s story for The Tomorrow Prize Reading & Awards at LitFest Pasadena. PHOTO BY ROSALIND HELFAND

November 25, 2018

High school students: Take out your keyboards and your wildest imagination. 

For the fifth year in a row, the Pasadena-based nonprofit, the Light Bringer Project, is sponsoring a science-fiction writing competition open to all ninth- through 12th-grade students enrolled in schools across L.A. County. The Tomorrow Prize for short science fiction “inspires students to explore their present through speculating about their future and to excel in the art of storytelling,” according to the website.  

Sci-fi is one of the most popular contemporary literary genres, especially with young writers because they all grew up with technology. This competition encourages teens to explore scientific, social, technological, environmental and philosophical themes in their writing. The winning stories will combine the exploration of these topics with well-crafted storytelling. 

Five finalists will be chosen. In the past, judges have included scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and celebrity Young Adult authors. The winning stories will be read on stage by famous actors in May at Litfest Pasadena. The Los Angeles Audubon will also present The Green Feather Award for the best environmentally themed sci-fi story. Hundreds of students and more than 20 schools have participated in the contest over the last four years, and organizers say this year promises to be the biggest one yet. L.A. Parent is serving as a media sponsor. 

As someone who spent several years teaching high school English, these writing competitions are very close to my heart. Several of my former students won awards from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs from the various competitions the department has sponsored over the years. The opportunities presented in these contests can end up being transformative for all involved.  

Beyond the competitive aspect, these writing contests are an extracurricular activity that empowers students and offers them a chance to express their imagination beyond standard regurgitation. A statement from the Light Bringer’s website elucidates this further: “Science fiction is a uniquely inspiring medium that has enabled many of our great thinkers and scientists to imagine the heights and limits of human achievement, leading to important moral and ethical debate, long-range planning for humanity and scientific innovation.”   

Former participant Chelsea See says the biggest benefit for her was meeting and hearing the work of peer writers. “It was a grounding and humbling experience to be a part of such a dedicated and skilled group of writers that were all my age,” she says. “I truly believe that participating in this contest helped me realize just how close I can get to achieving my dreams.”  

For more information on The Tomorrow Prize, see the Light Bringer Project on Instagram and Facebook @LightBringerProjectand on Twitter @LightBringerP. At the same time, share the announcement with teachers and high school writers across L.A. County. The judges are waiting to read Tomorrow’s Prize – today.   


Editor's Note: We wish to clarify that the Doo Dah Parade this weekend is on Sunday, November 18. An earlier version of the story said otherwise.

Editor's Note: We wish to clarify that the Doo Dah Parade this weekend is on Sunday, November 18. An earlier version of the story said otherwise.

November 14, 2018

Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade has selected the Altadena pizza parlor proprietor who orchestrated a boat rescue of his grandparents amid the Woolsey Fire to lead this Sunday’s festivities as Grand Marshal.

In a nod to his bravery and innovative problem solving, the nonprofit Light Bringer Project, which is organizing the 41st Doo Dah Parade, wanted to honor Jamie Woolner, Light Bringer Project President Tom Coston said.

“We like to highlight a community hero and somebody has given a lot to the community and celebrate that. It’s maybe the one little serious life of Doo Dah that exists,” Coston said. “…the people who were the unsung heroes. They don’t get a lot of attention, and they really should. And this parade being a people’s parade, you know, it’s a chance for us to really salute their good deeds that they give us during the year.”

Woolner owns Pizza of Venice on Fair Oaks Avenue in Altadena. When the flames of the devastating Woolsey Fire descended on the neighborhood of his grandparents, who are 87 and 90 years old, he said he just had to get to them.

With roads into the area closed or impassable, Woolner hatched a plan to use a boat to reach his grandparents on Saturday.

Helped by Anthony Perez of Marina del Rey-based Nautical Tech Services, Woolner said he was soon diving from a yacht into the water off of Paradise Coast and swimming toward shore.

Woolner and his associates persuaded the grandparents to leave their endangered home, and also managed to snuff out flames burning near fuel drums at a construction site before leaving, he said. And all while barefoot and shirtless after the swim to reach the neighborhood.

“We were barefoot, stepping on thorns and embers getting burned on our feet, and it was hot,” he said.

The group then spotted burning brush near 55-gallon barrels of diesel fuel.

“We realized we really needed to put out that fire, because if the construction site caught and those barrels got hit by the fire, I can only imagine the devastation that it would have cost to the area,” he said.

They waived down a small boat, which helped take the elderly passengers from shore to the anchored yacht, according to the LAist.

“I feel really honored, actually. I’m super excited,” Woolner said. “It’s really nice to be thought of as a person worthy to be highlighted in the community, and I’m very happy that this story ended as well as it did, because I know that there are a lot of people whose stories did not have happy endings.”

“There’s a lot of heroes out there who are risking a lot more than I did, and so I feel very fortunate.”

Woolner will lead a strong contingent of lunacy at Sunday’s Doo Dah Parade, Coston said.

“We probably have about 90 different entry groups, about 1500 marchers,” he threatened. “We’re expecting several thousand people up to come watch. We imagine that there will be a tortilla or two in the air.”

Interest seems to have been increasing lately, according to Coston.

“We’re getting a lot of new entries and people that are coming into the parade that had never been in it. Usually they come to it because they’d go to a Doo Dah and they say, ‘I could do that,’” he said.

“And then they come up with whatever routine or whatever it is that’s funny in their living room. They bring it out to the street and sometimes it’s funny on the streets, sometimes nobody knows what they’re doing, but it’s still interesting,” Coston said.

“Because that’s the whole point, you know. It’s a stage for people to do whatever they want. If they want to be political pundits… or they want to be a performance artist or whatever.”

One new entry is titled, “Rocket Boy,” Light Bringer Managing Director Patty Hurley said. “So we’re curious what that will be.”

“I got a call from the ‘Clown Doctors of Outer Space.’ I have no idea who’s showing up. But it sounds like something that haunts the back of a lot of people’s nightmares.” Coston added.

“We have ‘Mr Claw.’ We have no idea what that is,” he said.

“He’s a robot,” Hurley interjected.

“Oh really? Oh yeah, of course. He’s a robot,” Coston said.

The always irreverent and twisted stream of consciousness brought to life that calls itself the Doo Dah Parade will strut its one-of-a-kind brand of artistically inspired insanity in East Pasadena starting at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Decent, serious-minded folks will want to avoid the area of Colorado Boulevard, between Altadena Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard.

For those unable to avoid the path of the unrepentant nonsense, a word to the wise: The ballistic properties of corn tortillas are far superior to those of flour tortillas.

More information is available online at pasadenadoodahparade.info.


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March 30, 2018

Leigh Adams sits on her story tree and looks up at the branches. They extend this way and that, and intertwine like arms hugging. Her purple hair catches the light, as she points at the bark, "See the smiling faces?" she asks me.

Leigh has been the Artist-in-Residence and an Interpretive Horticulturalist at the Arboretum for the past ten years. She is a mosaic artist, activist, water harvester, educator, storyteller, longtime Altadena resident and all-around lovely soul. I feel very luck to have spent an afternoon talking and strolling with her through the gardens of the Arboretum--Leigh's home away from home.

"Magic realism is a huge part of my life," said Leigh, as we walked the grounds. This magic can be found in Leigh's spirit. She buzzes with a warm electricity that brings you in and leaves you feeling open. It can also be found in her gardens. They are fertile and inviting places, places where you can set aside your daily burdens and daydream.

“What we can do together, no one of us can do alone.”

One of which is the Crescent Farm at the Arboretum. The farm is Leigh's brainchild; it has continued to grow and be enhanced by the help of the community and the consistent TLC of John Latsko, an Interpretive Horticulturalist at the Arboretum and, as Leigh puts it, "the best garden husband I could ask for."

At the entrance to the Crescent Farm, stands a mosaic mural that children like to trace with their fingers. Artists from Skid Row were commissioned to create it. For many years, Leigh has taught for and worked closely with Piece by Piece, a nonprofit organization that provides free mosaic art workshops to low income and formerly homeless populations.

Leigh incorporates mosaic into all of her gardens and continues to host free mosaic workshops, as well as gardening workshops at the Crescent Farm. Participants learn the process behind habitat gardening--working with the land instead of against it--and water harvesting, or water optimization, a key part of Leigh's gardening practice.

Water harvesting captures rainwater and water runoff, and uses it in lieu of unnatural irrigation systems. Leigh has helped to expand the public's knowledge of water harvesting, and is at the helm of the urban sustainable agriculture movement because of it.

"If you master the process, you can have any product you want," Leigh said about her work in the garden, the studio, and the classroom. For decades, her work as a teaching artist has taken her into schools through out Los Angeles and Pasadena. She stresses the power of collaboration to her students and "do[ing] what you believe in and see[ing] what comes of it."

Leigh's upcoming project will be working with Metabolic Studios to implement water-cleansing processes for the LA River. She is exploring the possibilities of ancient weaving with willow, a natural cleanser that belongs in the river. We look forward to seeing the ripples she creates!

More information about the fabulous Leigh Adams can be found on her website.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

5/19 & 20 LitFest Pasadena in the Playhouse District - Free

5/20 2-4pm Expressing Feeling Through Art - Art Center South Campus - about EFTA

6/16 & 6/17 Pasadena Chalk Festival - The Paseo - Free

11/18 11-3pm 41st Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade