play / 2014

The LA River Public Art Project

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by ERW Design

Who wants to see more world-class art on the LA River?


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

The LA River Public Art Project is a visionary Cultural Master Plan for LA’s next great public space fusing nature, art, and play.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The LA River Public Art Project is a site-specific and visionary Cultural Master Plan for LA’s next great public space. A vibrant and dynamic synthesis of recreation, restored habitats, and curated art sites will transform the River zone into a globally significant urban oasis. Through creative, multidimensional planning and infrastructure, the LA River will be a model of urban revitalization and an ideal setting for creative play.

Through the inclusion of art and culture, all of the PLAY metrics will be boosted, the vibrancy of our public spaces will be enhanced, and all of LA will benefit.

The project will elevate PLAY to its greatest potential, creating an urban oasis where nature is artful, art is playful, and play is natural.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Keyed to Recommendation 5.16 of the 2007 LA River Revitalization Master Plan, the Cultural Master Plan will be a framework and guidelines for strategic sites for short term, temporary and permanent arts installations, community mentorship programs, and fabrication resources. It will serve as a prototype for the entire waterway linking communities to the river.

PHASE 1 The kickoff phase will identify project goals and objectives and refine project scope and schedule. We will review and summarize all projects and initiatives related to Arts, Culture, River Revitalization, within the ARBOR area.
PHASE 2A We will develop a Stakeholder and Community Advisory Committee, develop meeting schedules, agendas and goals. We will obtain participation commitments for Public Agency coordination, including initial meetings with USACE, City of LA, Burbank, and Glendale, and LA County.
PHASE 2B We will study potential public and private sites and overall systems such as: bridges, overpasses, pocket parks, property frontage, viewsheds, river access points, wayfinding, and empty and underused lots for temporary, short term and permanent arts and culture integration, Recommendations will include rough order of magnitude project costs and time frames. Meet with CAC, Stakeholders, Organizations and Agencies to obtain feedback iterative cycle.

PHASE 2C|We will coordinate with public agencies and organizations to establish principles of integration with ongoing River projects. We will establish potential project costs, time frames and partner organizations for each site

We will identify workforce, fabrication and operations needs and resources in river adjacent communities. We will identify opportunities for coordination with future private development.We will develop education and mentorship programs with K-12, higher education levels, cultural arts institutions, foundations, and public agencies. PHASE 3|We will develop curation guidelines for opportunity sites and overall arts and culture options and prototypes.
Phase 4|Draft Cultural Master Plan and circulation to key Stakeholders PHASE 5|Final Report and Circulation The completed Cultural Master Plan will include recommendations for: Arts and Culture Education, Arts and Culture Fabrication and Workforce Development and Arts and Culture Operations. It will include funding and implementation Policy and Resources, recommendations on Policy Development and implementation, and institutional support.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

A vibrant and dynamic synthesis of recreation, restored habitats, and curated art sites will transform the LA River zone into a globally significant and vital urban oasis. Through creative, multidimensional planning and infrastructure, and the inclusion of nature, play, and art, the LA River will be a model of urban revitalization and creative play.

From Griffith Park to Downtown Los Angeles the LA River provides a diverse range of active and passive recreation with trails, pocket parks, kayaking and opportunities for recreation. We propose to include combinations of activities and art and expand and enhance our play at the river.

We aspire to high quality and rewarding opportunities for play. Play can be simple, but can challenge and build our bodies, minds, spirits and communities. Play involves and encourages us to be curious, social and healthy. Play is an essential element of the education of our children. Arts and culture experience and education are essential to 21st Century success. “Arts learning experiences play a vital role in developing students’ capacities for critical thinking, creativity, imagination and innovation. These capacities are increasingly recognized as core skills and competencies that all students need as part of a high-quality and complete 21st-century education….one that includes learning in and through the arts…”2 –The National Task Force on the Arts in Education

An inclusionary approach to park and open space planning, as envisioned in the Cultural Master Plan, will avoid segmentation, compartmentalization, and single purpose definitions of nature, art and play. We can transform habitat restoration and traditional recreation into an environment that makes us brighter, healthier and economically successful. A well developed plan for integration of art and cultural programming into public and private revitalization will ensure that we stimulate curiosity, bring forward the unique qualities of the river communities and create resources to inspire our creative community and attract world class tourism.

In 2050, arts education and mentorship programs will have created our next-gen artists and maker spaces. LA will be known as a destination for great public art in a unique natural setting. Riverfront neighborhoods will be strengthened and remain vital despite gentrification pressures. An archive of local cultural history will be available as an ongoing document of life and activities along the LA River.

Whom will your project benefit?

The benefits of The LA River Public Art Project will extend to local residents, regional Los Angeles, the arts communities and the visitors we welcome to LA by supporting creativity and the arts through significant public art commissions and comprehensive public art programs. The creative play spirit in all of us will benefit from a dynamic, intergenerational outdoor art environment.

The Cultural Master Plan will contribute to the revitalization of the LA River zone by leveraging substantial public and private investment to strengthen the arts community, river neighborhoods, local fabricators, and educators. A well curated program of arts and culture along the river will enhance the public realm, and fuel our creative and innovative communities.

Local river communities will benefit from a more vibrant arts and recreation zone, mentorship and arts education programs, and fabrication incentives in the industrial areas. It will deepen community ties to the riverfront. Regionally, the people Los Angeles benefit from a sustainable, urban resource.

The Cultural Master Plan will establish pilot programs in the public school art programs. A commitment to arts education and mentorship programs inspires success in our next-gen artists and makers. Riverfront neighborhoods will be strengthened and remain vital despite gentrification pressures. An archive of local cultural history will be available as an ongoing document of the cultural life and heritage along the LA River.

The arts education component will cultivate hands-on and fully integrated learning opportunities in K-12 through higher education programs, as advocated by the Kennedy Center and Cal Arts.

The local workforce will benefit from an incentive program for locally sourced fabrication and production industries and workshops.

Culturally, local communities will benefit from direct and nearby access to open-air art experiences and intergenerational activities. Emerging and established artists will benefit from opportunities for outdoor art commissions and events. Local artists will benefit from tie-ins to curated art programs, and increased regional awareness of local arts programs.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

The project team, having worked together in the past, is confirmed and committed to the project and to a better LA.

LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division), a non-profit organization, curates site-specific public art in LA and beyond, and believes everyone should experience innovative contemporary art in their daily lives. In turn, artists deserve the opportunity to realize projects at unique sites in the public realm. LAND supports dynamic and unconventional artistic practices by commissioning public projects of site-and situation-specific works with artists; collaborating with institutions and organizations; offering performances, workshops, residencies, discussions, educational opportunities, and publications.

Elaine Rene-Weissman is an Architect, LEED AP, and principal of ERW DESIGN. Projects include Vista Hermosa Park in downtown LA received the ‘09 Civic Award and Grand Prize from the LABC, and the ‘09 AIA LA President’s Award (Best Public Space); Made In California:NOW at LACMA; and the Marsh Park pavilion on the LA River. She has a BFA from SVA, and a Master of Architecture from Yale. She is on the Design Review Team for the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, and the NELA Advisory Committee.

Esther Margulies, ASLA, RLA is a landscape architect, and a USC lecturer. She has led award winning planning and site design projects: K-12 schools, university campuses, The Baldwin Hills Park master plan, Vista Hermosa Park and the Annenberg Community Beach House. She co chaired the first ASLA Studio Reach Design Charrette on the LA River in 1997, and served as principal in charge of public realm projects for LA Metro, and the cities of Long Beach and Buena Park.

Tom Marble is an architect engaged in the built form through construction, film, writing, and teaching. He provides Project Management for art installation projects.

Molly Renda’s 30-year graphic design practice includes exhibit design, artists and scholars collaborations on site-specific installation, and environmental and wayfinding design. Currently the Exhibit Program Librarian at NC State University Libraries, she designs exhibits in traditional gallery spaces and technology-rich digital environments.

Three critical factors for successful collaboration: shared vision statement for the Cultural Master Plan; experienced in working collaboratively with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and ability and experience working with multiple stakeholders and agencies

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

-Number of parks with social and artful play environments -Access to parks with an emphasis on creative play and recreation -Proximity to outdoor cultural events and performances -Increase the vibrancy of all the PLAY metrics through the inclusion of art and culture.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Art is essential in creating intergenerational, creative, and vibrant play and parks.

The primary focus of the LA River Public Art Project is ensure the inclusion of art and culture to enhance the quality and vibrancy of unfolding public spaces of the LA River, so that it will not only serve the local communities, but be a cultural magnet for all of Los Angeles – and the world.

Specifically, the project will impact the LA2050 Play Metrics in the following ways:

The project will facilitate access to open space and park facilities within ¼ mile of residential communities.

It will expand afterschool programs to include art and culture, attracting more children and boosting enrollment.

Increased participation and visitation to the river will provide more eyes on the parks and trails to discourage crime.

Increased positive and productive activities along the river will increase safety in adjacent neighborhoods.

Prioritize sites within ¼ mile of existing neighborhoods for intergenerational cultural programming.

Improve the vibrancy of the existing and proposed parks, trails and open spaces with art installations and site specific environments.

Transform learning and play environments with intergenerational features.

Establish art and cultural spaces, installations and events for informal opportunities for play.

Increase opportunities for neighborhood events such as block parties, maker events and performances to strengthen social networks.

Create opportunities for intellectual stimulation and idea generation triggered by art and culture.

Create greater opportunities for play to reduce stress, and improve physical and mental health.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Our team brings professional experience to issues within the Cultural Master Plan. The first example cites a project where we developed an intergenerational art and play environment in a museum setting. The second project describes the depth of public planning, design, and project management experience specifically anchored within the Los Angeles area.

ERW Design designed the gallery and exhibition space for Made in California:NOW, a year-long installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art(LACMA). Hailed in a LA Times editorial as “an ingenious effort to make art more accessible…“ the installation was visited by over 100,000 people.

Designed for an all-ages audience, the art installations were contemporary, playful, sophisticated. Contemporary and emerging LA artists were invited to develop pieces with the directive that the audience could “…touch, play, and ‘do something’ with the art…” Children were treated maturely, adults had a chance to play, achieving a truly intergenerational environment.

Though the exhibit space and content were atypical for the museum, strong curatorial direction coupled with institutional leadership led to the success of realizing the exhibit.

Esther Margulies led the team at MLA to develop design and project management of the Metro Goldline Eastside Access Phase II. The project provided valuable experience in developing cohesive corridor wide planning and design, in collaboration with multiple facets of the East Los Angeles business, residential and education communities. The design phase of this project was guided by periodic meetings and discussions with the project Community Advisory Committee. This group acted as a sounding board for preliminary proposals and served as a communications conduit to the larger community and elected officials. Some of the prime objectives of the Phase II project included improved awareness of the light rail system, increased civic pride and increased visibility and awareness of the diverse cultures along the route. Design proposals include a cohesive system of identity elements and way finding signage incorporating local cultural themes. The way finding system establishes a framework for corridor wide consistency which can be scaled and customized as the transit line is further expanded.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Based on our Implementation Plan detailed in our response to Question 5, the following outline is a timetable to achieve implementation, with final delivery of the Cultural Master Plan, in a 12 month project schedule. Taking into account key activities, activity resources and activity durations, as well as project sequencing, we have established deliverables and milestones keyed to specific project phases to manage timely completion of the project. This project schedule and related work will serve as the baseline against which time performance is measured.

PHASE 1 | September, 2014 Kickoff with project goals and objectives identified; review and summarize previous and current projects and initiatives; research precedents

PHASE 2A | September-October, 2014 Stakeholder and Community Advisory Committee, develop specific meeting schedules, agendas and goals; obtain participation commitments, and Public Agency coordination. Conduct initial meetings.

PHASE 2B | October 2014-February 2015 Study potential sites and overall systems with associated rough order of magnitude project costs. Meet with stakeholders for an iterative cycle review process.

PHASE 2C | November 2014–March, 2015 Coordinate with public agencies and organizations to establish principles integration. Identify workforce, fabrication and operations needs, resources, and opportunities with future private development. Establish points of intersection for K-12 through higher education levels, cultural arts institutions, foundations, and public agencies.

PHASE 3 | March-June 2015 We will develop guidelines for opportunity site identification, and overall arts and culture options and prototype sites.
The completed Cultural Master Plan will include recommendations for: a) Arts and Culture Education, b) Arts and Culture Fabrication and Workforce Development c) Arts and Culture Operations. It will also include funding and implementation Policy and Resources, recommendations on Policy Development and implementation, recommended sources of funding, and recommended institutional support.

PHASE 4 | June-July, 2015 Draft of Cultural Master Plan and circulation to key stakeholders

PHASE 5 | August, 2015 Final circulation and presentation

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The most challenging issue facing all river projects, including the proposed Cultural Master Plan, is coordination between public agencies and their interface with each other and private interests. The need for public stewardship has been raised at numerous planning workshops and sessions, and is the next level of resolution required for successful implementation of LA River projects.

All too often, the tendency for single-issue infrastructure planning and development prevents dynamic solutions. The present opportunity at the LA River calls for invigorating cross-platform strategic thinking to generate multi-purpose and multi-dimensional projects.

We strongly believe that one of the most successful strategies for successful implementation of the Cultural Master Plan is securing a ‘seat at the table’ at the formative stages of development. Our proposal has received broad interest and support from a number of community based organizations. “It’s a great idea for LA2050, and yes, finding intersections would be great for the NELA Riverfront area.” (George Villanueva, Director, Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative)

To assure implementation of the Cultural Master Plan, we will need a commitment and buy-in from public agencies such as the City River Office, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Buy-in could take the form of a funded curation office within the city structure.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Community outreach