play / 2015

From the Mountains to the Sea growing Civic Art Gardens with schools along the LA River

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Unycyn Civic Arts

We will produce a Civic Arts and Engagement Program connecting communities and cultures by creating, cultivating and sustaining "art gardens" (serving as outdoor classrooms, meeting places, art studios, urban gardens) in public open spaces along the LA River. In partnership with adjacent schools representing a diversity of people and environments, we’ll show how to bring more Beauty to civic spaces and build community through creating healthy and happy places for people of all ages to “play”.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • South Bay
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles
  • LAUSD
  • The program identifies 10 schools near the LA River, from valley headwaters through central cities to sea port. The prototype "seed" project is at Harvard-Westlake High School in the San Fernando Valley, and grows with other schools near 51 miles of river

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project
  • Expand a pilot or a program
  • Advocate with policymakers and leaders
  • We will connect resources to match patrons with projects, sites with permissions, students, teachers and parents with civic arts education, public art with urban gardens, and creative communities with each other.

How will your proposal improve the following “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • 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)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to play.

“From the Mountains to the Sea” will be a program to produce, cultivate and sustain beautiful and healthy interactive civic spaces along the 51 mile long LA RIver. “From the Mountains to the Sea” will also be the theme for the network of “civic art gardens” sponsored by schools within walking distance of the river. The first art garden will be hosted with Harvard-Westlake School where Coldwater Canyon meets the LA River.

This program will serve students from pre through grad school, related stakeholders and extended communities. These sites will catalyze a multitude of opportunities for everyone to engage, educate, create, perform, gather, gaze and play.

“From the Mountains to the Sea” civic art gardens will also focus attention on water issues through thematic public art and drought tolerant gardens. The program for each site includes a graffiti proof tile floor and wall that make up the “outdoor classroom, performance, meeting” space. Our first site will feature the stunning art work of world renown artist Damian Elwes, who is also a parent at the first school. Damian lived in the mountains of Columbia where he painted the life size imagery from a cloud forest source of the Amazon which will be reprinted on 1’x1’ graffiti proof tiles to make 20’x20’ floor. The wall will be from his 20’ x 8’ depiction of a life size coral reef made of these tiles on a curved modular surface. Connecting the two will be a drought tolerant garden of native plants, reminiscent of the same plants seen in both the mountains and the sea paintings, illustrating the “story of water” from the mountains to the sea, including how plants relate to water.

The sites will be inspiring, safe, lovely places to be alone with oneself, visit with friends, study with classes, greet neighbors, or feel like a tourist. They will provide curated opportunities to meet others with shared interests, have fun, develop communities, and enjoy beautiful outdoor experiences and environments.

Inaugural celebrations and thematic festivals will grow communities, connect potential projects with potential patrons, and be civic scale opportunities for people of all ages to play in beautiful spaces activated with vitality that might otherwise stay empty.

“From the Mountains to the Sea” Civic Art Gardens, seeded by LA2050, can start growing right now and help make LA the best place to connect, live, create, learn and PLAY together!

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

We aim to help transform public places into beautiful and healthy civic spaces in a sustainable way.

We propose to complete a prototype art garden along the river and create a replicable program for other communities to produce civic art gardens.

We plan to meet our fundraising goals to build this project and program by growing tools we’ve created including flowproject.la, an online platform to match patrons with projects and Unycyn Civic Arts, a non-profit patron support group.

We will create a timeline for the process which includes contacting schools and partners, curating projects, aligning resources, installing inaugural art garden, and hosting a celebratory civic arts festival “funraiser”.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

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