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play / 2016

Laying the Groundwork for a Park on the LA River

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Clockshop & California State Parks

The Bowtie Project promotes the development of LA’s newest state park by bringing artist projects, performances, and community events to a plot of undeveloped land on the LA River.

Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

Clockshop, California State Parks

Please describe your project proposal.

In collaboration with California State Parks, Clockshop will create programs and events that bring Angelenos to experience “the Bowtie,” a plot of post-industrial land on the LA River. The Bowtie Project transforms post-industrial wasteland into a cultural destination, and lays the groundwork for creating LA’s largest riverfront park.

Which of the play metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park

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

  • East LA

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to play?

The Bowtie Project has attracted thousands of people to the LA River and transformed urban wasteland into dynamic public space. This innovative partnership between Clockshop and California State Parks addresses 4 of the metrics outlined in LA2050’s PLAY category: providing access to open space; creating opportunities for informal play; offering intergenerational opportunities for play; and laying the groundwork for a “vibrant” park that will serve urban park-poor communities in East Los Angeles. For LA2050, Clockshop proposes continuing the Bowtie Project in 2017, with an ambitious schedule of events and a renewed commitment to creating culturally relevant programming.

The Bowtie is a special place. Visitors remark on the sweeping views, the quiet calm, and the flourishing plant and animal life. With an elongated north to south shape, the Bowtie runs parallel the river, which is green and verdant, and water audibly flows. This portion of the LA River is often called the “crown jewel” of river revitalization. The Bowtie was purchased by CSP in 2003 but was underutilized as CSP lacked funds to develop it into a public park.

Clockshop’s work at the Bowtie, which began in 2014, is designed to cultivate appreciation for the land as a nature experience and an oasis of calm in a dense urban landscape. Clockshop accomplishes this by organizing events (12-15/year) and commissioning site-specific artworks (2-3 performances and 2-3 sculptural installations).

Events fall into several types: Reading by Moonrise, at which local authors read around the campfire on the full moon; LA River Campouts, at which families and youth groups camp beneath the stars; Bowtie Family Days, a drop-in all-day event designed for multigenerational families; and fieldtrips with LAUSD students. These events draw large crowds; the LA River Campout usually has a waiting list of several hundred people. Clockshop also collaborates with architecture students at Woodbury University to add amenities to the site, such as seating, viewing platforms, and a fire pit. Event audiences are encouraged to come early and stay late—to bring a picnic, enjoy the river, and watch the sunset.

Public art at the site provides another occasion for people to gather and enjoy the land. Installations and performances by Rafa Esparza, taisha paggett, Rosten Woo, Carolina Caycedo, and others have engaged the site in many ways. The first Bowtie artwork, Michael Parker’s The Unfinished, is a recreation of an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the process of excavation, a reminder that the LA River corridor is also a work in progress. Clockshop’s most recent artist project was an after-dark performance by vocalist Carmina Escobar, in which Escobar’s vocalizations were mixed with recordings of Bowtie birdlife.

Through these programs and others, Clockshop is building a community of stakeholders who will ensure that the Bowtie remains in the public trust, as a place for all Angelenos to play now and in the future.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

The Bowtie Project has long-term and short-term goals. The short-term goal is to bring diverse Angelenos to have a positive, memorable experience on a piece of land they would not otherwise visit. Clockshop gauges the immediate success of this goal through audience tabulations, anecdotal feedback, social media activity, and online engagement. The data is used to inform future event curation. By constantly working to tap new audiences, Clockshop maximizes the number of first-time Bowtie visitors.

The long-term goal of the Bowtie project is to support CSP’s efforts to create a dynamic public park. New parks tend to spur development and displace local residents; Clockshop and CSP aim to create a park that serves the existing community. The Bowtie Project cultivates stakeholders in the future park, ensuring that the local community will feel ownership in park development. Success will be gauged by various measures: the creating of a “Friends of the Bowtie” group within the next 12 months; organized resistance to property development adjacent the Bowtie; community involvement in the park planning process; and eventually, use of the park by long-time local residents.

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

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Community outreach