Our LA Voices arts and culture fest

Our LA Voices Arts + Culture Fest, Grand Park’s most popular spring arts experience, is going virtual to showcase Los Angeles County’s vibrant art, music and culture. 

Julia Diamond, Grand Park director, said folks are missing the human connection, even though they can leave their homes to go for a walk or drive during this quarantine. 

“Now more than ever, people need some joy and learning opportunities to feel connected,” Diamond said. “People want to feel a connection to LA, and you can sometimes get that feeling through film and television. This felt like an opportunity to maintain the festival and really help people feel connected to Los Angeles.”

This third annual festival is a free, family-friendly look at the diverse culture and community that make up LA County through visual arts—from music and films to poetry and food. 

“We really serve to elevate and celebrate the creative cultures and communities of LA and we didn’t want to let this opportunity go by, especially in a time where our arts community is being so hard hit by the crisis,” Diamond said. “We do this festival every year and it’s this wonderful platform to really put some of the coolest, most interesting, creative talents out there for people to discover.”

The festival runs for three days with music and performances from different cultures and communities across LA. This year, more than 18 hours of livestreamed content will air on Saturday, April 25, and Sunday, April 26, only. 

Saturday will feature musicians like Puerto Rican quartet Balún and the Los Angeles Beatmakers, a scene that combines sound and space, while exploring the crossroads of technology, tradition and identity.

Linafornia, from Leimert Park, has DJed for Grand Park events previously. The rising hip-hop DJ is ready to make her return with Grand Park and hear some other beatmakers. 

“One thing we all have in common is we repurpose old music to make new sounds and create new ideas and concepts,” she said. “We all live in LA and we have this unique music community that focuses on hip-hop beats, beat making and live demonstrating.”

Another DJ, Jansport J, heard about the festival through producer Slim Jeff, who curated the acts the previous year. He said while they can’t perform in person, they can at least spread the message and excitement of the festival even over livestream.

“I’m excited to be a part of the event and showcase my skills but at the same time see my peers flourish on a platform like this,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing that the city of Los Angeles is continuing to go forth with it and find a way to broadcast to an even bigger audience and not just LA.”

Film and movies are another big part of the festival. Visual Communications is “the first nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of the Asian Pacific American peoples, communities and heritage through the media arts.”

Francis Cullado, the executive director for Visual Communications, said the Our LA Voices festival allows them to showcase two of their film programs: the digital histories program, which is adults and seniors telling the stories of LA through documentary-style films, and Armed with a Camera fellowship, consisting of younger emerging filmmakers. 

“We really just wanted to make arts and culture accessible to everybody, and we really rock with that,” Cullado said. “A live version would’ve been amazing, but at least everyone can come together virtually.”

Visual Communications will be showing two collections of films. Saturday will feature the films in a collection called “The Unseen El Lay,” showing films from the Armed with a Camera fellowship about how native Angelenos view their lives in the City of Angels. The second collection, on Sunday, will feature films by the Digital Histories group called “Little Tokyo and Beyond,” which will discuss what constitutes a “place,” “location” or “meeting ground.”

“We want to be contributing to the inclusivity of Los Angeles,” Cullado said. “Most of our stories, while specific, are universal; and hopefully that’s a common theme everyone can share.”

In prior years, the festival also had a marketplace for food and art vendors. In lieu of that, the festival will feature cooking demonstrations from food vendor SalviSoul at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, and a live interview with Gloria Lucas and Monica Virgen Zamora from artist market Mujeres Market on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

“Some things convert very easily to online and others don’t,” Diamond said. “We’re just happy to retain 80% of the original programming, even with some modification,  and keep them in this format. It’s a sign of the times and people are getting creative. Who better to be challenged and creative than a group of artists?”

While Diamond is sad she and other LA residents won’t get to see the work of artists and vendors in person, continuing to hold the festival through a virtual platform allows people from all over the country to attend.

“Access has always been a hallmark of the park,” Diamond said. “We’re trying to translate those values and aspects of what people love about the park to the digital space. I also applaud the artists because it’s a lot to take a project you’ve been working on for a year or more and morph it. It’s a testament to the artists and their love of community to do this.”