DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - For all the advances that Downtown Los Angeles has made in the last 15 years, challenges remain. Even as billions in investment flow into the area, and thousands of people come to live in the new housing complexes, skepticism still simmers here and there. Some recall the Downtown of the past, when the community tended to more or less shut down after 5 p.m. Others are turned off by the grit of urban living, including a homelessness situation that seems never to improve.
It is against this backdrop that one should consider this summer’s extraordinary arts and entertainment slate. And it is because of this backdrop that the line-up of cultural events must be understood not only as something to do, but as a tool in the ongoing revitalization of Downtown.
Los Angeles Downtown News last week published its annual summer arts and entertainment preview. This lineup is as varied as Downtown itself, with concerts, theater productions, community celebrations, museum exhibits, special events and more.
Equally diverse are the places where the action occurs. Musicians might perform in a huge arena (think Taylor Swift at Staples Center in August) or a historic theater (Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band at the Orpheum Theatre that same month). Theater takes place in traditional venues (Matilda the Musical at the Ahmanson Theatre) or outdoors (Cornerstone Theater Company’s California: The Tempest at Grand Park). Some events have a hefty price tag, while many others are free (for example, Art Walk, Chinatown Summer Nights, Dog Day Afternoon or the Nike Basketball 3 on 3 Tournament).
The above are just the beginning of the options, and if you take those and other happenings together, then it becomes clear just how much opportunity is in Downtown. It’s the type of cumulative lineup that makes people in other areas envious.
It’s also something that Downtown can use as a boasting (and marketing) point. While communities such as Santa Monica and Culver City host some excellent summer offerings, they don’t have nearly as many unique options in such a compact area as Downtown does. People in the Central City can catch a free reading one night at the Aloud series at the Central Library, and the next evening there may be a free outdoor concert at the California Plaza Watercourt or a free outdoor movie screening at Pershing Square. Yes, the word “free” is heard frequently over the summer.
This comes with many benefits. In addition to adding to the momentum of Downtown, the lineup means a lot of people can leave their car in the garage and go from event to event by foot, bike or Dash bus. The activity exposes people to South Park, to the Arts District, to Grand Park and other communities and landmarks.
Does Downtown still have shortcomings? Absolutely. However, more progress is made each year, and a growing roster of summer arts and entertainment is another step in getting the community where it needs to be.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2015