Voices of L.A. is designed to cross cultural lines yet show the unifying element present in the diverse community of Los Angeles. The free Krupnick Festival of the Arts production will feature presentations showcasing award-winning musicians, dancers, visual artists and poets by pairing these art makers with award-winning Jewish artists. Together, the aim is to shine a bright light on the rich tapestry of ethnicities, cultures and disciplines found in the City of Angels.
Voices of L.A., which kicked off July 14, continues with separate shows throughout August including performances by Grammy-winning L.A. bands La Santa Cecilia and Ozomatli. The festival concludes with a daylong program Sept. 14 at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Koreatown featuring all of the festival's participating artists.
The impetus came from an endowment from Harry and Belle Krupnick administered by the Jewish Community Foundation. The late couple wanted the funds to be used to foster understanding among residents of the city they loved.
“The Krupnicks had a great love of the Jewish culture and of the arts, education and diversity of living in Los Angeles,” said Marvin Schotland, president and CEO of the foundation. “The idea is to honor the Krupnicks and their role in the community, while celebrating the differences and similarities that exist here. I believe they would be thrilled with this festival.”
Artistic expression represents common ground for everyone, he added.
“Art is universal. It celebrates differences and it's what brings people together and we feel it is an exciting tool to engage the community,” Schotland said. “Whether one understands the words doesn't really matter. What does is the idea of community. This is a perfect opportunity for people to come together who might not have, and we hope it's a catalyst that will spur dialogue and encourage people to speak to one another.”
Aaron Paley, co-founder and president of Community Arts Resources, is the man behind the event. He said the artists, their pairings and even the venues were thoughtfully selected in order to show a slice of the cultural tapestry of Los Angeles.
La Santa Cecilia, a Latin alternative band named for the patron saint of musicians, will be paired Aug. 26 with the Yuval Ron Ensemble, which plays Middle Eastern and Israeli music. La Santa Cecilia has had an eventful year so far, winning a Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album for “Treinta Dias” and coming off a successful East Coast tour. Lead singer Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez said she's excited to be back home.
“I grew up on Olvera Street. That's where I learned music and found my passion for sharing our stories,” she said. “We have a bicultural-connected American pop culture and we love performing the music we grew up with, and I think it's the music others can connect with, too.”
She said the band members' Mexican-American roots and stories mirror the city and its people.
“We're all here to better our lives, to follow our dreams. Los Angeles celebrates that. I'm so excited to be able to share our music and to experiment with others,” she said. “Those who will be performing all have the arts in common. You know when your heart is open — when you see a painting or hear a poem or watch a performance — you don't need to know about the style or the instruments, or even the language. It all comes together for some powerful magic that can heal.”
The idea behind the festival is both moving and meaningful, she added.
“It makes me love Los Angeles even more,” Hernandez said.
Percussionist Miguel Ramirez shares Hernandez's enthusiasm about the band's collaboration with the Yuval Ron Ensemble at the festival.
“It's hard to say if La Santa Cecilia is a voice of Los Angeles, but we try to be,” Ramirez said. “We try to be honest about where we come from,, and all we want to do is share our story. This is our city. We, in the group, are first-generation children of Latino immigrants. We're part of bi-cultural Los Angeles.”
From Israeli and Latino, to Persian and Korean, the artistic lineup at Voices of L.A. highlights the diversity and range of voices within the city.
“The festival will express in many ways what it means to be Los Angeles,” Paley said. “The collaborations will differ with each performance and that's part of the magic of art. You don't know where this will go, but you just trust.”
Sound and movement, for instance, will be featured Aug. 24 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. The performance will showcase Israeli-born dancer-choreographer Danielle Agami, artistic director of Ate9 Dance Co. and Persian-American underground hip-hop/electronic producer Omid Walizadeh.
The poetic voices of Los Angeles will be heard as well. The spoken-word performance “Along the Hyphen” will consist of four diverse poets and one musical artist examining life along some of the many hyphenated identities in Los Angeles. Artists slated to perform include poet, educator and community arts activist Kamau Daaood; East Los Angeles-based performance artist-writer Marisela Norte; Filipina-American poet Irene Suico Soriano; Korean-American emcee Doc Whisper and Jewish-American musician Joseph DeRusha. They are expected to address themes of social justice, relationships and diversity on Aug. 17 at Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights.
“The festival and all of its collaborations show all the different communities in the city and the sharing of each other's music, art and dance,” said Alex Bendana, bassist of La Santa Cecilia. “Everyone is moved by a beat of a beautiful melody. It transcends any group. It just touches people and is an excellent way to communicate.”