Ever since the 1984 Olympics Arts Festival, celebrations such as this have flourished in the Southland.
LA Alive!, the latest arts festival incarnation, bows at the Music Center Saturday and Sunday. In contrast to the international flavor of prior fests, the thrust of this one is completely local.
"The whole idea behind LA Alive!," said Carol Mancino, one of the festival leaders, "is to capture the creative energy of L.A. When we (planned) the festival, we really tried to think about what makes L.A. special. We wanted to capture the \o7 diversity \f7 of the city."
LA Alive! is an outgrowth of the Music Center's biannual Mercado fairs. But unlike the Mercado, which was much like a giant shopping spree, the emphasis here is on \o7 free \f7 entertainment and fun, plus educational, activities for kids.
Judging by the description of the festival's organizers, the Music Center Plaza promises to be abuzz with activity for two solid days. Mural painting, mime demonstration and participation, storytelling, clown techniques and makeup, origami, dough sculpture, puppets and hat creation are just some of the goings-on that will take place on the 225,000 square feet of plaza space between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Mark Taper Forum.
In the middle of it all, where Music Center volunteers have erected a stage atop the eastern quadrant of the fountain, music groups ranging from the Aman Folk Ensemble to Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries will perform non-stop from 10 in the morning to late afternoon, with performance artist John White capping off both days with his performance sculpture "The Annotated Lipchitz."
In addition, food stalls will be scattered throughout the plaza, offering a wide range of ethnic cuisines from local restaurants. The only wares for sale will be LA Alive! T-shirts, visors and balloons, tickets for a 1989 Ford Probe and painter's caps for children to decorate.
Festival organizers expect 5,000 visitors each day. The square is already bedecked with green and magenta banners hailing the event, which was made possible by a grant from the Norris Foundation.
LA Alive! is designed to appeal to a much broader audience than some past festivals, which were more calculated to attract arts aficionados.
"The idea was to do something that would be more fun for the entire family," said Mark Foster, a festival official. "This was a way to provide entertainment and have people come down to relax and enjoy themselves."
"It's also a very hands-on festival, particularly for the children," said the festival's Mancino. "A lot of the activities we have planned are participatory activities."
A concert headlined by Martha Davis and Billy Vera and the Beaters Saturday evening is further designed to lure a younger, less "traditional" Music Center crowd, according to Nancy Vreeland, chairwoman of the entire event.
"We've often talked here at the Music Center of getting younger members of the community involved and the next generation to be arts supporters," she remarked. "Because of the topography of Los Angeles, oftentimes you have to go out of your way and do something to attract people that might not necessarily have anything to do with the institution you're bringing them to. But it gets them physically into the area."
For the evening concert, Hope Street will be roped off between the Department of Water and Power and the Music Center to accommodate the stage and dance area. The $75-per-person ticket price also includes a Tex-Mex barbecue.
Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Music Center Fund, which supports the center's five resident companies in their cultural and educational activities.
A black-tie dinner at the Pavilion will kick off the weekend Friday night. Peter Duchin and Michael Carney will play duo pianos at the $300-per-person invitation-only gala, which features dinner, dancing and an auction at which Galanos gowns, weekend stays at an estate in Scotland and the chance to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl this summer will be up for bid.
The complete "LA Alive!" live entertainment schedule follows:
10 a.m.: Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble.
11 a.m.: Floricanto Dance Theater.
Noon: Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band with Conrad Janis.
1 p.m.: The Untouchables.
2 p.m.: Aman Folk Ensemble.
3 p.m.: John White's performance sculpture "The Annotated Lipchitz."
7:30 p.m.: Martha Davis and Billy Vera and the Beaters.
10 a.m.: UCLA Jazz Combo.
11 a.m.: Korean Classical Music and Dance Company.
Noon: Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries.
1 p.m.: Dave Alvin and the Allnighters.
2 p.m.: Rhythms of the Village.
3 p.m.: Los Angeles Jazz Choir.
4 p.m.: John White's performance sculpture "The Annotated Lipchitz."
Free parking is at the Department of Water and Power. Information: (213) 972-7567.