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Artistic Voices Rise From the Ashes of a Skid Row Center : Arts: A series of cultural programs that begins today resurrects the goals of Another Planet, which provided a creative outlet for homeless artists.

November 18, 1989|SHAUNA SNOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Another Planet, the cultural center and shelter for the homeless that had been thriving in a converted Skid Row gas station, burned down in August, its creator vowed that the center would "rise from the ashes."

But while Clyde Casey and others have searched in vain for a new location, the cultural purpose of Another Planet--to provide a creative outlet for homeless artists and exposing other homeless people to the arts--has been resurrected.

From 1:30 p.m. until about 5 p.m. today, a poetry reading and musical performance by and for homeless artists and Skid Row residents will be held in San Julian Park on the corner of 5th Street and San Julian Place. The event, dubbed "Voices From the Sidewalks," is the first of what organizers say will be a yearlong series of events called Visions that aims to bring the creative vision of Clyde Casey and Another Planet back to life.

"I wanted to continue the vision and give an opportunity for homeless people to express themselves through the arts, so that it would be arts by the homeless and for the homeless," said Scott Kelman, who is heading the new Skid Row program under the auspices of Pipeline, his nonprofit theater production company.

Kelman looks at his program, which is funded by a $10,000 grant from the city's Cultural Affairs Department, as "the beginning of a process on which we can build in the future."

"It's the same vision as Another Planet," he said, "It's just that now we have to bounce around from place to place."

Kelman, who worked with Casey handling administrative matters for Another Planet, has no grandiose long-range plans for his Visions program, which will pay each participating poet, musician or artist from $10 to $25. He plans to take Visions step-by-step, working on only two or three events at a time. One reason for this, he said, is that the grant from the city is a matching grant, which means that Visions must come up with its own $10,000 in order to spend all of the city's money. "But so far we have not done that well in the matching department," Kelman said, noting that only one donation--$1,500 from the Woodland Hills art studio Segal Fine Arts--has come in.

Kelman will receive the city's funds in increments of 25%, with new increments partially dependent on whether Visions can raise sufficient matching funds.

With the first increment, Kelman plans to hold today's poetry and music performance and a similar event in December. He also plans to put together a "modest publication" of works by homeless poets and artists to be published before the end of the year.

Other events Kelman has in mind include a staged reading of Gorky's "The Lower Depths," which would use some professional actors in conjunction with the homeless; a project with Para Los Ninos, an organization for children of homeless families; a music festival; a video project, in which homeless video artists would help document the entire Visions program, and visual art and photography exhibitions of works by homeless artists. All these events would have to be held by June, 1990, Kelman explained, as the grant money runs out then.

"Hopefully, by that time we will have generated enough interest to keep this thing going. But we'll need all the help we can get," Kelman said.

"I think what's going on is wonderful," said Another Planet creator Casey, who is doing street theater and temporarily staying with some friends in Montecito Heights. He has not been involved in the planning of the Visions project. "But the good part is not just that they're bringing in cultural programs to the area--which is really needed--but that the performers are being reimbursed, they're being paid for what they have to offer."

Al Nodal, the city's cultural affairs chief, will attend today's event and has pledged his help in keeping Visions going. "We know that the homeless have not gotten the kind of cultural services that they need, and we believe that art can play a real role in addressing the needs of the homeless in this city. . . . We got involved with Visions because we've identified both homelessness and homeless artists as a special area we need to try to address."

Though they favor the Visions program, some street people cautioned that it could not replace the highly successful Another Planet, nor cure street problems such as drugs and gangs. But, they said, at least it would be a start.

"It's good that something like the Visions program has come out to try to help the people that are trying to do something for themselves," said Southern Comfort, a 33-year-old homeless writer who will be reading some of his works today. "I'm appreciative to Visions--it's a way that persons like myself that have something to offer society can help."

"Because (the programs are being held) here in the park, where the people are, they'll get to hear something that will turn them on and show them that there's hope," said Luanne Poindexter, a 49-year-old songwriter who lives in one of the nearby hotels. "They'll see someone of their own stature doing something creative. They'll see some of the incredible amount of talent down here."

Said Barbara Frost, a homeless organizer and writer: "You don't fight crack and cocaine with a poetry session. But maybe that, plus something else, plus something else, can make a difference."

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