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Los Angeles Is Thinking Big for the New Millennium

Celebration: A huge light show, commissioned artworks and festivals are among ways the city will mark the 'popular millennium' and the real turn of the century.

August 01, 1998|DIANE HAITHMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A New Year's Eve spectacular of lights, pyrotechnics and special effects; major commissions for 12 works by Los Angeles artists; and a visit from the Dalai Lama to kick off the North American segment of the World Festival of Sacred Music are all part of the plan for "Celebrate L.A.: What's New and What's Next," a two-year millennium celebration of the arts planned by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

At the request of Mayor Richard Riordan, Adolfo V. Nodal, cultural affairs manager for the city, said his department has spent the last year-and-a-half coming up with a series of proposals for special millennium arts projects and festivals that would become part of a larger citywide millennium celebration currently being developed by the mayor's office.

Nodal said that the arts project, which will run from mid-July 1999 through mid-July 2002, represents a blending of the department's usual cultural grant-making and festival activities with events specially designed for the turn of the century.

Along with its usual roster of annual cultural festivals, Los Angeles will host the Very Special Arts Festival in May 1999, a major international festival for artists with disabilities held every two years in a different city around the globe. While the Cultural Affairs department's annual budget of $10 million will cover many of the festival activities, Nodal said that $5 million to $8 million must be raised for the special-effects extravaganza, which he hopes will become an annual event in Los Angeles. Another $1.2 million to $3.6 million must be raised for partnerships with area arts institutions for commissions in music, dance, theater, media, sculpture and other artistic disciplines, to be presented locally in the year 2000.

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So far, plans are to light up the skies over Los Angeles for both the "popular millennium," New Year's Eve 1999, as well as New Year's Eve 2000, the official beginning of the 21st century and the third millennium.

The idea to tap into the Hollywood special-effects industry came from the mayor, Nodal said, adding that discussions are already underway with leaders in that industry on how lights, fireworks, projections and aircraft might be utilized to create a 15-to-20-minute show in the sky, visible from anywhere in the city.

On the ground, neighborhood festivals are in the planning stages to entertain revelers throughout the city until midnight.

"We want to celebrate the New Year in L.A. in some other way than turning on the TV to watch New York," Nodal said. "We want to position Los Angeles as the most creative place on Earth, where neat, interesting things happen. That little ball they drop in New York is a relic of the last millennium."

Nodal added that while international TV coverage of the L.A. festivities is expected, the special-effects project is really for the people of Southern California and is hoped to boost regional tourism. "We want to do something for kids and families who can't hop on a Concorde and go to Europe for New Year's Eve," he said. He noted that an educational component may be added to get kids interested in the special-effects industry as a career.

Discussions are also underway to involve the World Festival of Sacred Music, slated for December 1999, in the New Year's Eve festivities by scheduling concerts on that night at as many of the area's places of worship as possible.

Other scheduled projects or planned events include a celebration of new and historic architecture; a Radio Festival and a Cyber Festival; a citywide millennium school curriculum developed by the Los Angeles Unified School District, Galef Institute, the Getty Institute, California Institute of the Arts and UCLA; and numerous other educational projects.

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