|Sculpture at the Gala|
It presents innovative, often experimental performing arts and music in a beautifully designed black-box performance space located in the amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. This building is quite rightly one of the crown jewels of Los Angeles' cultural scene.
Along with the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, the Mark Taper Forum, and MOCA, the museum of contemporary art, and other cultural facilities clustered together in downtown Los Angeles, the Concert Hall is part of the Grand Avenue Project. A massive development conceived by LA's movers and shakers, the project aims to transform this part of downtown into a vital, pedestrian-friendly site, with parks, housing and activities.
|Walt Disney Concert Hall from upper Grand Avenue|
But when you attend an event here, you don't see that at all. When you drive to Disney Hall - as most event guests do - you exit the freeway at 4th Street and glide through curving ramps of concrete and the foundations of skyscrapers, watching anxiously for the directional sign leading to a turn-off lane. This lane puts you in the bowels of Grand Street beneath the Music Center. It's a dark tunnel, punctuated by garage-like openings, dotted here and there with orange and white A-frame barricades and traffic cones.
|Lower Grand Avenue beneath the Music Center|
You park and look for the way out. On an evening with a Philharmonic performance, you might see scores of suited gentlemen and dressed-up ladies, high heels click-clacking on the concrete ramps, walking through the rows of parked cars to a central escalator. Concert-goers rise up into the main hall lobby; guests to the small venue follow signs back into the parking garage, and enter the theatre from there.
At the end of whatever transformative experience one has in these beautiful temples of art and music, one leaves the same way, through the echoing parking garage and the dark tunnel. Last night, I never saw the exterior of Mr. Gehry's celebrated building, though I was standing inside it. This architectural marvel, for all I saw of it, could have been a concrete bunker.
|Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City|
How wretched and shameful is it that in Los Angeles, the pathway for our city's arts patron is so ugly and disconnected from life? How can the arts ever hope to connect with people if they have to sneak in through the loading dock for access?
Whether you are an affluent season ticket holder from the Westside and Beverly Hills, a student purchasing discount tickets, or a new audience member responding to outreach efforts, if you drive in, this shabby tunnel will be your welcome to the place.
|Disney Hall on upper Grand Avenue|
Last night as our car emerged onto 4th Street from the tunnel, our headlights flashed across the huddled figures of homeless people, sleeping beneath the concrete overhang. Here's one way, I guess, that the arts complex serves this population - providing shelter from the cold night.
What planner, what traffic engineer conceived such monstrosity? Did they really intend to create such a glaring symbol of the void between the city's creative establishment and its citizens? To confront guests with the city's harsh reality, after their interlude in fantasy?
The desserts were wonderful, though!