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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Portraits of Hope Revisited: Ice at Santa Monica

This past November my family and I were in Southern California for a work related conference. We stopped in Santa Monica on the way back up to San Luis Obispo - surprise: "Summer of Color" was now part of "Ice at Santa Monica."

"Ice at Santa Monica" is an annual outdoor ice skating rink set up every November-January in downtown Santa Monica at 5th Street and Arizona Avenue.

We were in Santa Monica for a final dental appointment with our kids' dentist. Appointment was at 10am. The rink wouldn't be open until noon, so when we stopped by it was very quiet.

Ironically, it was much sunnier on a November morning than a typical Spring and early Summer morning. Much of the Los Angeles area experiences thick coastal fog commonly known as "June Gloom."

Aside from the Chamber of Commerce weather, what really impressed me was the bright and colorful art decorating the sides of the ice rink.

They were not what's typically considered Christmas (red and green) or Hanukkah (blue and white) colors. But they were certainly beautiful.

These bright color panels were part of the Summer of 2010 "Portraits of Hope" display on the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Stations.

For five months, 31 miles of Los Angeles County beaches were transformed to a collective work of art.

According to their website, it was "the largest public art project in the U.S., and also one of the largest civic efforts in the world."

Here's a link to their website and to a blog post from this time last year. 

When our family lived in Los Angeles, we had an annual tradition of ice skating at Pershing Square's "Downtown on Ice" every December 23rd. If we were still in the area, I'd make a point to head over to Santa Monica as well, just to enjoy the artwork. 

Many thanks to everyone involved with Portraits of Hope. Last summer's display was incredible, and it was great to see it out in public one more time last November.  

View Ice at Santa Monica - in a larger map

© 2011


Summer of Color - Lifeguard Towers of Los Angeles

According to the website www.portraitsofhope.orgSummer of Color is "the largest public art project in the U.S., and also one of the largest civic efforts in the world."
Memorial Day weekend 2010, we were at Ocean Park beach, south Santa Monica, with family and friends, celebrating my nephew's 10th birthday. The lifeguard towers obviously caught my eye (the quoted text is from the Portraits of Hope website).

"For five months beginning in May, the LA County lifeguard towers – on 31 miles of beach -- will be transformed into a collective work of art, a span that includes: Zuma, Point Dume, Malibu, Will Rogers, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey, Dockweiler, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Palos Verdes, and San Pedro."

"More than 40 million beach goers will visit these renowned beaches from May thru October."

"Summer of Color is the culmination of the efforts of nearly 6,000 children in schools, hospitals, and social service programs – and more than 2,500 adult volunteers – who have participated in the initiative’s program activities, which included the painting of the panels now installed on the walls and roof tops of the towers."

"For six months preceding the installation, 
Portraits of Hope engaged children and adults from 118 school, hospital, youth, and social service programs in civic leadership and creative therapy sessions. The Braille Institute, Special Olympics, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitative Center, and Program for Torture Victims are among the many organizations that have participated."

"Many children and adults involved in the project have experienced a variety of medical and physical challenges."
"To meet the individual needs of children and adults with disabilities, Portraits of Hope developed specialized painting brushes and techniques including telescope paint brushes for those in wheel chairs or attached to IVs, the shoe brush ™ for individuals unable to manipulate a brush with their hands, and fruit-flavored mouth brushes for kids and adults with limited movement in their limbs."

"For persons visually impaired, Portraits of Hope utilized special textured paints. The program also reconfigured a baseball bat provided by St. Louis Cardinal Skip Schumaker into a bat-paint brush that the kids used to paint many of the flowers, fish, and shapes now on panels."

"As in other Portraits of Hope projects, Summer of Color is a privately funded and supported initiative."
"Much gratitude is extended to all the companies, individuals, and foundations which have partnered in the program and share the project’s themes and goals."

As I said, this time last year we were at the beach and noticed these amazingly colorful panels affixed to the lifeguard stations. Glad I had my camera.
Meanwhile, my kids and their cousins and friends were working on their own creation. The water was still quiet cold (most people in the water were wearing wet suits) but the kids found plenty to keep them busy.

My daughter with some kelp that washed ashore. She and her cousin were playing "animal shelter" or "store" (or both). 

Their little hole became a HUGE hole. Amazing what kids and a couple of shovels can do.

Reflecting back on our day at the beach, I'm reminded of the significance of creating something, of work.

Whether the Portraits of Hope's brightly colored artwork or a the kid's massive hole in the sand, there is a God-given (and I mean that in a literal sense) desire to create, to build ... to work.

Scripture affirm that work is a good thing. "Go to the ant . . . consider its ways and be wise" writes King Solomon. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart" encourages the Apostle Paul.

Portraits of Hope is successful because it enables people who otherwise could not work to do so - and to create something of beauty and significance.

If you ever needed another excuse to head down to the beach this summer, Summer of Color was worth seeing.

By the way, if you're looking for a great family-friendly beach, Ocean Park south of the Santa Monica Pier is the place. Not as crowded as just north of the Santa Monica Pier and not as crazy as Venice Beach.

More info on the Summer of Color project can be found at

.originally published 5/29/10
© 2011


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another Walk Up Pico, Part III

This time last year I took an early morning walk along Pico Blvd, from the beach eight miles up to Fairfax Avenue in the heart of Los Angeles. Here's a link to Part I and Part II.

I started early at 5:45am, and by 7:45 I was in the Pico-Robertson district. Above is the Beverlywood Bakery, located at Pico and Oakhurst. Love the awning - the little tables and chairs out front.

If there is a heart of Jewish Los Angeles, it must be the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. This is one of a dozen Kosher butchers in the immediate area. 

In working on this post, I stumbled across Levin Ben Avraham's"an Orthodox Jew looks at the Pico-Robertson neighborhood from a Torah perspective." Different religion and different beliefs than my own -  but I can appreciate the desire to bring faith into every area of life, rather than the "secular/sacred" split so common in American society. 

If The Mitzvah Store (that I commented on in Part II) doesn't have what you need, try D. Solomon. Amazing how in one short mile, the feel on the street goes from glitzy Beverly Hills to urban Los Angeles. 

Banner for the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. As I commented in a previous post, I'm continually impressed by the impact that Jews, representing only 2% of the total US population, have made on American culture. 

Chabad is a movement within Orthodox Judaism, emphasizing "wisdom, understanding, and knowledge." The largest Jewish organization in the world, Chabad has 3000 centers in over 1000 cities around the world. 

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, tens of thousands of Persian Jews immigrated to Los Angeles. Amazing, but there now more Persian (Iranian) Jews living in the city of Los Angeles than the entire country of Iran. So, here in Pico-Robertson you'll find a Chabad Persian Youth Center.

More outdoor dining at Bibi's Warmstone Bakery near Pico and Liviona.

Got Kosher? Haute Glatt. The word glatt is Yiddish for "smooth" - the term refers in the broader sense to food eaten by observant Jews.  The term "kosher" refers to food, but in a general sense, can simply mean anything that's OK.

Milk 'N Honey Restaurant, located on the corner of Pico and South Clark. I like the biblical reference in their name. Serving only Kosher food (of course) and closed Friday night and Saturdays (until an hour after the end of Sabbath). Here's a link to their website.

"I am a stranger in a strange land." said Moses. The huge billboard for the Paramount film "Sex and the City 2" was looming above the biblical-sounding Milk 'N Honey. There was certainly an irony to it all . . . yet, perhaps, something that I and other evangelical Christians can learn from. What does it mean to be "in the world but not of the world"? What does it mean to live out religious convictions in Los Angeles, or New York, or any other major city in the world? What does it mean to practice a faith when it's not part of the dominant culture? More questions than answers, at least for right now. 

Eliass Kosher Market, located across the street, with obligatory Persian script. 

Crossing Robertson, and looking north towards Beverly Hills and the Santa Monica mountains beyond. This is the heart, as it were, of the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. You'll also notice yet another "Sex and the City" billboard to the right of the photo - just above the obligatory Starbucks. 

Crossover Robertson  - Elat Market, corner of Pico and Wooster. Elat is a full service Kosher supermarket. The writing on the side is in Persian. 

Just off this very busy commercial strip are beautiful tree-lined residential streets, generally with a mixture of two story apartment buildings, which are very common throughout most of Los Angeles, and single family homes. I love the massive sycamore trees.

Back on Pico - looking back west with the office towers of Century City in the distance. 

Another residential street, this one mostly with apartments. The palm trees and Hollywood Hills in the distance certainly give the street an "only in L.A." look, but I really prefer big leafy sycamore trees found a couple of blocks away. By the way, palm trees - like pretty much every thing else in L.A. - are imports, brought in from elsewhere. 

Looking north up La Cienega towards Beverly Hills, with the Hollywood Hills (part of the Santa Monica Mountains) in the distance. The tower on the left in the distance that looks like a mosque is actually the home to the Academy of Motion Pictures Sciences - you know, the good people who host those Awards every year - with those cool little gold statues called "Oscars." 

The Rapid 7 - the bus line I'd be taking back. Limited stops, and the ability to control traffic lights - this bus really moves. I had a few more minutes, so I could catch the next one. 

The South Carthay district, complete with map and historical photos. The neighborhood, built out in the 1920's and '30's was home to the very impressive Fox Carthay Circle Theater.

After Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Fox Carthay was Los Angeles' most famous movie theater. Location of dozens of world premiers, it was unfortunately torn down in 1969. 

Here's a link to a previous post on the similar looking Fox Village Theater, located a few miles away in Westwood. And our friends down in Anaheim are building a replica of the Fox Carthay as part of a much needed "extreme makeover" of the Disney California Adventure park.

Looking south: Baldwin Hills. Here's yet another link to when my wife and kids hiked to the top of the Baldwin Hills overlook a couple of years ago. 

A break in the traffic at HiPoint Studioslocated at Pico and Hi Point Street (hence their name). One of dozens of small, independent studios found throughout Los Angeles. Their selling point is "best green screen in town." 

Vons Supermarket at the corner of Pico and Fairfax. Somewhat anti-climactic in terms of a final destination but needed to leave enough time to catch a bus in rush hour traffic to my car back in Santa Monica by 9am. This is about two blocks from the Little Ethiopia neighborhood, which I blogged about here

Here's a map of the third leg of my walk, through the heart of the Pico-Robertson district. 

40 minutes later, thanks to the Rapid 7, I was back in Santa Monica: Pico and the beach. 

Picked up my car and scooted off to work. 

I honestly can't believe how far I was able to walk - and take pictures - in such a short period of time. Started at 5:45am at Pico at the beach. Walked all the way to Fairfax Avenue and then caught a bus back by 9am. 

This was really the most enjoyable "urban hike" I took while living in Los Angeles. Now that we're out of the area, I don't know when I'll be able to do something like this again. I highly recommend it: a great way to experience L.A.

.© 2011


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Another Walk Up Pico, Part II

This time last year I took an early morning walk up Pico Blvd from the beach into the heart of Los Angeles. Here's a link to the first five miles. I started at 5:45am and by 7:15 was nearing Century City (pictured, above).

The 20th Century Fox Studios are located on the corner of Pico and Motor Avenue. 20th Century is one of the six major Hollywood Studios. The others are Sony (located in Culver City), DisneyWarner BrothersUniversal (all located in the San Fernando Valley) and Paramount (the only studio actually located in Hollywood). 

In front of 20th Century Fox were billboard ads for the April 2010 DVD release of Avatar (which I've successfully avoided seeing - so far). 

If you look carefully, you'll see the guard house just inside the entrance. Back around 1991 a friend working at Fox gave me a tour of the studio. Got to have lunch in the commissary; saw comedian Mel Brooks walking around. Really unique L.A. experience.

As an aside, Fox and Disney are the only studios that do not offer any kind of studio tour. Walking by was a bit like walking by the Wonka Chocolate Factory in the Roald Dahl novel.

Pico and Avenue of the Stars. My dad had an office at 1801 Avenue of the Stars (on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd.) back in 1970's, so I felt like I had to get a picture.

Looking northwest up Avenue of the Stars. Century City is a large office and residential complex located on the former backlot of the 20th Century Fox Studios. Fox sold 180 acres of their backlot to developer Alcoa in 1961, with the first building (my dad's old office building) opening in 1963.

The Century Towers at the corner of Pico and Avenue of the Stars. Designed by world renowned architect I.M. Pei, the Century Towers were built in 1964. They were converted to condominiums in 1972 - with 1600 square foot condos currently listing for $1.8 million. Originally, Century City was going to have dozens of residential towers like this - but the surrounding communities put the cabash on that. 

Just up the street is the entrance to the Hillcrest Country Club. For years, Jews were barred from membership at the Los Angeles Country Club, located a mile away - so they created their own, equally impressive, country club. Members have included studio heads and many of Hollywood's most famous actors including Grocho Marx, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, George Burns. Considering it's "who's who" of members past and present, it has an extremely understated entrance. 

Pico Blvd, looking back west towards Century City. This area of Los Angeles, east of Century City and just south of Beverly Hills, is known as Pico-Robertson. There are twenty synagogues operating in the community - yes, it has a huge Jewish community. 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, located at the corner of Pico and Roxbury Drive. 

The Muesum of Tolerance is designed to examine prejudice and racism, with a particular emphasis on the Holocaust. I'm embarrassed to say I've never been inside. I thought about going when we lived in Los Angeles, but themes were simply too intense for our young kids. Of course, I could have gone by myself . . . I just never did. Something for the future. 

Felt like the Skirball Jewish Cultural Center - which our kids loved going to - was much more age appropriate. 

One of several religious based schools in the community. 

OK, super creative: crayons and a menorah (why can't evangelical churches come up stuff like this?).

Ralphs Supermarket and CVS Pharmacy on the corner of Pico and Beverwill Drive. I liked how the sunlight is coming through the sycamore street tree. Amazing how much you appreciate trees in a city. 

Parking is in an underground lot below. 

Residence Inn, corner of Pico and South Beverly Drive. OK, I've never seen an interior courtyard this narrow. 

"Hey neighbor!" 

Some co-workers stayed here a few years back. Beverly Hills adjacent, I guess. By no means a luxurious place, but it did the trick. 

Just down the street: The Mitzvah (as in "Bar Mitzvah") Store. Mitzvah is Hebrew for "commandment" (as in the Ten Commandments). 

No lack of different styles of menorahs . . . 

. . . and books. Gifts and "Stories that Warm the Heart" - in some ways, reminds me of the Jewish equivalent of a Christian book store. 

Next door is Elat Burger and Kabob (Kosher) and Sushi KO (Kosher). 

Wow, Kosher Sushi - learn something new every day. 

Smart car - with gas approaching $5 a gallon in California, I don't think many people are laughing anymore. 

Looking north up one of the residential streets (Cardiff, I believe). The city limits of Beverly Hills start just a block away.  

In the distance, the Sierra Towers on the western most edge of the city of West Hollywood. Originally built as an apartment building in 1965, at 32 stories it remains Los Angeles tallest residential tower. There's a 2300 square foot condo on one of the top floors currently listing for $3.9 - million. Yikes. Recession, what recession?

Lots more to see, and I still had plenty of time before needing to catch a bus and getting back to Santa Monica by 9am. More on "another walk down Pico" - and Pico-Robertson - in my third and final post next week. 

.© 2011