March has been quite a month. A few themes have emerged for me in the coalescence of life in this city and the way the art we present winds itself into our lives as a presenting organization. And since I dearly love metaphor, bear with me as I express one.
For the first time in more than a decade of living in West L.A., instead of avoiding leaving the house during the L.A. marathon, I dove into it. Not insofar as I would actually participate in such a daunting activity. (yikes!) But, since I live just a bit south of the marathon route, my S.O. and I went to watch the runners at a couple of different spots along the way.
Mile 22 made me believe in the power of humans to support each other’s endeavors. I literally teared up as I watched the crowds that lined the route. A few people were looking for friends or family members specifically, but mostly it was just people from the neighborhood, the churches and local business that lined the route, out there cheering every runner on, encouraging and congratulating, handing out tiny cups of water and candies and bits of fruit to stranger after stranger. Athletic clothing store Lululemon went big, with a DJ and dancers holding up witty encouraging signs for all to see. It brought more than a few smiles, fist bumps and bursts of dancing to the sweaty, determined faces as they ran past.
Having witnessed this moment of the race, we really wanted to see some people cross finish line too so we navigated to the point along the ocean in Santa Monica where the marathon ended. Here again were mounds of people lining the route, many layers of them. But, unlike back at Mile 22 where the onlookers cheered and applauded and encouraged every single runner, here, it was clear that the people clamoring at the edge of the race boundary were posted up in an effort to witness their specific friend or family member cross the finish line, and didn’t spare much cheer for strangers. It was awesome to see that support, but also made me a bit wistful for the vibe a few miles back. Runner after runner marked this major accomplishment in front of a sea of people who did not cheer spontaneously for them, because they were waiting for, checking their phones for text messages from, straining to get a glimpse of…someone else, someone specific cross that line.
While I don’t think that lack of spontaneous cheering from strangers diminished anyone who passed by at the culmination of such an incredible feat, I have to say, I much preferred the atmosphere of the admittedly smaller crowd back at mile 22. I bet there may have been a few runners who didn’t even make it to or beyond that point of the race. But mile 22 wasn’t the only spot where people line up in support of the marathoners. I saw crowds down the route as far as the eye could see. And regardless where the final stopping point of any runner was, I still think their effort was worthy and admire their fortitude.
It made me think about the artists we present here at the Center. We see groups and performers and creators at many and varied points on the creative marathon that is the life and career path of an artist. We cheer for them at the start, at multiple other convergences on their journey, sometimes stretches wherein there aren’t as many familiar faces lining the sides as others. We celebrate their milestones.
And we’re proud to do so. Two weeks ago we celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of the most iconic groups in the art of contemporary performance—Kronos Quartet. We reminisced with them, we reveled in a showcase of their talent as individuals, we honored their collective vision and we enjoyed their collaborative spirit. It’s not a finish line, per se, because we hope there are many decades of music to come from this seminal cadre of performers, but it was a thrilling moment of connection to share that huge milestone with them.
Just this past weekend, we had the equally profoundly moving opportunity to intersect with four groups who have followed in the footsteps of Kronos—new music ensembles Imani Winds, ETHEL, yMusic and eighth blackbird—each of which is on its own distinctive mile in its unique artistic evolution. And all of which are traversing this path with grace, joy, abundant creativity, eclecticism, and persistent vision.
There was a palpable sense of warmth, generosity and energy from the audiences who joined us to experience these talented ensembles as part of the first-ever Tune-In Festival L.A. It took me back to mile 22. And for that. I thank you.
If you missed any of these groups this month and you are a lover of music, I would encourage you to find that point on their performance marathon where you can lend them your applause. They’re worth it.
eighth blackbird, yMusic and several UCLA student musicians performed the finale of Tune-In Festival L.A. with “Worker’s Union.”