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LACMA9: A Nomadic Community Film School

LACMA9, Redlands. | Photo: Duncan Cheng.

In partnership with LACMA9 Art + Film Lab LACMA9 Art + Film Lab, in residence in nine communities, offers free art and film workshops, an oral history project, outdoor film screenings, plus a day of free admission to LACMA.

Redlands, San Bernardino, Altadena. Monterey Park, Hacienda Heights, Montebello. Compton, Inglewood, Torrance.

These places are loosely connected by the 10, the 605 and the 210 freeways, but nothing else brings to mind a common thread. They're all in Southern California, sure, but Hacienda Heights, it seems, has as much in common with Milwaukee, Wisconsin as Compton does with Redlands.

And maybe that's the point of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)'s new educational initiative, the LACMA9 Art + Film Lab. The traveling interactive installation/event and community space will visit the nine aforementioned communities over a period of 16 months. In these diverse Southern California zipcodes, the project aims to find the collective consciousness of the people who live within and weave them together through interactive art and film programming. The program, which will set up every weekend and move every five weeks, will give audiences a chance to watch a diverse set of films (from Hollywood classics to foreign films and independents), listen to cutting-edge bands and create movies starring members of their community.

The best part? All of it -- the hands-on artmaking, the filmmaking workshops, the weekly outdoor film screenings, and the gathering of oral histories from community members -- is free.

LACMA9, Redlands | Photo: Duncan Cheng.
LACMA9, Redlands. | Photo: Duncan Cheng.

"We wanted to reach places that we thought were underserved geographically by LACMA, with limited arts and cultural infrastructure," said Hanul Bahm, LACMA's community engagement manager, said. "Redlands is obviously not one of those places, but it's one of the places we wanted to introduce LACMA programming to," she added.

At the heart of the LACMA9 experience is the constant interaction. After the art and film lab give audiences a taste for what it's like to have art in their home turf for five weeks, members of each community will be invited to a community day -- with free admission -- at LACMA.

Supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, the 16-month program opened at the University of Redlands on June 7. The initial set up -- at a street corner parking lot -- was unobtrusive, yet held limitless potential for the both the working artists who will help the community create their films and the audiences who came because they were curious. At the forefront was Son Real and its arpa jarocha playing a soundtrack to the magical sunset. Behind them, a film would be screening once it got dark. Adjacent to the band was the eye-popping transportable workshop space created by Cuban-born sculptor Jorge Pardo.

LACMA9, Redlands | Photo: Duncan Cheng.
LACMA9, Redlands. | Photo: Duncan Cheng.

"We wanted it to be a miniature outpost of LACMA. Jorge was chosen because his practice lives at the intersection of art and design and architecture functionality and sculpture. So this is how we want this lab space to live," Bahm said.

"It was a minor feat of engineering, transporting this structure," she added. Made up of three parts, the red-and-orange space made of steel and plywood had the exact dimensions of a trailer home. Built especially for LACMA9, it's imbued with the same sense of wonder that marks much of Pardo's work: "Is it furniture or art?"

"He wanted to grace it with vibrancy, because everything we're offering out of the space is free to the community," Bahm said. Nothing similar to this -- a space that will visit nine different places, yet isn't on wheels -- has been done before. And in the collaboration, both Pardo and LACMA put a lot of care into making the piece celebratory, meaningful and fun. "It's playful and kind of explanatory, kind of like an Airstream with a different design," Bahm said. "It's like [LACMA is] living outdoors in Southern California."

LACMA9, Redlands | Photo: Duncan Cheng.
LACMA9, Redlands. | Photo: Duncan Cheng.

LACMA9 hopes to attract primarily adult audiences in this venture -- a new thrust in their educational programming. For adults, who spend their time working and caring for parents or children, there's not a lot of creative "me-time." That's something LACMA9 hopes to address. The workshops -- which include creating soundtracks, cinematography, in-camera editing, and more -- are designed and facilitated by working filmmakers and video artists, and were created to be accessible even for those who have never held a camera before -- in effect, democratizing filmmaking. "With today's technology, filmmaking and video are concepts anyone can own, just like a pencil in your hand. You can draw, make a revolutionary manifesto, write poetry; technology is at a point that it's so cheap anything is a possibility," Bahm added.

The process -- teaching folks that anyone can be a filmmaker -- was what made the project so exciting, said Walter Vargas, one of of the video artists heading the workshops. "[In Southern California] I feel like filmmaking is never activated in the community; it's always about Hollywood and the industry.

LACMA9, Redlands | Photo: Duncan Cheng.
LACMA9, Redlands. | Photo: Duncan Cheng.

"The reason I'm very attracted to filmmaking is because when I see a good film, I see a person's experience that I get to reflect on in my own life. Once I understand that, you feel empowered -- you get to know yourself better. It's a very electric sensation, and you realize that your boundaries are much larger than what you originally thought."

After collecting oral histories from the Art + Film Lab, installation artist Nicole Miller will then work with residents in each site to create new video works. "I'm always surprised here in Southern California that there are all these stories that we're told, but we never really see it told [in cultural representations]," she said. "What I'm looking for, because the work is cinema-based and my work is inspired by cinematic ideas, are stories based on feelings that people haven't seen in media," Miller added. "Something faithful and worthwhile to tell."

LACMA9 schedule:

June 7 - July 7, 2013 Redlands
July 26 - August 25, 2013 San Bernardino
September 13 - October 13, 2013 Altadena
January 10 - February 9, 2014 Monterey Park
February 21 - March 23, 2014 Hacienda Heights
April 4 - May 4, 2014 Montebello
May 16 - June 15, 2014 Compton
June 27 - July 27, 2014 Inglewood
August 8 - September 7, 2014 Torrance

Nicole Miller's first series will be exhibited at LACMA on the Redlands Community Day on Sunday, October 13.

LACMA9, Redlands | Photo: Duncan Cheng.
LACMA9, Redlands. | Photo: Duncan Cheng.

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