John Arroyo on Culture in Concrete

Culture in Concrete: Cultural Production, Engagement, and Change Along the Los Angeles River's Eastside

This topic is a personal one, especially since I grew up not too far from the River's concrete banks in East LA. Later I spent four 3+ years living along the Lower Arroyo Seco in Highland Park, where I became involved in several cultural River-based projects. To be honest, I didn't realize this interest would manifest into my thesis topic. I knew I wanted to research something about the intersection of arts, culture, and landscape preservation with planning, but in a very broad sense - beyond traditional regulatory planning and municipal frameworks. It all came together during my return back to LA in late August. While catching-up with friends, I realized everyone seemed be doing something interesting - along the River. It only took a little synthesizing (and a few conversations with James Rojas!) to understand that this was one aspect of the current "River dialogue" that hasn't been covered, especially from the Eastside perspective. An Eastside native, I thought I'd give it a shot. In many ways, although the River runs through through only a handful of LA County territories, its future will reflect major implications for all of Los Angeles. I truly believe if we don't approach the River's revitalization with innovation solutions, we have little hope for how to comprehensively and cohesively plan for LA's future. A few semester of MIT = lots of out of the box thinking. I'm glad for it, but now it's time to apply my ideas and make my case.

I feel this project will live on post-MIT, perhaps through a film (and if nothing else, a web-based mobile mediascape)? I know I will collect a lot of rich information - most of which would best be represented in a creative visual manner. I could also see me taking this show on the road too through other planning/civic forums - LAPL Zocalo, Big City Forum, a FarmLab Salon, or even Airtalk with Patt Morrison (she loves culture and she loves the River!). Hopefully anything that can help more people see the value of culture in planning for the future of the LA River and through that lens, the general value of culture in the planning or major urban regeneration projects (river restoration, housing, transportation, etc.).

I believe our River is more than just 3.5 million barrels of concrete and I know you same sentiments.