Watts Up! Community Is Rich with Food For the Soul and the Tummy

I recently had the chance to take crashed a private tour of the Watts Towers Cultural Center with a friend. My friend was kind enough to invite me when he was invited to visit the historic site.  Prior to the visit, I had only really looked at the Watts Towers structure and admired the bright pieces of tiles, glass, bottles, seashells, housewares and other found objects attached to the structures.  Having worked in the area many years ago, I was somewhat familiar with the story of Watts Towers and about Mr. Simon Rodia, the artist.  But I didn’t know about or paid attention to the details which held the stories that truly made Watts Towers the special structure that it is.

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In addition to the Watts Towers, the Watts Towers Cultural Center has a gallery, art studio, music center, a garden, and other offer many arts programs. They partner with local schools, community organizations, and offer the programs to the community at-large.

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Homes across the street have similar art work that were done by students and artists from the Watts Cultural Center.

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Ms. Rosie Lee Hooks is the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus. She makes it happen! Rogelio, one of the educators, is from the community, took classes at Watts Towers, finished college, and now back in the community, giving back and enriching lives!

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After our tour, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite and discuss one of our projects.* The spot where we planned on meeting was under renovation and we were stumped on where else to go. Then a couple of young men suggested a place, Watts Coffee House, located half a block away. I was a bit wary because, although I could see the business sign, I didn’t any other sign that there was a business– a couple of tables and chairs outside, perhaps, or even one of those neon coffee signs.  When we asked the guys if they had food-food– as opposed to just coffee and muffins– they said, “They have everything!” It’s true!

Watts Coffee House is seriously a hidden gem– like, you have to find the door, walk in, then find the other door or follow the smell. Once you fine it, you will be rewarded with everything– soul food, pancakes, coffee. I had Gangsta #1 Combo which included a pork chop, link, salmon croquet, chicken wing, hash browns, three eggs, and a biscuit. OMG it was so delicious!

In addition to the deliciousness, it was so awesome to see Jordan High love and the wall signed by super cool musicians like Tony, Toni, Tone!

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My stomach, my heart, and my soul were full. What a great day!

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From Mochi Factory to Art Space+

BRIGHT colors, solids, and structured look is how I roll. But last Saturday, a friend invited me to the east side of town to check out The Container Yard. Since I was going to be in that part of town for work anyway, I agreed. So, I donned jeans that were slightly ripped and rolled ’em up and put on an orange long sleeve shirt.  I added a long, blue scarf with pasley pattern around my neck, then finished up the look with some blue booties and a large handbag. I looked at myself in the mirror and did not see the structured Westside style I am comfortable with.  I must be ready for the east.

The Container Yard is located in the heart of the Arts District.  It’s on 4th Street, just south of Hewitt and around the corner from the Arts District Co-Op.  A large gate shelters the view of the space from 4th Street passers-by, both pedestrians and cars.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  My friend said that the space was an old warehouse.  And that Saturday, the owners were opening the space to the public for the first time.  Then he mentioned that there were going to be food trucks and lots of art.

It was exactly as he described.

I was going to write a bit more about its history and the owners but LA Weekly covered it all in this article.  But below are some of the pictures I took from the grand opening.

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#ConvergeLA

As what usually happens when one is sick at home, in their pajamas, and having a pity party of one, I looked to Facebook for some entertainment and/or virtual company.  I noticed that a number of my friends (for the record: also ‘real life’ friends) were posting about art and Los Angeles and some gathering.  Some were posting on Facebook from Twitter and had #ConvergeLA.  Well, I just finished watching a series on Netflix, emotionally drained (darn you Walter White!), and couldn’t talk or go anywhere, so I decided to follow the stream on Twitter.

Arts For LA hosted the 2013 LA Convergence, “a biennial day of collaboration, conversation, and shared goal setting for those working to make Los Angeles a healthy, vibrant, and prosperous region through arts and culture.” Through tweets, retweets, and top tweets. I was able to get a bit of a snapshot as to what struck a chord with some of the attendees– at least those who were tweeting.  For example, the connection between art and STEM– STEAM— resonated with a lot of people, especially when one of the panelists mentioned that 86% of MIT students play music.

In addition to learning, I was able to participate by direct messaging people who were tweeting as well as responding and asking questions via retweets. Direct messaging was akin to passing notes, while retweeting and quoting tweets were like raising my hands. I even “networked” a bit. Someone who saw one of my retweets visited my Twitter profile, clicked the link to this website, learned that we had similar interests and community work, sent me a message, and now we are connected.  One of the presenters saw my tweet asking about the presentation material and tweeted back that she could send it to me.

Of course there were limitations to the live stream experience, e.g., I was only privy to the information and thoughts of those who were tweeting.  And social media should never replace human interaction.  But this experience was a reminder that social media serves a much bigger purpose than just letting your friends know what you had for breakfast, sharing vacation pictures for people to envy, memes, and learning what the fox said.

Social media is truly another tool in community engagement.

Notes: I have participated in live tweets and chats before.  Perhaps because I was focused and not multi-tasking (e-mailing, on the phone, etc.), this one *almost* felt like I was actually in the room.    

ConvergeLA tweets
ConvergeLA tweets