Dinner in Leimert Park with Los Angeles city planner Reuben Caldwell;
Karen Mack, LA Commons, and artist Ben Caldwell, Chaos Network  

Pratt Institute, Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development
PLAN 801A.01 Culture, Planning, and Community Engagement
Faculty: Caron Atlas, Arts & Democracy Project with Karen Mack, LA Commons

This experiential course investigates arts and culture, broadly defined, as a critical part of envisioning and building an equitable and sustainable Los Angeles.  Through site visits, tours, cultural events, and conversations with practitioners and policymakers representing multiple perspectives, we will explore the intersection between arts and culture and participatory planning.  Beginning with a citywide overview, the course will move to specific neighborhoods where arts and culture, planning, and community revitalization are taking place including Leimert Park, Skid Row, Thai Town, and Watts.

New York, Sunday, April 1, Pre-LA orientation class

2-4 pm Pratt Institute, Higgins Hall, room 406

Los Angeles
Sunday, April 15

CicLAvia (We’re meeting with its producer, Aaron Paley on Thursday and one of its organizers, Joe Linton, is leading the river walking tour on Friday.)

Ciclovías started in Bogotá, Colombia, over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. CicLAvia will have 10 miles of car free streets, creating a network of connections between neighborhoods, businesses, and parks. http://www.cicLAvia.org

Tuesday, April 17

2:00 pm

Pick up at convention center (southeast corner of Pico and Figueroa in front of the Gilbert Lindsay Memorial (work of public art)– travel to LA Commons office in Leimert Park at 4343 S. Leimert Blvd. Karen Mack, founder and executive director of LA Commons, is our Los Angeles partner for this course.

(Driving directions: Head southwest on S Figueroa St toward W 12th St. Turn right onto Exposition Blvd. Turn left onto S Normandie Ave. Turn right onto W Vernon Ave. Turn right onto S Leimert Blvd.)

LA Commons works in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles, facilitating artistic processes, open to all, that result in highly visible public art projects that tell dynamic neighborhood stories. LA Commons builds community by validating the importance of local narratives, enhancing the sense of belonging felt by a broad range of stakeholders and encouraging stronger ties between the people and places of LA.http://www.lacommons.org/ .  Karen Mack brings to her role at LA Commons many years developing programs and helping other nonprofits to grow and thrive.  As part of research for starting LA Commons, she served as Public Service Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she explored the role of culture in community building.  She is currently President of the Board of Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and a Mayoral Appointee to the Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.

3:00 – 4:00 pm           

APA conference debrief and transition to class with Ron Shiffman, city planner and Pratt Institute faculty member, and Caron Atlas, director, Arts & Democracy Project and Pratt faculty for this course.

4:00 – 5:00 pm

Culture, planning, and community engagement: issues, practices, and accountability –discussion initiated by Atlas, Shiffman, and Mack and then extending to the group

5:00 – 6:00 pm

Opportunity to walk around Leimert Park and shop or relax at LA Commons Office


6:00 – 7:00 pm

Walking tour of Leimert Park with Karen Mack, LA Commons, which ends at Ackee Bamboo Jamaican Cuisine for dinner

7:00 – 9:15 pm

Dinner with two speakers from Leimert Park: Reuben Caldwell, Community Planner, City of Los Angeles and filmmaker, Ben Caldwell, Kaos Network

Reuben Caldwell, AICP, is a community planner with the City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning. He has worked for the City since 2006.  Mr. Caldwell returned to his home state of California after nine years as a planner with the City of Miami Beach, Florida. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture and urban design from the University of California at Berkeley. His graduate level thesis work in Professor Christopher Alexander’s “Building Process Area of Emphasis” has guided his methods for integrating community and cultural driven policy planning with form based design codes and regulations. Along with work in design, preservation and neighborhood planning, Mr. Caldwell has been directly involved in drafting the primary guiding policy document and accompanying implementation for the West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Community Plan Area of the City.

Ben Caldwell is a Los Angeles-based arts educator and independent filmmaker.  A native of New Mexico, Caldwell studied filmmaking at UCLA, at the same time as Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Billy Woodberry, as part of a group of young artists who were to change African American independent filmmaking — a cultural phenomenon sometimes called "The L.A. Rebellion."  Caldwell taught several years at CalArts and was a major force in the development of the institution’s outreach initiative, Community Arts Partnership, which partners students with community art centers.  In 1984, he founded KAOS Network, a community arts center dedicated to providing training in digital arts, media arts and multi-media, with the goal of empowering the youth of the community.  Each week over 150 youth participate in workshops and programs at the center. In addition to these workshops, KAOS Network has videotaped community events and produced documentaries for the state of California and other entities.

9:30 – pm

Enjoy music at Bananas – monthly music showcase at Kaos Network


Car pooling home – we will organize different cars to leave at different times.

Wednesday, April 18

9:30 – 10:45

Breakfast at Phillipes, 1001 N. Alemeda (we will meet at 9:00 to get food, talk starts at 9:30)

(Take the Red, Gold, Purple Line to the Union Station – 1001 N. Alemeda is one block north of Union Station)

James Rojas “Using the production of art as a tool to educate and empower the pubic on urban planning.”

James Rojas holds an MA in City Planning and an MS in Architecture Studies from MIT. He works as a city and transportation planner, and is the founder of the Latino Urban Forum, a non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness of planning and design issues facing low-income Latinos. Rojas has written and lectured extensively about how culture and immigration are transforming the American front yard and landscape, and, through Place It!, has organized an impressive number of on-site model installations and interactive workshops. http://www.placeit.orghttp://www.latinourbanforum.com

Students making models of their home towns in James Rojas' workshop

Walk to Homeboy Industries

(130 West Bruno Street, 2 blocks north to Bruno turn right, then ½ block down to Homeboy Industries. (323) 256-1254)

11:00 am – 12:00 noon

Los Angeles overview with Jacqueline Leavitt, UCLA Professor of Urban Planning

Jacqueline Leavitt holds a doctorate in urban planning and is Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA.  She has authored books and articles on gender and housing and teaches about housing and community development.  She was among the pioneers who introduced ideas about gender into urban planning.  Dr. Leavitt’s most recent work analyzes lost opportunities for the planning profession when it might have taken a more progressive position about the most vulnerable in society, including women and people of color, to the ongoing housing crisis.  Dr. Leavitt’s practice is based on community development from the ground up; she works with the Los Angeles Housing as a Human Right Collective and the international NGO, the Huairou Commission.  She has also done research on labor related issues including housing needs of homecare workers, public housing, and the working conditions of taxi drivers in Los Angeles.  She is co-editor of a book on housing cooperatives and another on tenant responses to landlord-abandoned housing in New York City.  

12:00 – 1:30 pm

Lunch and tour at Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Café

Started as a jobs program offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Homeboy assists at-risk, recently released, and formerly gang involved youth to become contributing members of their communities through a variety of services in response to their multiple needs. Free programs—including counseling, education, tattoo removal, substance abuse and addiction assistance, job training and job placement—enable young people to redirect their lives. Homeboy is the nation’s largest gang-intervention and re-entry program. http://homeboy-industries.org/  Homegirl Café, a division of Homeboy Industries, is a social enterprise assisting at-risk and formerly gang involved young women and men to become contributing members of the community through training in restaurant service and culinary arts. http://www.homegirlcafe.org

Travel to Cornerstone Theater in the Arts District, 708 Traction Avenue (213) 625-0018

(Take Gold Line to Little Tokyo / Arts District Stop. Head South on Alameda St. Take a left onto Traction Ave *note E 2nd St splits into E 2nd St and Traction Ave at Alameda. Walk two blocks to Cornerstone)

2:00 – 4:00 pm

Cornerstone Theater workshop and talk

Founded as a traveling ensemble in 1986, Cornerstone Theater settled in Los Angeles in 1992 to focus on urban collaborations, and launched a series of multi-year play cycles. These included the Watts Cycle, five plays seeking to build bridges between African American and Latino residents of Watts, The Faith-Based Cycle, seven plays exploring communities of faith in Los Angeles, and The Justice Cycle, six plays exploring how laws shape or disrupt communities. Cornerstone seeded a new theater entirely comprised of day laborers, Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras (Day Laborer Theater Without Borders), in partnership with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Their current series of plays, The Hunger Cycle, explores issues of hunger, justice, and food equity.

4:00 – 5:30 pm

Walk to Pit Fire Pizza (108 West 2nd St at corner of S. Main) where we will meet John Malpede and other members of the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) for an early dinner and talk. Then walk with them to Skid Row to James Wood Community Center.

Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) founded in 1985, creates performances and multidisciplinary artworks that connect the experience of people living in poverty to the social forces that shape their lives and communities. LAPD’s works express the realities, hopes, dreams and rights of people who live and work in L.A.'s Skid Row.  The company is made up of people who make art and live and work on Skid Row.  LAPD tells the rest of the story, what you don’t hear elsewhere:  “We create change by telling the story of the community in a way that supports the initiatives of community residents.  We want the narrative of the neighborhood to be in the hands of neighborhood people.  We work to generate this narrative and to supplant narratives that perpetuate stereotypes used to keep the neighborhood people down or to justify displacing the community.  We want to create recognition of the community and its values.” http://www.lapovertydepartment.org

7:00 – 9:00 pm

30 Years of Organizing on Skid Row, created and produced by Los Angeles Poverty Department

James Wood Community Center, 400 East 5th Street (corner of 5th and San Julian St)

(Street parking and lots of parking lots, 7th and Maple and Main and Winston are two options.)

Conversation with Nancy Mintie, founder, Inner City Law Center, Gary Blasi, UCLA law professor who has been active in litigation in support of Skid Row residents since the 1980s, Pete White, founder of LA Community Action Network. LA Poverty Department will start the evening with a 15-minute preview performance of Walk the Talk, a peripatetic performance - with brass band - that travels through Skid Row with performances that celebrate the achievements of neighborhood visionaries.http://lapovertydept.org/walk-the-talk/index.php

Thursday, April 19

(Meet at Siam Sunset Restaurant, 5265 Sunset Blvd. Take Red Line to Hollywood and Western Station. Head south on Western Ave. Take a left on Sunset Blvd. Walk two and a half blocks to restaurant)

9:00 – 10:30 am

Meet in Thai Town for a Thai breakfast with Chanchanit Martorell, Executive Director, Thai Community Development Center

Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC), a community development non-profit organization since 1994, facilitated the designation of the one and only Thai Town in the world located in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and founded the Thai New Year's Day Songkran Festival.  Thai CDC aims to create a thriving community by creating businesses and jobs, developing decent and affordable housing, and revitalizing public space.  Thai CDC serves economically disadvantaged populations including immigrants, low-wage workers, and victims of human trafficking.  In fact, the famed El Monte Slavery Case, the first case of modern day slavery in the United States, was vigorously fought by Thai CDC and their human rights allies until justice was achieved for the victims. http://thaicdc.org

10:30 – 11:30 am

Opportunity to walk around Thai Town / Little Armenia

11:30 am – 12:00 pm

Travel to Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe

2122 West Seventh Street (a half a block west of Alvarado St., and directly across the southern border of MacArthur Park) (213) 487-7474

12:00 – 1:00 pm

Lunch at Mama’s Hot Tamales with John Arroyo, Program Officer for Local Initiative Support Corporation and presentation by Sandi “Mama” Romero, Mama’s Hot Tamales

John Arroyo is Program Officer for Local Initiatives Support Corporation, where he oversees the human and social development initiatives for the LA office.  He has over 10 years of experience working for various arts, cultural, and community and economic development-oriented nonprofits and government agencies including The Getty Foundation, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Leveraging Investments in Creativity, National Trust for Historic Preservation, International Laboratory on Cultural Landscapes in Barcelona, and the Institute for Creative Sustainability in Berlin.  Mr. Arroyo received his Masters in City Planning and a Certificate in Urban Design from MIT where he received the Outstanding Master in City Planning Thesis Award, 2010.

Mama's Hot Tamales Café is an apprentice-operated business and job training restaurant that provides hands-on and classroom instruction designed to train low-and-moderate-income residents living within the central region of Los Angeles (that includes the MacArthur Park Area) in the disciplines necessary to begin a career path toward success in the culinary world.  Under the watchful eye of Sandi “Mama” Romero, participants acquire the knowledge, abilities, and skills to pursue opportunities in food service.http://www.mamashottamales.com/index_LosAngeles.html

1:00 – 2:00 pm

Travel to Watts

2:00 – 5:00 pm

Watts visit led by Karen Mack including Watts House Project, an artist-driven neighborhood redevelopment organization based opposite the historic Watts Towers. We will meet with Will Sheffie, Executive Director and Trinidad Ruiz, Program Director. We will also hear about cultural mapping in Willowbrook as part of a cultural planning process involving LA Commons and the LA County Arts Commission.

Watts House Project is an artist-driven neighborhood redevelopment organization, wherein artists and design professionals, in collaboration with the Watts Towers area residents, employ art as an economic and community development engine to promote and enhance the quality of residential life in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. WHP brings residents together in a creative partnership with artists, architects, design professionals, and volunteers to revitalize the neighborhood and re-imagine the environment through inventive programming, community involvement, and functional and creative housing renovations. http://wattshouseproject.org

Project Willowbrook: Cultivating a Healthy Community Through Arts and Culture is a year-long creative exploration of the Willowbrook area.  It will complete a cultural asset mapping process as well as forge ongoing cultural and community engagement activities.  Project Willowbrook will capitalize on Los Angeles County’s over $600 million investment in health and infrastructure improvements in unincorporated Willowbrook.  These capital improvement projects include the renovation and expansion of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital (MLK Hospital) and a plan to improve pedestrian connectivity between the MLK Hospital and the Rosa Parks Metro Station.  The new MLK Hospital will also be the site of the County’s largest civic art commission to date with a budget of $1 million.http://www.lacountyarts.org/civicart/projectdetails/id/196

5:00 – 6:30 pm

Travel back downtown and short break

6:30 – 7:30 pm

Cornerstone Theater tech rehearsal for Café Vida (part of their Hunger Cycle) at Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 South Spring Street

Lisa Loomer pens Café Vida, the first play in The Hunger Cycle, a collaboration between Cornerstone,Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Café. Chabela and Luz are rival homegirls ready to leave the life and begin anew at Café Vida — the only place in the city that gives young women and their troubled pasts a genuine second chance to start a new life free of violence.  It’s here that these former enemies choose “la vida” over “la muerte” as they learn to compost, tend a garden, julienne an onion, and rock your lunch order with a smile and a heaping side of transformation. http://cornerstonetheater.org/CafeVida

8:00 – 10:00 pm

Dinner with Aaron Paley, CARS - Community Arts Resources, who will have just produced CicLAvia.

With 25 years of experience, Community Arts Resources (CARS) creates opportunities to engage with culture and community. Their work is built upon the principles of strategic collaboration, connectivity, exploration and celebration. CARS designs, installs and oversees festivals and other events for the Getty, the City of Santa Monica, Disney Theme Parks, the Natural History Museum, and the California Endowment; consults for city governments, private developers, and nonprofits on the uses of public space for cultural and artistic purposes; arranges artist-in-residence programs at local schools; books performers for celebrated concert series; and develops marketing and outreach strategies for cultural organizations and community groups.  Aaron Paley is President and co-founder of CARS and  the founder and board chair of Yiddishkayt, the largest organization devoted to Yiddish culture west of the Hudson.http://www.communityartsla.com

Friday, April 20

LA City Hall, 200 North Spring Street

9:00 – 10:00 pm

Simon Pastucha, head, Urban Design Studio in the Los Angeles Department of Planning

The mission of the Urban Design Studio is to integrate great design into policy, codes and guidelines to help shape the development of the City. Simon Pastucha was part of the core team that developed the Downtown Design Guidelines and revised Street Standards resulting in the adoption and implementation of the first context sensitive street solutions in the City of Los Angeles. He helped organize the Green Alley and Green Streets initiatives to change the engineering of storm water runoff in the City of Los Angeles. He is crafting citywide Urban Design Principles and Guidelines to improve design and help shape the City of Los Angeles for future generations. He is part of the team to develop and update design and land use policy around transit oriented development. He began his 20+year career with a BSLA degree in Landscape Architecture with an emphasis on ecosystematic design and sustainability.www.UrbanDesignLA.com

10:00 – 11:00 pm

Susan Gray, Cultural Arts – City Planner, CRA/LA

CRA/LA’s Art Program is integral to the mission of the CRA/LA to eliminate blight and revitalize Los Angeles through focused redevelopment activities in designated project areas. CRA/LA began its commitment to public art in 1968.  In 1985, an arts policy was formalized for three downtown project areas and in 1993 it was expanded to all areas.  This policy, which continued, requires developers working in CRA/LA’s designated project areas to contribute 1% of development costs to art projects. These developer contributions pay for on-site public art projects, cultural facility and other artistic enhancements throughout the project area.  http://crala.org/internet-site/Other/Art_Program/index.cfm

11:00 – 12:00 pm

Debrief – see reflection questions

12:00-1:30 pm

River walking tour with Joe Linton

(LA River Center 570 West Ave 26. Take Gold Line to Ave 26 stop. Head northwest on West Ave 26. Walk under Pasadena Fwy, continue 3-4 blocks to LA River Center.) 

Joe Linton is an artist, author and activist, living in Koreatown, LA. He has been a longtime advocate for the revitalization and restoration of the Los Angeles River, serving in various capacities as volunteer, board and staff for the Friends of the Los Angeles River. He’s done additional river advocacy through work for The City ProjectUrban SemillasOccidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute and while serving as a Council Deputy to Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes. He’s led hundreds ofwalks and tours of the river and its tributaries, and has advocated for parks, landscape, bike paths, master plans, water quality enhancements, and much more. Linton wrote and illustrated Down by the Los Angeles River: Friends of the Los Angeles River’s Official Guide and was recognized in LA Weekly’s 2006 people issue as the river’s unofficial “minister of access.” He was one of the founders of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and currently works on L.A.’s CicLAvia car-free events.http://lacreekfreak.wordpress.com/about-us/


East LA tour with James Rojas

New York, Sunday, April 29, Post-LA reflection class

3:00 – 6:00 pm Pratt Institute, Higgins Hall, room 406

Debriefing at Pratt