Los Angeles Culture Challenge: April 2018 (Scandinavian Festival & Festival of Books)

April is overflowing with special events and exhibitions featuring countries, cultures, and parts of town near and far. Three of my favorite Los Angeles events return this month: Scandinavian Festival at California Lutheran University, LA Times Festival of Books at USC, and CicLAvia in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. I highly recommend them all, but unfortunately, they all fall on the same weekend. Some difficult choices will have to be made.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* Weekend of April 7 & 8 *

Bunka-Sai Japanese Cultural Festival, Ken Miller Recreation Center, Torrance, Saturday, 4/7, & Sunday, 4/8. Come enjoy Japanese culture at the Bunka-Sai Festival sponsored by the Torrance Sister City Association. Enjoy children’s games and activities, tasty plate lunches, baked goods, craft items, and cultural performances. To see performance schedule, click here.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays only, April 7 to May 20. This is the opening weekend of the annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. Take in 13 stages offering a variety of entertainment all day long, a fully armored joust, the Queen and her glittering Court, arts and crafts, food and fine spirits, music, dance, parades, rides and games. There are also interactive adventure quests for all ages and opportunities to learn historic arts and crafts. Visit website for information on special events and themed weekends and a schedule of performances as well as a coupon to save on admission.

Opening Day: hapa.me – 15 years of the hapa project, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, April 7 – October 28. In this new exhibition, artist Kip Fulbeck continues his project, begun in 2001, of photographing persons who identify as “Hapa”—of mixed Asian/Pacific Islander descent—as a means of promoting awareness and positive acceptance of multiracial identity. hapa.me pairs the photographs and statements from the groundbreaking 2006 exhibition, kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa, with contemporary portraits of the same individuals and newly written statements, showing not only their physical changes in the ensuing years, but also changes in their perspectives and outlooks on the world. Click here to see a schedule of special activities to mark Opening Day.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/7, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures—not to mention great bargains—to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown.

Greece: Gods and Goddess Tile Mosaic (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/8, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Tokyo City Cup & Japan Family Day 2018, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Sunday, 4/8, 10:30 a.m. Each year the Tokyo City Cup Race is run to acknowledge and celebrate the partnership between two of the premier horse racing tracks in their respective countries. Japan Family Day at Santa Anita Park was started as a way to introduce Japanese traditional culture and to interact with the people of Southern California. Through the years, it has become one of the most popular spring festivals in the area. Featuring cultural events and demonstrations, Japanese/Asian/Fusion food booths, live entertainment, and special fun areas for kids and families, Japan Family Day has something for everyone. Visit website for schedule of events and coupon for free general admission.

Explore the Art of Printmaking (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 4/8, 11:00 a.m. Explore the art of printmaking with special guests from Self Help Graphics & Art (SHG). Artist from their Bario Mobile Art Studio will guide you through the process of making your own silkscreen printed poster. While you’re there, don’t miss your chance to go on a guided tour of Winds from Fusang: Mexico and China in the Twentieth Century and listen to story time in the Silk Road Gallery. Free admission all day.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 4/8, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. April’s festival features Taiko Center of Los Angeles and visiting artist Fuden Daiko from Fudenji Zen Monastery in Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy. Enjoy beautiful folk and classical dances, as well as koto and lute music of Japan. Feast your eyes on the work of world renown candy sculptor Shan Ichiyanagi. Round out the day with art projects and face painting for the entire family.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/8, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

Family Jam: Making Art and Music with Masanga Marimba, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 4/8, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Join us for an afternoon of art making and live music celebrating our Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition, Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis. Find inspiration in the galleries, use watercolors to recreate the colorful textiles worn by women in Bahia, and listen as the LA-based Masanga Marimba Ensemble plays traditional and popular music from Africa and Latin America. Drop-in art making from 1-4pm. Concert starts at 2pm.

* Weekend of April 14 & 15 *

20th Annual Chumash Day Powwow and Inter-Tribal Celebration, Malibu Bluffs Park, Malibu, Saturday, 4/14, & Sunday, 4/15. This year’s 20th annual Chumash Day Powwow will celebrate Native Americans from all over the country. Hundreds of tribes will gather at Malibu Bluffs Park. Native American food, craft vendors, tribal ceremonies, and dances will be a part of the event on both days.

Thailand: Thai New Year Puppets (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/15, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/15, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

* Weekend of April 21 & 22 *

Scandinavian Festival, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Saturday, 4/21, & Sunday, 4/22. The Scandinavian Festival returns for the 43rd year. Both days of the festival are filled with music, dancing, food, lectures, demonstrations, vendors, and activities for young and old alike. The Viking Encampment and Sami Village will once again be present. Family activities include head wreath making with real flowers, raising the Maypole and dancing around it, learning the ancient Viking game Kubb, playing croquet, and a variety of arts and crafts representative of the Nordic countries.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, USC Campus, Exposition Park, Saturday, 4/21, and Sunday, 4/22. Enjoy two days of not only books and authors, but also music, food, art, culture, and fun. The Festival of Books is Los Angeles Times’ annual celebration of ideas, creativity, and the written word. The Festival brings book lovers and fun seekers of all ages together with their favorite authors, artists, chefs, musicians, and entertainers.

CicLAvia: Heart of the Foothills, Foothills of San Gabriel Mountains, Sunday, 4/22, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CicLAvia kicks off 2018 with a brand new route, Heart of the Foothills. The country’s largest open streets event will connect the cities of San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, and Claremont. Streets will be closed to cars and open for cyclists, pedestrians, runners, and skaters to use as a recreational space.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/22, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

Kids in the Courtyard: Sail Away in Moche-Style, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 4/22, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Explore the magnificent tule reed boats illustrated on a Peruvian Moche-style vessel in the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. Surrounded by sea creatures, the boats are shown transporting people, most of whom are elaborately dressed. Design your own boat and watch it float in the Fowler’s fountain, your bathtub, the pool, or even the sea!

* Weekend of April 28 & 29 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/28, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Ancient Sumer: Deer in a Thicket Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/29, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/29, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

* Ongoing Exhibits and Events *

KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, California Science Center, Exposition Park, opened March 24 and is open for a limited time. Celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb at the California Science Center with the largest King Tut exhibit ever to tour. Discover over 150 authentic artifacts from King Tut’s celebrated tomb – 60 of which have never traveled outside of Egypt, until now. In a dramatic new presentation, dazzling multimedia complements rare artifacts to take guests on an immersive journey of the pharaoh’s quest for immortality. Enhance your experience with the IMAX movie Mysteries of Egypt. It is strongly suggested to purchase tickets online in advance to avoid lines and possible sell-outs.

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, Getty Gallery at Central Library, Downtown LA, February 1 – May 25. In celebration of African American Heritage Month, Central Library is hosting the traveling exhibit For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, which examines the major role imagery played in the fight for racial and social equality from the 1940s through the 1970s. The exhibit shows how popular images—sometimes disturbing, sometimes entertaining, and sometimes overtly militant—played a crucial part in promoting important ideas about fairness and social equality and advancing civil rights during a key period in America’s history. The exhibit also focuses on the role of entertainment media, especially television, as an influential force in highlighting key civil rights events.

Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A., Central Library, Downtown LA, extended until August 31. The exhibition celebrates the rich social fabric of Los Angeles through the lens of the city’s vibrant Oaxacan community — specifically, the Zapotec communities which make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in Mexico and Los Angeles. The Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos has created a series of new murals for the Central Library’s historic rotunda that explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me here with details. Thank you!

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for March 2018: Norwegian Shrimp Fest!

A new month means new opportunities to explore the rich diversity of Los Angeles. If you haven’t already seen Cuba Is at Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, see it this weekend before it closes. Other special events this month include Los Angeles Lantern Festival, Celebrating Nowruz: Iranian New Year, and a Norwegian Shrimp Fest! Read on for more details.

Before moving on, though, I’d like to give readers a heads-up about a special Scandinavian event happening next month. During the weekend of April 21 and 22, the Scandinavian Festival at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks will take place. Mark your calendars now so you don’t miss it!

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* Weekend of March 3 & 4 *

Cuba Is, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on display until Sunday, 3/4. Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explores aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African, and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos feature subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “Frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content—“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls.

Chinese Calligraphy & Brushpainting Classes, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Saturday mornings starting 3/3. Longtime instructor Guang-Li (David) Zhang, a graduate of the Shanghai Art Academy, teaches beginner and advanced students Chinese Calligraphy and Brushpainting in mixed lecture and workshop classes. Six-week class sessions begin March 3. Visit website for details.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/3, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures—not to mention great bargains—to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown. (Offered every first Saturday of the month)

Los Angeles Lantern Festival, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/3, 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Join the Chinese American Museum for the 17th Annual Los Angeles Lantern Festival. The free signature event culminates the Lunar New Year festivities with engaging community booths, museum tours, live entertainment, music, arts & crafts, and food trucks.

Australia: Dream Painting Rain Stick (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/4, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Caribbean Mardi Gras Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 3/4, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Enjoy an upbeat musical performance by Upstream, SoCal’s premier live Reggae, Soca, Caribbean band, and an exciting dance performance by Caribbean Gems. There will be art projects and face painting for the whole family.

Andell Family Sundays—Waterlilies, Cherries, and French Landscapes, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/4, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Who doesn’t love Impressionism? Impressionist artists were pioneers in capturing lovely moments that often involved flowers, food, and beautiful places. Make discoveries in the galleries. Paint, draw, and see the light in artist-led workshops. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/18)

* Weekend of March 10 & 11 *

Family Festival Celebrating the Getty Center’s 20th Anniversary, Getty Center, Los Angeles, Saturday, 3/10, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. As the Getty Center turns 20, they’re celebrating with an unforgettable birthday bash. Enjoy an engaging, immersive and fun day with some of the city’s best performers. Have your picture taken at the photo booth, make a wearable accessory inspired by the museum’s iconic tram, do some hip up with Versa-Style or hula with Keali’i O’Nalani, and then try your hand at their birthday games.

India: Rangoli Art (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/11, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. Check website for updated schedule.

Free Second Sunday, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 3/11, 11:00 a.m. Explore the garden and architecture of the museum. Design and create a model of a garden with artist Gustavo Garcia, sketch al fresco from the Chinese style courtyard and building, go on a tour of nature in the collection, and listen to storytime in the galleries. At 1:00 p.m., join the launch of the new children’s book Natsumi! with a special reading by author Susan Lendroth and illustrator Priscilla Burris. A book signing will follow. Museum admission is free all day.

Celebrating Nowruz: Iranian New Year, UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 3/11, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Join Farhang Foundation for the 10th annual celebration of Nowruz at UCLA’s Royce Hall and Dickson Courts. The event includes musical performances, children’s activities, dancers, a Haft Sîn display, and the annual Persian Costume “Spring Walk” open to children and adults of all ages. The Nowruz event is free. Sima Bina performance at 6:00 p.m. is ticketed. Please see website for program information.

Andell Family Sundays—Waterlilies, Cherries, and French Landscapes, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/11, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Who doesn’t love Impressionism? Impressionist artists were pioneers in capturing lovely moments that often involved flowers, food, and beautiful places. Make discoveries in the galleries. Paint, draw, and see the light in artist-led workshops. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/18)

Family Jam: Storytelling with Dena Atlantic, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 3/11, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Families and children of all ages are invited to discover Brazil’s cultural heritage as acclaimed storyteller Dena Atlantic performs interactive narratives inspired by the exhibition Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis. Be sure to explore related artworks after the show.

* Weekend of March 17 & 18 *

International Children’s Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 3/17, & Sunday, 3/18. The annual International Children’s Festival celebrates the talents of children of many cultures. West African, Mexican, Pacific Islander, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Persian, Irish, Slovak, and Czech dance are among the children’s performances, along with martial arts demonstrations and an international children’s choir. Kids of all ages can partake in a percussion circle, Japanese origami, Native American crafts, and Pacific Islander traditional children’s games.

Annual Norwegian Shrimp Fest, Norwegian Church, San Pedro, Saturday, 3/17, 5:00 p.m. The Norwegian Church is hosting its annual shrimp fest. Enjoy genuine Arctic shrimp, Norwegian “loff” (freshly baked white bread), mayonnaise, and everything else that belongs! For those who do not eat shrimp, lasagna will be served. Cost: adults $25, children $5, and families $50. Please RSVP by March 12 to losangeles@sjomannskirken.no.

* Weekend of March 24 & 25 *

USA: Cesar Chavez Inspired Still Life (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/25, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. Check website for updated schedule.

Ukrainian Pysanka Festival, Ukrainian Culture Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 3/25, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Learn to make traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs. Experience Ukrainian culture by viewing the work of many esteemed artists. Enjoy dance performances, music, and food.

Andell Family Sundays—Waterlilies, Cherries, and French Landscapes, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/25, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Who doesn’t love Impressionism? Impressionist artists were pioneers in capturing lovely moments that often involved flowers, food, and beautiful places. Make discoveries in the galleries. Paint, draw, and see the light in artist-led workshops. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/18)

* Weekend of March 31 & April 1 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/31, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Blessing of the Animals, Father Serra Park, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/31. The Blessing of the Animals has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930, but its practice dates back to the 4th century, when San Antonio De Abad was named the patron saint of the animal kingdom and began to bless animals to promote good health. Bring your pets to be blessed. Blessing begins at 2pm and lasts for an hour. Line-up for the blessing begins at 1pm. There will be entertainment from 12pm to 5pm.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for February 2018: Nordic Spirit Symposium, Lunar New Year, African American History Month

February offers many opportunities to discover and explore the richness of Los Angeles. Especially plentiful are Lunar New Year celebrations and events celebrating and honoring African American history.

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, this month features the annual Nordic Spirit Symposium, a unique lecture and performance program presented by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation and California Lutheran University. This year’s topic is the Vikings’ arrival in America. The symposium takes place Friday, February 9, and Saturday, February 10, in Thousand Oaks. See more details below.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* New and Ongoing Exhibits *

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, Getty Gallery at Central Library, Downtown LA, Thursday, February 1 – Friday, May 25, 2018. In celebration of African American Heritage Month, Central Library is hosting the traveling exhibit For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, which examines the major role imagery played in the fight for racial and social equality from the 1940s through the 1970s. The exhibit shows how popular images—sometimes disturbing, sometimes entertaining, and sometimes overtly militant—played a crucial part in promoting important ideas about fairness and social equality and advancing civil rights during a key period in America’s history. The exhibit also focuses on the role of entertainment media, especially television, as an influential force in highlighting key civil rights events.

Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, on display until February 25, 2018. See a new body of photographic work by interdisciplinary artist Ken Gonzales-Day examining the mural landscape of LA—from East LA to Venice Beach, from Pacoima to South LA. Featuring over 140 photographs, Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA considers what the city’s walls reveal about its diverse communities.

Cuba Is, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on display until March 4, 2018. Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explores aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos feature subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “Frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content—“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls.

Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A., Central Library, Downtown LA, extended until August 31, 2018. The exhibition celebrates the rich social fabric of Los Angeles through the lens of the city’s vibrant Oaxacan community — specifically, the Zapotec communities which make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in Mexico and Los Angeles. The Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos has created a series of new murals for the Central Library’s historic rotunda that explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 3 & 4 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Saturday, 2/3, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures—not to mention great bargains—to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown.

Kids & Families Program: Placemaking Portraits, California African American Museum (CAAM), Exposition Park, Saturday, 2/3, 1:00 p.m – 3:00 p.m. Inspired by ideas and techniques from works in his exhibition Conditions and Forms for blck Longevity, artist Adler Guerrier will guide participants in an art-making workshop to draw, shape, and collage images of place.

Peking Acrobats, Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA, Saturday, 2/3, 8:00 p.m. The talented ensemble is world-renowned for their daring maneuvers, trick-cycling, precision tumbling, somersaulting, and gymnastics. They defy gravity with amazing displays of flexibility, contortion, and control. They push the envelope of human possibility with astonishing juggling dexterity and incredible balancing feats. Records of these acrobatic acts can be found as early as the Ch’in Dynasty (221 B.C. – 207 B.C.) and Chinese acrobats through the ages have continued to perfect what has become an evolving folk art form. Visit website for ticket information.

Asian Lunar New Year Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 2/4, 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Celebrate the Year of the Dog with exciting music, dance, and art of Asia. Fun activities for the entire family. Lion and dragon dances and Changing Faces master are featured.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/4 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 10 & 11 *

Pan African Film + Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Thursday, 2/8, through Monday, 2/19. This is the first weekend of the Pan African Film + Arts Festival (PAFF) where people from around the globe gather to attend the largest Black film festival in the United States. From a $100 million blockbuster premiere to newly emerging Hollywood talent, the festival showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works from all over the globe, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes.

2018 Nordic Spirit Symposium: Vikings Reach America: First Contact, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Friday, 2/9, & Saturday, 2/10. The Icelandic Sagas tell of Norse voyages to Vinland around 1000 A.D. In the 1960s, a site at the northern tip of Newfoundland was confirmed as a Norse site occupied around 1000 A.D. by archaeological work conducted by Anne Stine and Helge Ingstad. After working with the Ingstads, Birgitta Wallace continued their research. This symposium will discuss this site in Newfoundland as well as discuss the location of Vinland and other sites named in the sagas. Included in the discussions will be the Norse who occupied Greenland for 500 years — the launching point for the voyages to Vinland, and of the natives the Norse likely encountered. The program will also include a discussion of the occupation of sub-Arctic eastern Canada from about 8000 years before and up to the Vikings arrival. The Vikings’ arrival is recognized as the first contact between peoples of European descent and natives of the American continent.

Film Matinee: Kon-Tiki, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, San Pedro, Saturday, 2/10, 12:00 p.m. Come enjoy waffles and drinks while watching Kon-Tiki, a Norwegian biographical drama film from 2012 about Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition. The Kon-Tiki expedition was an epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft in an effort to prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. It was directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg and was nominated for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film in 2013.

29th Annual Mardi Gras Celebration, The Original Farmers Market, 3rd & Fairfax, Saturday, 2/10, & Sunday, 2/11, 12:00 p.m. L.A.’s favorite Mardi Gras celebration returns for its 29th year straight. It features the finest New Orleans and Zydeco music, strolling parade bands, activities for kids, bead throwing, and much more.

China: Lunar New Year Dragon or Dog Puppet (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/11, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/11 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Family Jam: Celebrating Carnaval, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 2/11, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Join Fowler Museum for a celebration of Bahia’s Carnaval: a Brazilian springtime celebration famous for gorgeous parades, music, and costumes! Celebration features face painting, jewelry making, and mask decorating, as well as an Afro-Brazilian samba-reggae performance by Batalá Los Angeles and a guided story time in the Axé Bahia exhibition, where you will take a magical journey to Brazil.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 17 & 18 *

Chinese New Year Festival @ Central Plaza, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/17, 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. There will be artisan booths featuring brush painting, calligraphy, candy sculpture, clay sculpture, and face painting; arts and craft workshops; a craft and vintage market; a culinary stage; entertainment on Central Plaza Main Stage; live music; roaming performances; food trucks and food booths; a craft beer garden; and more.

119th Annual Golden Dragon Parade, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/17, 1:00 p.m. In celebrating over one hundred years of tradition, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles presents the 119th Annual Golden Dragon Parade. With over thousands of individuals lining the parade route and thousands viewing the telecast each year, this colorful celebration along North Broadway in Chinatown has become the premiere cultural event in the Southern California Asian-American Community. The parade includes almost two dozen floats, multiple marching bands, government officials, various dignitaries, entertainers, local business leaders, and cultural groups.

Chinese New Year Festival, The Huntington, Pasadena, Saturday, 2/17, & Sunday, 2/18. Celebrate the Lunar New Year at The Huntington as the Year of the Dog begins. Families can enjoy crowd-pleasing lion dancers, amazing performances from a mask-changing artist, plus choreographed martial arts demonstrations, Chinese music, food, and much more. The festivities will take place in and around the Chinese Garden and other performance spaces. See website for full schedule of events.

Pan African Film + Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Thursday, 2/8, through Monday, 2/19. This is the last weekend of PAFF where people from around the globe gather to attend the largest Black film festival in the United States. From a $100 million blockbuster premiere to newly emerging Hollywood talent, the festival showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works from all over the globe, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes.

Tibet: Losar New Year Festival Puppet (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/18, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/18 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Kids in the Courtyard: Setting the Table, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 2/18, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. What kind of meal would you eat if you were to dine with kings in Cameroon? Find inspiration in our exhibition Dining with Kings: Hospitality and Ceremony in the Cameroon Grassfields and learn how certain patterns signify a person’s power before designing a placemat to use during your next meal.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 24 & 25 *

African-American Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 2/24, & Sunday, 2/25. Join the Aquarium of the Pacific as it hosts its sixteenth annual African-American Festival, celebrating the rich diversity of African-American and African cultures. The weekend will feature live entertainment and arts and crafts. Festival performers include Mardi Gras second line dancers, hip hop and break dancers, jazz musicians, interactive drum circles, West African dancers, and storytellers.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/24, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

African-American Art Festival, STAR Eco Station, Culver City, Saturday, 2/24, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Enjoy African drumming and dancing, art exhibits, interactive art projects, BBQ, games, and local vendors at this outdoor festival at STAR Eco Station, an environmental science museum and exotic wildlife rescue center.

Origami with Ruthie Kitagawa: Hinamatsuri Cards, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/24, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Make a Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) greeting card for your friends and family. $12 members, $15 non-members. Supplies and museum admission is included. Limited to 10 participants.

USA: African American Story Quilt (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/25, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Turbante-se/Turban Yourself: A Head Wrap Workshop, KOAS Network, Leimert Park, Sunday, 2/25, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Join Brazilian-born artist Thaís Muniz for a workshop exploring the history of head wraps and turbans in Brazil and the broader Afro-Atlantic diaspora. At 12:00 p.m. enjoy a 30-minute talk on the history of head wraps at KAOS Network. From 12:30-3:00 p.m. drop by Fowler Museum’s table outside KAOS and watch Muniz demonstrate a range of styles with participants. The artist will wrap volunteers on a first come, first served basis, ages 13 and up. This event is part of the Leimert Park Art Walk, 1:00-8:00 p.m.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/25 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Kids & Families Program: Symbols in Copper, California African American Museum (CAAM), Exposition Park, Sunday, 2/25, 1:00 p.m – 3:00 p.m. On the final day of Circles and Circuits I: History and Art of the Chinese Caribbean Diaspora, participate in a family workshop inspired by the images in the copper matting of Albert Chong’s Throne for the Gorilla Spirits, 1993. Chong’s work uses symbolism to celebrate the diversity of mankind. Meet the artist and make impressions of meaningful symbols in soft copper to create a frame for a small photograph. Suitable for third grade and up.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for January 2018: Scandinavian Film Festival LA & PST:LA/LA

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to explore more of the many diverse cultural opportunities that Los Angeles has to offer? There’s lots to choose from this month, especially with the art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA that’s going on right now. It’s a collaborative effort from arts institutions across Southern California that explores Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles. Some exhibitions end at the end of the month. You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. I have visited three exhibitions (listed below) and found them all interesting and worth the visit.

One of my favorite Scandinavian events returns this month. The Scandinavian Film Festival LA opens this weekend in Beverly Hills. I always look forward to seeing what’s being offered and hope there’s a movie that will transport me back to Norway through language and setting or bring alive a part of Norwegian history for me. I also don’t mind being an armchair traveler to other countries in the region. For a look at what’s being offered this year, check out Scandinavian Film Festival 2018: A Preview.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2018: A Preview

The first weekend of 2018 welcomes “top films from the top of Europe” at the annual Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA). Despite its name, the scope of the festival actually extends beyond Scandinavia. Besides films from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, festival goers can view films from Iceland and Finland as well as Baltic neighbors Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. The festival will take place over two weekends, January 6 & 7 and 20 & 21, at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. Continue reading

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for December 2017: Swedish Christmas Fair, CicLAvia, and PST:LA/LA

December offers many special events and activities. I challenge you to explore the richness of where we live. Here are some special events happening in the upcoming month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

A favorite Scandinavian event is here this month, SWEA’s 38th annual Swedish Christmas Fair, on Sunday, December 3. It’s a busy, festive one-day affair which always leaves me with a cozy Christmas feeling. If you go, make sure to time your visit so that you are there for the Lucia pageant at 12pm or 3pm.

A favorite LA event takes place this month as well. CicLAvia returns to Wilshire Boulevard for its Iconic Wilshire Boulevard route on Sunday, December 10. There’s no better way to explore the city than on bike when the streets are closed to cars.

And finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the special months-long art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an exploration of Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles, which ends in January (some exhibitions continue later). You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. Some of the ones I have found most intriguing are listed below.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

Norwegian (and other Nordic) Films at AFI FEST 2017

Norwegian film has not been a stranger to Los Angeles these last few weeks, and its presence continues at American Film Institute’s film festival AFI FEST taking place now. AFI FEST is an annual celebration of international cinema “from modern masters and emerging filmmakers”. It takes place each fall in Hollywood and features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes. AFI FEST is free to the public.

This year two Norwegian films are on the schedule. The first one is Thelma written by Norwegian duo Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt and directed by Joachim Trier. It is a psychological thriller that takes place in Oslo, Norway. It is Norway’s Best Foreign Language Oscar submission. The second film is What Will People Say written and directed by Norwegian Iram Haq (Norwegian-born of Pakistani immigrants). Continue reading

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for November 2017: PST:LA/LA and Norwegian Christmas Fair

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. I challenge you to explore the richness of where we live. Here are some special events happening in the upcoming month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

Of special significance to me this month is the Norwegian Christmas Fair. It takes place, as it always does, the weekend before Thanksgiving. Interestingly, this is a common tradition all over the world at Norwegian Seamen’s Churches. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. And of course, there’s the café serving traditional Norwegian foods. All are invited to attend. You do not need to be Norwegian or a member of the church.

The special months-long art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is in full swing. It started in September and goes until the end of January. Many venues around Los Angeles and beyond are participating with a variety of exhibitions. As explained on its website, “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles.” You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. I have made a personal challenge to see as many of the exhibitions at venues close to home as possible. High on my list are Cuba Is at Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A. at Central Library in Downtown LA, and Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

CicLAvia: Heart of LA (2017)

CicLAvia returned to Downtown LA for its October edition. At first I was a little unenthused about returning to Downtown LA, but then I learned that this year’s Heart of LA route had a new hub, Echo Park, which I was excited to explore.

It turned out to be a solo event for me, but I was totally okay with that. Going alone allows me to do whatever I please, whenever I please, without complaints, which is a situation I rarely encounter. And, there are actually a lot of other solo riders at these events. It’s a great opportunity to connect with new people. You feel like you’re part of a greater community. Everyone is there for the same reason – to take advantage of the open streets and explore the city from a different vantage point.

Being able to take Metro Rail’s Expo Line to Downtown LA made this an easy event for me to attend. What was tricky this time was that a football game was happening at the Coliseum that afternoon as well, and the train car got really packed with passengers. Having a bike onboard was awkward and difficult. But once all the football fans got off at USC, the cyclists could relax for the rest of the ride.

At the end of the line, I surfaced from the Metro station and made my way to Broadway Hub where I joined the route. This area has the feel of a typical downtown city with buildings side-by-side along the street, but riding gives you a chance to look more closely at the buildings. There are some interesting architectural details and public art along the way.

Once I got to the main intersection of the route and headed out towards Echo Park Hub, that downtown feel quickly subsided. About 1 1/2 miles later I was at Echo Park Lake. I was so surprised and fascinated by this area. It is such a big and serene green space so close to Downtown LA.

I parked my bike and began to walk along a path that circles the lake. It was very peaceful despite all the CicLAvia participants and the regular folks who were there just enjoying the park. At first glance, I saw the fountain in the middle of the lake and the paddle boats and boat house at the edge of the lake. But exploring more closely, I noticed water lily beds throughout the lake, lotus plants at one end of the lake, and a lush wetlands habitat full of wildlife. Looking even more closely, I saw fish, turtles, and a variety of birds.

There was even a cute looking cafe in the boat house, Beacon. It boasts “a chef-driven menu with good-for-you ingredients.” I’ve put it on my list of outdoor restaurants to bring my parents to the next time they’re in town. And I’ll also have to come back at the right time to catch the lotus flowers in bloom. Apparently, this year’s bloom in June was pretty spectacular.

After exploring the park and enjoying lunch from Cousins Maine Lobster food truck, it was time to move on. Next up was Chinatown, but not until I had ridden through 2nd Street Tunnel again. This turned out to be a fun “attraction” for all ages. Adults let their inner child loose while riding through, and there was lots of howling, hollering, and whistling.

I have been to Chinatown before but not by bike, so this stretch I did more to just have done than anything. It was a relatively quick visit.

Finally, I made my way out to Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights on the east side of the Los Angeles River. This was a new destination for me as well. To get there, we rode through the Arts District with its many wall murals and over the 4th Street Bridge.

After checking out Mariachi Plaza, enjoying some live music, and supporting the local farmer’s market, it was time to make my way back to Broadway Hub and the Metro station to head back home.

It was a full day of pedaling with lots of new sights and sounds along the way – 16 miles and 6 hours total – but one I’ll be eager to repeat next time around. I do believe this is becoming my favorite CicLAvia route. There is so much variety in where to go and what to see, and the riders are spread out on the three spokes so there’s a little more breathing room when riding. There will be no hesitation about returning to Downtown LA next time CicLAvia happens there.

Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books: Metro, Authors, and even some Geocaching

Last year, as luck would have it, I was able to go to the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books both days. On Saturday, I went alone and explored and lingered as I pleased. On Sunday, Sonny joined me for a more intentional day. It was the perfect combination of experiences.

Saturday was a gray, dreary, rainy day, but I didn’t let that stop me. I donned my rain boots and rain jacket, packed an umbrella, and headed to our nearest Metro stop.

Taking the Metro made the excursion so easy. The closest stop was only a short drive away (and now it’s even closer with the Expo extension completed), and the stop at USC was right at the entrance to the festival. There were no hassles driving and finding my way and no expensive parking fees.

Due to the weather, the festival on Saturday wasn’t as lively as in previous years. There weren’t as many people roaming the grounds, and the booths were more closed up with plastic tarps on the sides. It did make maneuvering around more manageable, though. I easily browsed booths and listened in on stages where poets and authors spoke to more intimate audiences.

A highlight of the day was that I was able to get a ticket to a panel, also known as Conversations. I had never been to a Conversation. I had always been somewhat overwhelmed by the selection of offerings. Also, I’ve always been at the festival with family members who haven’t been interested in that aspect of it. This year, I just went to the ticket booth and looked to see what was still available in the next couple of hours. It limited my choices immensely and I was able to easily find something.

I actually had a choice of many open Conversations from which to choose. I selected a young adult nonfiction panel about bringing history to life for young adult readers. Sonny had recently read the young reader adaptations of the nonfiction books Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, which he had really enjoyed. I’m always on the lookout for possible interesting reads for him, and this panel seemed like a potential opportunity for that.

The panel was very interesting even though I wasn’t familiar with any of participants. Four authors of new non-fiction spoke about the process of bringing history to life for readers and then answered questions from the audience. I even bought a book by one of the panelists, Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, and got it signed for Sonny for his birthday later in the month.

That evening I was on a high from my alone time at the festival. I was thrilled to have discovered how easy it was to go by Metro and how interesting panels could be. I looked to see if anything of interest was offered the next day. I found an available panel with middle grade authors, two of whom were favorites of Sonny’s, Stuart Gibbs (Spy School Series and FunJungle Series) and Pseudonymous Bosch (Secret Series and Bad Books Series). Sonny was interested but had his condition: he didn’t want to spend the whole day there. I reassured him it would only be a trip for the panel and food trucks and we’d be back home about 1 o’clock.

Sunday was a beautiful day, and I noticed a change already at the Metro stop. So many more people were headed to the festival. When we arrived at the festival, only about 30 minutes after opening, it was already very festive. Not only were more people there than the day before, but booths were more welcoming and music was playing.

The panel was a popular one with many young readers in attendance. The panelists were engaging and shared insights into their writing lives. It was interesting to match a face, a voice, and a personality with the names we’d seen on book covers for so long. I wished, however, that Q&A time at the end had been limited to children. Their questions were so much better than adults’ questions.

Afterwards we joined many other fans in line to have books signed. And just as promised, we checked out the food trucks and Sonny settled on some gelato.

Then came the unexpected addition to our festival visit. After Sonny and I had agreed on the plans for the morning, I had looked to see what geocaching possibilities were there. I had totally forgotten about that when I was there alone the day before. It turns out there were three geocaches within the festival grounds, and I secretly planned a route to include those spots.

When Sonny heard about my geocaching hopes, he felt a little deceived. However, when it came down to it, he was eager to be the one to make the finds. He makes a good geocaching partner. We found one right in front of a security guard because no one thinks twice about a kid sticking his head up into a statue but an adult would have attracted attention.

A day alone and a morning with Sonny was the perfect way to experience the festival. I felt like I had a chance to take it all in – browse the booths, listen to authors on stage, attend panels, enjoy music performances, watch artists at work, and indulge in some treats from food trucks.

This year’s festival will take place the weekend of April 22 and 23, and once again, it will be at University of Southern California’s campus. The schedule can be found online, and you can reserve free tickets to indoor Conversations ($1 service fee applies to each ticket). A limited number of tickets for each Conversation will also be available at the festival ticketing booth each day — free of service charges — while supplies last. There are also plenty of outdoor Conversations on stages that do not require tickets. And admission to the whole festival is free. I highly recommend you take advantage of this LA event.