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  • David Schafer

    Sep 30| Lectures
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    David Schafer is a visual and sound artist working in sculpture, sound, sound, performance, and works on paper. His work is concerned with the structures, translation, and intelligibility, of language and architecture. Schafer has shown nationally and internationally and has received several public commissions. Most recently he has had one-person shows at Studio10 gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY, and Glendale College Art Gallery, Glendale, CA.

  • Sarah Manguso

    Oct 01| Lectures
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    Sarah Manguso is the author, most recently, of The Guardians: An Elegy for a Friend, named one of the top ten books of the year by Salon. Her previous book, the memoir The Two Kinds of Decay, was named an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times Sunday Book Review and short-listed in the UK for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize and long-listed for the Royal Society Winton Prize. Her other books include the story collection Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape, and the poetry collections Siste Viator and The Captain Lands in Paradise.

  • Graduate Fine Arts, Visiting Artist Lecture Series presents artist, Jennifer Steinkamp.

    Thursday, October 2nd 11:15am - 12:30pm

    Graduate Studios: 10455 Jefferson Blvd Culver City CA 90230

     

  • OR GALLERY
    10455 JEFFERSON BLVD.
    CULVER CITY, CA 90232
  • Pae White

    Oct 07| Lectures
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    Pae White was born in 1963 in Pasadena, California. She lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her M.F.A. from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and her B.A. from Scripps College in Claremont, California. She also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Recent solo exhibition venues include Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne; galleria francesca kaufmann, Milan; the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand; the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; greengrassi, London; and 1301PE, Los Angeles.

  • Graduate Fine Arts, Visiting Artist Lecture Series presents artist, Paradise Garage.

    Thursday, October 9th 11:15am - 12:30pm

    Graduate Studios: 10455 Jefferson Blvd Culver City CA 90230

     
  • Jennifer Moon

    Oct 14| Lectures
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    Artist, Adventurer, and Revolutionary 

    Phoenix Rising, Part 2: Eros vs. Agape is on view now in Made in L.A. 2014 at the Hammer Museum through Sept. 7th! 

O-Tube

LEWIS MACADAMS

May 13, 2014
Spotlight Category: Faculty

From Confrontation to Cooperation

Lewis Macadams, Senior Lecturer, Graduate Writing

 

In the late 1930s, in response to a pair of deadly floods, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors called in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control the unruly L.A. River. The mission was to get the water to the ocean as fast as possible. The idea that it might make sense, in a city that gets less than 15 inches of rain a year on average, to conserve some of those hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater seems to have never occurred to the Army Corps.

It took many years, thousands of workers, and some 3 million barrels of concrete to bring the river to heel. By some measures, the project was a triumph: floodwaters have not topped the river levees since. But it was also an ecological holocaust.

Within a very few years, important native species were largely gone. Yellow-billed cuckoos and least bell's vireo no longer sang in the watershed. Red-legged frogs, which hibernated by burrowing into the river bottom’s mud, couldn‘t penetrate the concrete.

For half a century after the work was finished, the river was little more than a concrete scar, separated from the city by chain-link fences topped with razor wire and signs warning visitors to keep out or face fines and/or jail.

In 1986, Roger Wong, Pat Patterson and I borrowed some wire cutters, snipped the fence that separated the river from the city, and declared the river open. We asked the river if we could speak for it in the human realm. We didn't hear it say no, and Friends of the L.A. River was born. FoLAR began life as a performance piece in a basement theater on Skid Row as a "40-year artwork to bring the river back to life." I donned a white suit and painted myself green as if i were the ghost of William Mulholland.

In the mid-1980s, a lawsuit by Heal the Bay forced L.A. to build a water reclamation plant that would ultimately send millions of gallons a year of reclaimed water through the Glendale Narrows. For the first time since the last Ice Age, the river was year-round. Willows and sycamore trees began to reappear.
In preparation for a predicted El Niño, the County and the Army Corps decided to bulldoze everything growing in the river's natural bottom. Standing in front of the machines, I nearly got myself killed. But the action got FoLAR its first meeting with the head of the L.A. County Department of Public Works. Every time he said the words "flood control channel," I interrupted him and said "river." I had planted the linguistic seeds. Today nearly everybody calls it a river.

In recent years, more and more Angelenos have discovered the river. FoLAR's annual Gran Limpieza, the Great Los Angeles River Cleanup, has grown from 10 people to several thousand. Two former railroad yards are now state parks, half a dozen riverfront pocket parks were created, and a bike path continues to grow.

Every one of these victories was the result of patience, willpower, and perseverance. Yet none of them opened up the channel itself. In 2010 it was still a crime to stick your toe in the river. Then, this fall, after seven years of work and almost $10 million, the Army Corps released a study with a range of alternatives for the river's future.

It was a stunning development. FoLAR could now work hand in hand with the Army Corps to restore miles of habitat, eliminate miles of concrete, restore wetlands, and reconnect the main stem of the river to the mountains.

As I look back on a lifetime of poetry and politics, on 27 years of working on the river, I see a journey from confrontation to cooperation. It has created a wider and deeper community not just of humans but of flying, swimming, and four-legged creatures as well.

 

 

Editor’s Note:
A longer version of this Op Ed piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2013.

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