May 30, 2012
Can millions of dollars power a new kind of community?
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A gymnastics club rents out a large gym, but the old locker area is used for storage.
That is where Morse and Soloway see potential.
If they knock out a few walls and rip out the cracked marble stalls and the ’60s-era grid of tiles, they can create a 1,200-square-foot gathering space that can also be partitioned off into smaller rehearsal or recording rooms.
The multiuse space would open up to a courtyard — now a playground — and the roof would be a garden deck.
The old sauna, with benches already installed, can be a screening room. And a windowless storage room has already been designated as a studio for the artist-in-residence, Jonas N.T. Becker, a photographer and video artist who will create programming for SIJCC.
Weekdays, the open space can be partitioned as flexible workspace for people who don’t want to work at home. Sort of like a Starbucks, but not at Starbucks.
The workspace, like the program space, would be shaped by the people using it.
“Neither Ayana nor I want to be some visionary who says, ‘This is what it’s about,’ but rather we want to be people who harness a vision that is already there,” Soloway said.
Converting the locker room would cost somewhere around $300,000. That, and perhaps more, may or may not be covered by whatever agreement is worked out with Federation, but Morse said SIJCC hopes to go ahead with the project whatever the final agreement.
Meanwhile, SIJCC has already raised $140,000 to renovate the entryway of the building, redoing the parking lot and the front patio to create an inviting gathering space. The ultimate vision is to renovate the entire campus, which would be a multimillion-dollar project and likely would require that Federation partnership.
The status of Federation’s agreement with IKAR is likewise unfinished.
Last spring, Rabbi Sharon Brous shared with Sanderson and other Federation officials that she was ready to launch the next phase of IKAR’s growth — building a physical space to expand and more fully realize IKAR’s mission. Because Federation’s and IKAR’s vision dovetailed, they began exploring a collaboration.
IKAR, founded eight years ago, has more than 500 members, a large percentage of them previously unaffiliated Jews attracted to IKAR’s soulful spiritual services and the commitment to social justice.
IKAR meets at the Westside JCC (WJCC), and while Federation, IKAR and WJCC sat down several times in the spring to try to create a hub at the WJCC, the visions didn’t mesh, according to leaders from all three organizations.
So IKAR is searching for a building near its current location on the east end of L.A.’s Westside, an area with limited inventory and high prices. Brous says the project is estimated at around $25 million, but it depends on the property.
She imagines a new home with what she calls a “sacred assembly space,” where the community can gather for religious services, lectures, performances and political rallies. There might be an art studio, a music room, gallery space and small rehearsal areas. A café would provide an unthreatening location for open mike night, poetry slams and walls lined with great reading material.
She wants to see many organizations sharing the building —a way to optimize community resources and foster collaboration and creativity.
Last fall, IKAR did a soft launch of a $3 million fundraising campaign but has held off on fundraising as the partnership with Federation was hammered out.
IKAR and Federation both declined to release details of the agreement until it is final. Brous says she believes the agreement with Federation will be completed in the next month or so, but she understands that Federation has not yet raised the money to fulfill any agreement. IKAR is ready to move forward, whatever happens with Federation, she said.
“IKAR needs a home, and the home we build is going to be a center — a hub,” she said. “We’re going to build this with community partnership, and we’re hoping Federation is a major and significant partner.”
Brous says she doesn’t have concerns about partnering with an establishment organization, but Soloway admits that a young upstart getting cozy with Federation could present questions about whether Federation might get squeamish at the group’s edgier offerings.
“The people at Federation are great,” Soloway said. “They may be on Wilshire and in a building and have parking and elevators, but they come to Silver Lake, and they get what we’re doing, and they respect what we want to do. They haven’t asked us not to do anything.”
Sanderson said Federation doesn’t want to get in the way of what has already become a successful Jewish enterprise in Silver Lake.
“Silver Lake is the most interesting Jewish community in America. The diversity there is staggering — all kinds of blended families based on sexual preference, intermarriage, Jews of color. But there is a real energy happening there,” Sanderson said. “I think if we can figure out Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Echo Park, that is a model for Brooklyn, for Boston — for all over the country.”