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Jewish Journal

Voices of LA arts fest brings ethnic, religious diversity to city

by Jonathan Maseng

July 23, 2014 | 2:32 pm

<em>Yuval Ron</em>

Yuval Ron

A new summer cultural arts festival is bringing a fresh Jewish feel to Los Angeles.

Voices of LA: The Krupnick Festival of the Arts pairs a diverse array of Jewish and non-Jewish artists from all genres and mediums to create new and exciting works with strong local roots. A co-production of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (JCF), Community Arts Resources (CARS) and Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the festival runs through Sept. 14 at various locations throughout the city.

Voices of LA (voicesoflafest.com) is firmly focused on reaching the larger Los Angeles population, something that was done by design, according to JCF President and CEO Marvin Schotland. The festival is named in honor of the late Harry Krupnick and his wife, Belle. 

“He was someone that was very proud of his Jewish heritage,” Schotland said of Krupnick. He described him as “very much interested in the ethnic diversity of L.A. He celebrated it; he loved it.”

When the idea arose to do a multicultural festival in Los Angeles — with Jewish culture woven in at all levels — Schotland knew who to ask for help: Aaron Paley, president and co-founder of CARS. 

“What we asked Aaron to do ... was to find artists in various ethnic communities that were representative of Los Angeles and pair a Jewish artist with an artist from an ethnic community.”

Jarell Perry

The plan resulted in some unique couplings. Wil-Dog Abers of the alt-Latino-world fusion band Ozomatli will be performing alongside alt-R&B singer Jarell Perry. Yuval Ron and his ensemble, which focuses on world music, will be paired with Grammy-winning group La Santa Cecilia. The events will include a visual arts exhibition, a dance performance at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and spoken word events featuring artists from many ethnic communities in L.A.

Wil-dog Abers

Selecting the artists for the festival often came down to practicalities, Paley said. 

“What’s going to work? What’s possible to do? And who do we think is also really good at collaborating?” 

The one thing that everyone agreed on from the start, as Paley tells it, was that everyone had to be local, with a direct connection to Los Angeles.

Most of the artistic duos will perform twice during the course of the festival, one time at each of two different venues. The concept — though it wasn’t realized in every instance — was for each set of artists to perform at both a Jewish community location and a non-Jewish site. For instance, the Yuval Ron Ensemble and La Santa Cecilia will perform at the Pico Union Project on July 28 and at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes on Aug. 26. Other venues hosting events include Fais Do-Do, the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, the Breed Street Shul, the Echoplex and Beyond Baroque.

La Santa Cecilia

All the artists, however, will be coming together for a culminating performance as part of the festival’s closing event at Wilshire Boulevard Temple on Sept. 14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will be free to the public and feature family-friendly workshops, food trucks with kosher options, live music and performances from the previously featured artists.

For Paley, putting together events like Voices of LA has been a job and a passion for more than 30 years. He said he was eager to help create Voices of LA after being approached by JCF. 

CARS is a “double bottom line company,” according to Paley, which means that while it’s not a nonprofit, its focus is both on meeting its bottom line and improving the Los Angeles community. 

“I’m from L.A., and I grew up in the Jewish community,” he said. “I was brought up with this idea that Jews had a role to play in the larger picture of Los Angeles.”

Schotland said he has enjoyed working on the festival and feels that it has opened up new artistic horizons for him personally. 

“If I had talked to you before doing this festival, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who [Wil-Dog Abers] was,” he said. “I think it’s a fascinating experiment, and we at the JCF are really proud to be the catalytic institution to make it happen. In particular, it’s a great way to honor the Krupnicks.”

Paley is simply thrilled to see the whole thing come together. “We’re all so excited because it feels like magic when everyone’s together,” he said.

Schotland said that even though the festival has been planned as a one-time event, he’s open to the idea of doing more programs like it. 

“I think people are looking for opportunities that celebrate our unity with each other, even though we come from different backgrounds, and one of the nice things about this festival is that it really provides an opportunity for that,” Schotland said. “There’s a universal language connected to art, and creativity is good for any community.”

Voices of LA: The Krupnick Festival of the Arts runs through Sept. 14.

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