What a Joy: Wellness Weekend at Tenaya Lodge

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Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is a flat-out beautiful resort in a wonderful setting. Offering the feel of a grand traditional lodge with chic, updated modern comfort, the space is welcoming for families, couples, and anyone who just wants a respite from the vicissitudes of modern life.

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In short, it’s a special place – indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, views of the vast and piney woods, a location just two miles outside the Southern entrance to one of our most popular national parks.

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There are a variety of dining options, from the romantic, upscale Embers to Jackalope’s Bar and Grille, the cozy/cool bar with a surprisingly full menu, and the main dining spot,  the Sierra Restaurant, above. There’s also the Harvest and Grounds deli. Seasonally, there are BBQ, pizza, and outdoor bar areas to enjoy as well.

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There is no lack of activities in and around the hotel, from indoor and outdoor pools to a night walk led by flashlight to the fully appointed spa with sauna, steam room, and treatment rooms. Highly skilled massages, facials, skin treatments – it’s all there, and offered in crisp, modern facilities.

Which brings me to one way to experience this stellar property – through their Wellness Weekend programs which are offered through the spa.  There are several on the hotel’s schedule, one coming right up in November should make the perfect way to take an “ahh” break before the holidays; another in January.

Don’t groan at the idea of “wellness.” This is not your typical diet and exercise package; nor is it an insular stay in the lodge. Combining wonderful meals from bountiful, healthy ingredients with yoga, meditation, massage, and a guided hike, there’s nothing quite like this program out there. We’ve been to spas, to resorts, to retreats, and on backpacking expeditions – this program combines elements of each into one weekend. Its filled but not overfull with activities, and creates a splendidly intimate environment for participants. There’s time for both conversation and contemplation. And perhaps best of all, the program offers a new way to experience the Yosemite Valley, without the hassles of large tourist crowds, parking, or figuring out where and when to take a hike.  Everything is there for you, in a serene, well-packaged event, wrapped up with a bow of pleasure.

 

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Let’s take a look. We arrived on a Friday afternoon, in time to take a tour of the hotel, including it’s view rooms and suites. The great fireplace in the lobby, the seasonal decor around the edges of the main entrance, and the well-landscaped pool have great appeal in and of themselves.

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Afterwards, I headed to the spa, Ascent. My treatment was a hot stone massage. It was a different experience than other hot stone massages I’ve had. There was real focus on problem areas, yet it was a thoughtful, gentle approach that had lasting curative effects. Impressive and intuitive, in short. As mentioned, the spa facility itself is modern and aesthetic, spare and well laid-out,  with all the bells and whistles such as a peaceful relaxation area, hot tea, fruit, and infused water.

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After my massage, a wine and hors d’oeuvres gathering offered a laid-back opportunity to get to know other participants in the weekend; we had expected cheese/crackers/crudites, but instead we were served a variety of stylish mini salads, skewered prawns, scallops, sushi, fruit, fine cheeses, and mini-desserts such as a perfect creme brulee and chocolate mousse. Wines were excellent as well.

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After this event, guests had free time for activities such as that night hike, a hot toddy at the bar, or, our choice, a visit to one of the dining rooms. We went to Embers, which is a standout for presentation, and we were told, a room in which engagements and anniversaries frequently take place.

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Cozy in rich reds, with a fireplace in the middle of the room, the ambiance is perfect for both such occasions, but also simply for a high-end dining experience.

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We shared as astonishing mushroom goulash, an inventive dish packed with flavor, both earthy and somehow delicate.

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We also shared the restaurant’s signature dessert, Bananas Diablo, a take on Bananas Foster, theatrically prepared table-side. A nice balance of flavors, once the sugar and alcohol are caramelized, not too heavy or overtly sweet.

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We rose early for a breakfast buffet in the spa area Waterfall room – aptly named for a lovely, sleek waterfall fountain.

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Once again, expectations were exceeded. Here were overnight cold oats with a wide range of toppings from pepitas to dates and honey; baked avocado halves with a egg inside; fresh juices; a vegetable-rich hash. To take on our upcoming hike, the centerpiece of the weekend, we were given awesome backpacks, a lunch box with our choice of lunch entree, water – and an expandable, reusable water bottle, plus a selection of protein/breakfast bars.

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Then, off we went to meet the driver of the hotel’s tour bus to end all tour busses – a Mercedes model with a retractable roof, cushioned, expandable seats, and a smooth ride.

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Buckled in, we drove 40 minutes into the park and up to the trail head for Sentinel Dome in the Glacier Point area of the park. Along the way, the driver pointed out landmarks along with various flora and fauna. When we arrived at the trailhead, we disembarked for a hike, yoga, and meditation.

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Led by Balanced Rock, a Yosemite-based non-profit, and an extremely zen outfitter, we had three guides who helped us stretch before our hike, guided us on our trail, and once at the top, allowed us plenty of time to simply take in the astonishing view before leading us in yoga and meditation classes.

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The trail itself offers a great introduction to the park. At 2.2 miles round trip and a 400 foot elevation gain, its enough of a challenge over some rocky terrain to make participants feel as if they have accomplished something. This is not a paved loop to Bridal Veil Falls.

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Yet it’s not too difficult to achieve, and the mix of pine shaded trail with granite “steps” is a pleasure to undertake.

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If we were a little winded from the final ascent, that was okay – we could catch our breath while taking in views of Nevada Falls, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan, all at a level that put us visually equidistant from their summits – but with none of the fearsome effort that climbing Half Dome entails.

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While there were other groups of trekkers at the top and along the trail, this was not a crowded destination or path; we were able to take in the awe-inspiring vistas without being a part of the horde which so often clouds and crowds the views in the Valley floor.

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After time for photographs and contemplation, the stretching and exercise of a half hour yoga class was just about perfect for loosening tight calves.

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If you’ve never done a down-dog on a granite rock face or made a sun salutation to sunlight emanating near the crest of El Capitan, then you’re missing out.

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Lunch proved equally special – what a view for an al fresco meal. And we were provided with truly a perfect presentation of quinoa and kale salad, a crisp veggie wrap with Thai peanut dipping sauce,  hummus and house-made chips, and a delicious, chocolatey trail mix. Thoughtful cold packs kept everything in great shape.

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Post picnic, a lovely meditation and reading, accompanied by participants picking a word from a series of “angel cards” and describing how that word resonated, made a lovely transition from the more prosaic pleasure of dining to the spiritual.

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Our meditation leader, Sarin, had also packed a singing bowl, and she sounded it and let us try our hand at making it ring, too. The compact sound bath continued off and on as we descended again, heading back to our bus.

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On the ride home, the roof was opened – a convertible bus in the mountain air, on a sunny fall afternoon – pretty much bliss.

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Back at the lodge, we had a bit of downtime – so we enjoyed a Tenaya Red IPA in the bar, a beer created by a craft brewer in nearby Oakhurst especially for the hotel, with a refreshing, crisp hoppy taste and a slightly citrus notes.

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Next, it was time for a cooking demonstration by the hotel’s executive chef, Fred Clabaugh, and dinner.

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Set up in an airy ballroom, windows open to the woods and hills, diners feasted on fennel soup encased in a light, almost souffle-like bread shell, a silky, splendid hamachi crudo, and a choice of entrees: an exceptionally tender beef prepared inside a baked egg crust or jackfruit in coconut curry, each course served with wine pairings.

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After a short break, it was time for a very relaxing yin yoga class and then – s’mores.

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A fire pit was set up on a patio just outside our yoga classroom; the night was chilly, so we gathered around it, silver stars above us.

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Between hiking, yoga, meditation, and chocolate – we were ready for a great night’s sleep.

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In the morning, we woke up to another, more vigorous yoga class, followed by a second terrific breakfast in the waterfall room. Fruit smoothies such as basil/pineapple, mixed berry, and ginger were incredible; a vegetable egg scramble was perfect.

The only downside to the weekend was leaving the property, although we did cap our trip with a drive into Yosemite Valley where we took in some of the classic lookout points, such as Tunnel View and Bridal Veil Falls – looking up at Sentinel Dome and feeling the thrill of accomplishment for having seen, and spent time drinking in, the park’s beauty from that vantage point.

Each Wellness Weekend is a little different, including outdoor time with yoga, a spa treatment, and other activities. In November, there will be a paint and sip class.

Our take: if you want to actually experience Yosemite, without the crowds, without navigating a trail on your own, and have a weekend that renews you both physically and spiritually, then – look no further.  Wellness Weekend is about mental, spiritual, and physical health, relaxation and invigoration.

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And even without participating in the weekend, Tenaya Lodge is a special place to be.  The hotel’s motto is “roughing it without the rough part” and that pretty much sums it up. From responsibly sourced food to a double silver Leeds certification that marks the hotel as incredibly environmentally conscious, the property truly works hard to offer a superior experience. The rooms are first class, of course, from the beds and linens to the warm red and gold color scheme, leather arm chair, and spacious baths.

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There are 102 rooms in the lodge along with 54 cottage duplex or triplex units and coming soon, there will be 50 stand-alone luxury cabins with their own club house.

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We’ll be back again, perhaps to experience the holidays at the lodge when we understand a wild-harvested 35 foot topped Douglas fir is lit in the lobby. The fall theme during our stay was itself an epic taste of seasonal decor.

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Honestly, from our experience, any season would be the right season to visit Tenaya –  and take in a Wellness Weekend.

Don’t miss the upcoming November 3-5 Wellness Weekend Event.  On the calendar now for 2018:  January 12-14, with more dates currently being planned.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke

Channeling Your Inner Art

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Feeling artistic, but don’t have a brush or a canvas to your name? Then it’s time to let an artist help YOU be an artist for the day. Channel your inner Monet or Picasso with a paint party that’s good for the soul.

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Above: Wine & Design 

Paint and sip classes have been around for awhile, but today there are some wonderfully unique places for you to choose when it comes to getting your art on.

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Wine & Design

Lisa Flette is the studio owner at the bright and cheerful Wine & Design in Burbank. Offering painting classes for all ages and experience levels, budding artists are led through the process of painting an original creation based as loosely or accurately on a sample work as each  attendee desires. Each class focuses on a different topic or style – whether it’s a scenic look at palm trees, a super hero, or a live model class. Pure pleasure, Flette’s enthusiasm and professionalism make this studio one of the best takes on self-made art around. There’s a fine selection of wines and Firestone Walker beer to enjoy while painting, too.

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Sure, other spots offer painting instruction and a glass of vino, but few reach the pro level of Flette’s spot, where training is concise, innovation is welcomed, and the comfortable, spacious studio is both welcoming and intelligently run. Whether you’ve never held a brush before or you’re an artist in your own right just looking for a little group fun, every participant is treated with respect, and the atmosphere is as relaxed as it is lively.

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Dank Canvas fuses cannabis with an art experience in the heart of Los Angeles, combining talented artist instructors, quality cannabis brands, and a relaxed environment in which to create.

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Owner and instructor Jennifer Korsen is also a muralist and professional artist, her skill and gift for sharing it is a high in and of itself. From classes to private events, the goal here is an immersive experience that draws participants into their own natural creativity. There’s even an arts and crafts bar for smaller projects.  The “puff and paint” experience provides fledgling painters with a cannabis product gift bag to take home along with their finished art on canvas.

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Above: Dank Canvas, Below: Paint Lab

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In Santa Monica, there’s Paint: Lab, a walk-in art studio. The sleek studio space holds two hour workshops as well as allowing clients to simply come in and paint with the guidance and encouragement of their professional artist staff. Lab fees include paint supplies, easels, brushes, workspace, and clean-up; canvasses are also available for an additional fee. Once a month, models for figure drawing are available. The goal: a welcoming space for practicing artists and folks who simply want to pick up a brush and give painting a try. Wine and Cheese nights are also offered.

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The Blending Lab

 

In West Hollywood, The Blending Lab puts the emphasis on wine with painting classes themselves just one of the options for a fun night out. Featuring local regional wines, this chic modern-industrial spot combines a flight of wine with canvas/brush/paints and the skilled instructors of Let’s Paint LA, for a true taste of art and vino.

 

So get ready to “brush up” on your artistic side – you won’t have to “canvas” the town to find the right easel for you.

  • Genie Davis; photos courtesy of art studios

Hostel Stays in LA: Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

hostel 2As we approach holiday season, out of town guests may be heading our way and looking for accommodations. When hotel rates are simply too high and there’s no room at home for visitors, hostels can make a great option for a stay. 

Of course, some travelers will complain about the difficulty of getting a good night’s rest at a hostel in a city as busy as Los Angeles, but sleeping soundly at a hostel is hardly impossible. In fact, getting the right amount of shut-eye is perfectly doable if visitors follow a few simple tips.

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Avoid Staying at a Party Hostel

All it takes is a little research to avoid party spots. Checking online reviews goes a long way toward determining whether a hostel is a quiet spot or a great hangout for partygoers.  USA Hostels Hollywood, Surf City Hostel, and Banana Bungalow West Hollywood are all known as lively, fun spots; but a quieter option is the Orange Drive Manor Hostel, described by Trip Savvy as a 1910 manor home with a serene vibe, yet located in walking distance of Hollywood attractions from the Capitol Records Building to the TCL Chinese Theater.

Tire Yourself Out

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Yes, one sure way to get a good night’s sleep is to be tired enough to sleep as soon as you hit your hostel’s pillow, according to travel blogger RachelRTW. With so much to see and do in LA from cutting edge art galleries and museums to taking a surf lesson at the beach, hiking the trails of Griffith Park, or visiting all the area theme parks, it shouldn’t be a problem to get ready to drift off into dreamland.

Bring a Sleeping Kit Wherever You Go

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Veteran travelers in the know keep this travel essential handy wherever they go. A sleeping mask keeps light away and comfortable earplugs mean unwonted noise can be easily kept at bay. Can’t sleep without music? Then ear plugs save the day. Keep an extra pair to listen to your favorite tunes, or perhaps white noise relaxation, such as recorded sounds of rain or ocean waves.  If you’re sharing your hostel space with other guests, this should take care of extraneous light and sound.

Avoid Alcohol

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Sure, Los Angeles is known for its craft brews from Angel City Brewery’s eclectic scene downtown to the wide array of tasty IPAs and ales in Torrance breweries like Smog City and Absolution. We even have our own whiskey distillery downtown. Not to mention the altogether awesome club scene from trendy speakeasies to revolving rooftop hotel bars. All the same, to get a good night’s sleep you might want to try an organic soda or sparkling water instead of these tempting alcoholic treats, at least close to bedtime, for a more solid night’s sleep.

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According to sleep expert Lisa Scotti in her better sleep guide, it’s wise to avoid drinking alcohol within four hours of your bedtime. It might be tempting to consume alcohol, but to get a good night’s sleep it might be worth considering avoiding it especially if you’re staying in a hostel. While drinking can help you doze off initially, the effect is only temporary, and you’ll end up restless, possibly waking several times for toilet breaks.

Turn Off the Lights

Sleep studies have shown that lights can make it hard for people to fall asleep. And this doesn’t just mean turning off that overhead light or your bedside lamp. Digital devices include light, too, and they can also be overly stimulating. Put the iPhone or Android away, turn off that laptop, and save Netflix for another time. And if there are others staying in your hostel dorm room and you get to the room first, follow this slightly sneaky but sweet tip from Indefinite Adventure –  turn off the main light but leave a side light turned on. Having a dim light burning encourages later arrivals from switching on the overhead light. They can still see their way around, and get the message that someone else is already resting in the room.

In short, whether you’re seeking a good night’s sleep and economical accommodations – or you have guests in town staying at a hostel, it’s entirely possible to get a great night’s sleep. And because hostel guests spend less money that those who stay in a hotel, there will be more to spend adventuring in Los Angeles.

  • Guest post, curated by Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis, Flickr, Pixabay)

 

WeHo Artes Starts “In West Hollywood”

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The City of West Hollywood is celebrating the Getty Foundation initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA with WeHo Artes.  This special program encompasses exhibitions funded by The Getty, and additional original projects featuring Latin American and Latino art presented by the city of West Hollywood. Celebrated throughout West Hollywood, WeHo Artes events are about to start soaring. With an exciting exhibition of works by Ramiro Gomez and David Feldman, presented in association with the Charlie James Gallery, and an interactive, site-specific theater piece, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta, as centerpieces, there’s no lack of fantastic arts events in the program, which is presented with the support of the City of West Hollywood’s  WeHo Arts  program.

On Wednesday the 23rd, WeHo Artes events kick off with the opening reception for In West Hollywood, the work of Gomez and Feldman.

In West Hollywood is not Gomez’ first project with the city of West Hollywood. In 2012, the artist worked on Install: WeHo, an LGBTQ pop-up art village that included the artist’s creation of large cardboard cut-outs that included movers, a couch, and a valet. Even before his official collaboration with the city, Gomez had made visual waves placing cardboard cut-out figures around West Hollywood, art focusing on the “invisible” workers such as gardeners. After installation, Gomez left the pieces where they were placed, symbols of the forgotten work of domestic laborers. A West Hollywood resident, the artist is well known for addressing immigration issues, and illuminating the domestic labor forces around Los Angeles. Photographic artist and filmmaker Feldman, his collaborator on the upcoming In West Hollywood, documented the cutouts, and these unique photos are a part of the new exhibition.  Feldman’s  short film Los Olvidades covered Ramiro Gomez’s creation and installation of a work in Arizona’s Sonoran desert, and was the winner of the Oxford Film Festival in 2015.

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Above: (c) 2015 Ramiro Gomez, “Mulholland Drive: On the Road to David’s Studio (after David Hockney’s Mullholland Drive: The Road to the Studio, 1980)

With Gomez and Feldman’s work presented together in this new exhibition, the installation serves as a powerful and impactful statement on the influence of Latin America in the culture and art of Los Angeles. Included in the exhibition will be a never-before-seen commissioned painting from Gomez. Adding to the reception celebration is the live music of Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, the world’s first LGBTQ mariachi group. The reception and exhibition will be held at the West Hollywood Library.

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Photo credit: Otis Woods

Another WeHo Artes highlight is the commissioned performance of the Rogue Artists Ensemble’s interactive, site-specific theater performance, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta.  Using a heady mix of tall-tales, puppets, masks, and music, the play celebrates the 75th anniversary of the 1942 book Señor Plummer: The Life and Laughter of an Old-Californian.  Written by former Los Angeles Times writer John Preston Buschlen, the book documents interviews with Eugene Plummer, or Don Eugenio, a Spanish-American pioneer whose family once owned 942 acres of land in the area. Considered West Hollywood’s first resident, Don Eugenio is a fascinating, larger than life figure. Rogue Artists will workshop the play with an open rehearsal on August 19,  and offer performances with full readings, sets and costumes August 24-26th in Plummer Park,  the site of Don Eugenio’s last residence.

Of course, WeHo Artes offers other stellar programming as well, with PST LA/LA Getty Foundation-Funded Projects sited in West Hollywood presented by LAND, LAXART, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, and MAK Center for Art and Architecture.

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Photo credit: Sense of Place Artist Render, Estudio Jose Dávila, 2017

Jose Dávila’s Sense of Place presented by LAND, the Los Angeles Nomadic Division, is a commissioned work by the Guadalajara-based artist, a multi-site, large-scale, public sculpture exhibition which invites viewers into an experiential view of LA’s diverse urban landscape. The work paints a portrait of the city’s experiences, geographies, and histories.  A nine-foot square interactive sculpture made up of 40 unique modular forms will be installed in West Hollywood Park, with an opening on September 16th. The sculptural work will be disassembled and reconfigured at three different public sites during the exhibition, which runs through May 2018.  With each reimagining, scheduled for November, January, and March,  the piece will take on a changed functional shape. It will return to both its original whole cube shape and the West Hollywood Park location in April 2018. The piece is Dávila’s largest public work, and his first major exhibition in Los Angeles.

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Pável Aguilar, Retransmisión (Retransmission), 2011. Color video. Courtesy Pável Aguilar

LAXART presents Video Art in Latin America, the first substantive U.S. survey on this subject, moving from the late 1960s to the present. The exhibition will be held at LAXART’s Santa Monica Blvd. location. The show moves from early video experiments in South America expressing dissent in an era of repressive military regimes, to the ways in which contemporary video artists discuss subjects such as labor, ecology, migration, and issues of identity and the consequences of social inequality. These single-channel video programs will be accompanied by a selection of dimensional environmental video installations.

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Photo credit: ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives Gallery

Also on tap for WeHo Artes will be Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano LA, presented by ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives Gallery at the USC Libraries and exhibited at the ONE Gallery, West Hollywood and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles’ Pacific Design Center September 9 to December 31, 2017. Co-curated by C. Ondine Chavoya, professor of art and Latina/o studies at Williams College, and David Evans Frantz, curator at ONE Archives, the exhibition features over 40 LGBTQ and Chicano artists with experimental works in a variety of mediums. Pieces created between the 1960s and early 1990s include works by LGBTQ and Chicano artists, many of whom passed away due to the AIDS crisis. Artist Edmundo “Mundo” Meza (1955-1985), who collaborated with many of the featured artists, will be a focal point of the exhibition.

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Photo credit: MAK Center for Art and Architecture

And at the Mak Center for Art and Architecture’s Schindler House,  How to Read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney will be presented by MAK Center for Art and Architecture and Luckman Gallery at Cal State L.A. Over 150 works by 48 Latin American artists challenge nearly 100 years of cultural influence between Latin America and Disney. The exhibition, curated by writer and filmmaker Jesse Lerner and artist Rubén Ortiz-Torres explores the idea that there are no clean boundaries between art, culture, and geography. The large scale exhibition will have its reception at Schindler House September 9th, and will be split between that location and the Luckman Gallery on the Cal State LA campus.

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Photo credit: MAK Center for Art and Architecture

The Chase, a large-scale multi-piece sculpture is created by Los Angeles-based artist HACER, and will be installed on Santa Monica Boulevard east of Doheny Drive; and later in the year, Queer Califas: LA Latinx Art, will open in November at Plummer Park’s Long Hall.  Both projects are part of the City’s Art of the Outside public art program. 

For more information on WeHo Artes: http://weho.org/residents/weho-arts-and-culture/west-hollywood-celebrates-pacific-standard-time-2017

For more information on PST LA/LA, an inclusive and wide-ranging exploration of Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles held throughout Southern California, and supported by the Getty Foundation, visit: http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/ 

In West Hollywood, an exhibition of works by West Hollywood-based artists Ramiro Gomez and David Feldman will be shown at the West Hollywood Library (625 N. San Vicente Blvd., 90069) The opening reception will be August 23 from 7-9PM; the event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required; to RSVP, contact: nschonwetter@weho.org.

Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta will be performed at an open rehearsal August 19,  (drop in anytime between 1-4PM), and performances with full readings, sets and costumes on August 24, 25 and 26 at 7PM in Plummer Park(7377 Santa Monica Blvd., 90046) – the site of Don Eugenio’s last residence.  Seating is limited; to reserve tickets RSVP at https://www.rogueartists.org/senor-plummers-final-fiesta – guests are asked to pay what they can to join the fiesta, with a suggested minimum donation of $5.00.

  • Genie Davis; photos courtesy of the city of West Hollywood