Skirball Center sponsors Plummer Park art installation

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Wave Staff Report

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The Skirball Cultural Center will mount its first-ever public art installation in the city June 15. 

Be the Change: A Jewishly Inspired Public Art Movement is an art and activism initiative inspired by the pursuit of justice — a value essential to Jewish life. Part of a national initiative, the public art project is a concept originally developed by the Jewish Arts Collaborative in Boston, with the Skirball spearheading the creation of site-specific works for Southern California. 

As the Southern California-based producer of Be the Change, the Skirball identified five community partners who, in turn, have collaborated with a wide range of artists to create works that illuminate issues of injustice and encourage community members to become agents of change. Participating organizations, artists and themes include: Holocaust Museum LA, which teamed with an 11th-grade world history class at Whittier High School about the meaning and purpose of tzedakah (the Hebrew word that signifies the concept of charitable giving); LA vs. Hate with interdisciplinary visual artist River T. Garza about indigenous communities; Nature Nexus Institute with several artists, including Azul Calderon, Diandra Dillon, Akari Johnston, Joanna Ruacho, Stacey Vigallon and Brian Young about environmental justice;

Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles with artist and educator Marni Gittleman and graffiti artist Bobby Z. Rodriguez about tikkun olam (heal the world); and Pico Union Project with whimsical artist Mr. B Baby about the housing crisis.

Additionally, the Skirball Cultural Center has partnered with self-taught American Lebanese artist Alex Ahmad Abli about religion and social justice.

As part of a public art movement, these works will be on view at Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., which is located in an area with a thriving community of immigrants, many of whom are Russian-speaking and Jewish. The artworks are meant to evoke large tzedakah boxes — vessels in which Jews traditionally collect money to be donated to charity. 

The goal of Be the Change is to elevate that concept physically and conceptually, and to use the tzedakah box as a sculptural form that can drive change in the community.

The commitment to pursue justice is one of the essential Jewish values that animates all of the Skirball’s programming. Be the Change deepens relationships with community organizations throughout Los Angeles, underscores the contribution of artists to the collective understanding of complex social justice issues, and enhances the city’s and the Skirball’s efforts to engage a broad public audience. The art installation will continue through Oct. 1.

In conjunction with the public art installation, the Skirball and its partners will host a community celebration and, later, a panel discussion to further explore social justice issues represented by the six tzedakah boxes created for Be the Change. The panel discussion will include partner organizations, artists, and other experts. 

For more information, contact Marcus Mitchell, the city’s public art administrator at 323-848-3122.

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