Until recent years, its only claim to fame was that enormous boulder with a kind-of sort-of eagle-shaped thing etched into its side. But the virtual small town in the heart of Los Angeles known as Eagle Rock has established itself as a leading advocate for keeping community together through art.
Over the past decade, northeast Los Angeles has been reinventing itself as a vibrant artistic powerhouse. The neighborhoods of Silver Lake and Los Feliz were the first to establish themselves as hotbeds of artistic talent, paving the way for an expansive creative collective to spread throughout the surrounding communities.
Eagle Rock is rapidly emerging as a shareholder in this artistic enclave. The area has evolved from a homogenous middle-class town to a modern-day melting pot, boiling over with local talent.
Fuel to the fire is the combination of Eagle Rock’s expanding twenty-something population and the steadily rising minority population, providing a natural breeding ground for eclectic creativity. Having experienced the rare phenomenon of growing up in a close-knit community while at the same time being exposed to the big-city ways of the greater L.A. area, Eagle Rock’s younger residents recognize that it’s a rarity to know your neighbor’s name in such a large and sprawling city as Los Angeles. Striving to keep this sense of community kinship, many are turning to the arts as a way to keep residents connected and involved.
The Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock has worked to fulfill this desire for the nearly a decade. Largely maintained through the efforts of the area’s passionate young hipsters, the nonprofit’s aim to unite the community with music by using local businesses as venues was realized with the first Eagle Rock Music Festival in 1998. Now in its eighth year, the Center hopes to establish its annual community festival, funded by voluntary donations by attendees, as a staple event in northeast L.A. All proceeds from the evening will go toward funding afterschool programs in the surrounding communities.
Brian Martinez (a close friend of mine since high school) has been working at the Center for years, and this year was put in charge of organizing the whole shebang. “This year we wanted to evolve into a bigger music festival,” he said. “We wanted to focus on pulling in the community to help out with the festival, uniting northeast L.A. artists, musicians and members of the community.” And that they did.
An impressive number of people turned out, especially considering that on this particular day, about 5,000 other festivals and huge events were taking place in various parts of the city. People of all ages and a considerable number of parents with their small children roamed the streets to enjoy food and drink from the Farmer’s Market, local restaurants and street vendors, as well as killer performances from the stellar lineup of local acts spanning over a dozen stages along the closed-down Colorado Boulevard.
The evening’s featured performers included:
Bodies of Water
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Afrobeat Down (featuring none other than Mr. Martinez rawkin’ the bass and trombone)
Teddy’s Cheer Club
the Parson Red Heads
Living Sisters (featuring Eleni Mandell and Inara George)
the Japanese Motors
and Monsters are Waiting (who did their KILLER cover of the Stone Roses‘ “I Wanna Be Adored”).
The Center for the Arts works throughout the year to bring arts programming into the community by commissioning free public art installations and a variety of musical concerts. Located at 2225 Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, it also presents arts and music classes for children and adults. For more information on the Center and to make sure you don’t miss out on next year’s fest, visit www.centerartseaglerock.org or make a couple new myspace buddies: myspace.com/eaglerockartcenter, myspace.com/eaglerockmusicfestival.