LASA thanks Metabolic Studio

LASA celebrates and offers a heartfelt thank-you to Metabolic Studio for its support for the 2017-2018 program. LASA looks forward to starting the new session in August and is grateful for Metabolic’s assistance to serve such a terrific class of incoming high school juniors.

LASA digs into the Port of Los Angeles

LASA ventured farther in April than usual with a day at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach.

Juan – our terrific bus driver for the day – ushered us from the Huntington to pick up Geraldine Knatz and the rest of our group at Ports O’Call in San Pedro. Geraldine is the port expert – having started as a student working in marine biology and working her way to serve as the Executive Director. She is now a professor at USC but spent the morning sharing ghost stories of Warehouse No. 1 and the plans for the original pier and cargo buildings. From the water’s edge, we looked at SpaceX holdings and Robert Ballard’s vessel that located the remains of the Titanic. Geraldine pointed out the tremendous volume of cargo that comes in and out of the Port of Los Angeles and the various ways that cargo works its way inland.

We then crossed through the Port of Long Beach to meet with Ken Blake, a civil engineer working on the new Gerald Desmond Bridge. The new bridge will sit significantly higher to allow double stacked container vessels easy access. Thanks to his navigational skills, we ended up at work site underneath the new sections of bridge. The plans and execution of the towers and innovative construction methods captured our imaginations!

The day ended at the Japanese Fisherman Village and Memorial on Terminal Island with Naomi Hirahara, fiction and non-fiction author, who shared with us a map and her knowledge of the lost community of Japanese and Japanese American fisherman. Amidst the commercial port, she guided us to a few remaining buildings from the village and shared her thoughts about dwelling in this space. We are all looking forward to reading the book she and Geraldine wrote on Terminal Island.

We left the port to return to the Huntington. The port we encountered on our journey today though seemed more like three ports – the historical port, the current port, and the visions (and construction) of the port of the future.

Urban Nature: From Frogtown to the Future

March left like a lamb.  We had perfect weather for our LASA gathering at the end of the month.  We began at The Huntington, where Bill Deverell gave us a “mini college lecture” on the history of the Los Angeles River.  Temperamental, tiny, and sometimes ferocious, the little river ran dry most summers but could flood in winter rains and rage.  We learned about the gargantuan project to pave it, and we learned to think of the river as “an environmental canary in the coal mine of Los Angeles.”  In other words, we learned to look to the river to see the very nature of the metropolis’s relationship with, well, nature.

From the classroom, we then gathered at the river itself.  Over in Frogtown, we saw the river and a lot of what was going up and going around near it.  Speculative capital is finding — has found — the river and its banks, and things look to be changing every day. Over at Elysian, David Thorne told us about the Clockshop/Elysian partnership made of arts, politics, community, and food, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely at this special place.  Sean Woods of California State Parks met us there, and he told us about the ways in which State Parks partners across the community, drawing ties between urban nature and creative expression and access to open space.  Sean took us to the Cornfield, soon to be Los Angeles State Historic Park, and guided us on a fabulous walking tour of this amazing open space at the north end of Chinatown.  Fabian Wagmister joined us, and he shared stories of the neighborhood with us (and how rapidly it is changing).

It was a great day — a mix of nature, arts expression and arts organization, public and park entities, and time spent with generous and creative people.  Thank you to all from all.

LASA Goes Behind the Screen

LASA celebrated the television and motion picture arts on Oscar-weekend by exploring and wondering about LA’s stories and storytellers of the future.

Gathering at the Huntington, we set off to KCET studios to explore the long local tradition of public television. Filled with cameras, desks upon desks of people dedicated to sharing LA stories to the broadest audience, editing equipment, and a massive green screen, we considered the critical role of public television historically and moving forward to our city and region. Thanks to Matt Crotty and his team for the tour and for guiding us through KCET’s multi-platform programing. We all went home and either watched some of the materials they provided or checked out the newest content via our platform of choice!

After returning to the Huntington to share lunch, we welcomed Caitlin Mavromates and Maribel Moses. Friends since their early teens, the two shared their individual and collective journeys through college to filmmaking. Currently working on a project with high school students in the San Fernando Valley, they led us through an exercise in constructing narratives. Further confirming that LASA students are the best, the creative and thoughtful narratives they performed formed a perfect ending to the day.

See you next month as we consider the LA River anew!

LASA Volunteers at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank

Our day on January 7th started early.  Though not as early as our bus driver’s!  Mistakenly informed by her company that she needed to meet us at 6:30 in downtown Los Angeles, our driver had been curbside already for more than an hour before anyone showed up.  She took it all in stride, though, and, by 8:00 or so, the LASA contingent had arrived, braving the rain and the early hour, fortified by the coffee and donuts Elizabeth provided.

Our destination was not far away: the Los Angeles County Food Bank is, as the crow flies, not far from downtown.  But we were also traveling a world away from the skyscrapers of Los Angeles, a world away from the banking and legal centers of downtown.   We drove to the Food Bank, housed in a gargantuan warehouse in warehouse-rich Vernon, and joined a large group of a couple hundred volunteers already assembled and receiving registration and work instructions.  The Food Bank is a calorie-processing machine: its employees skillfully guide hundreds of volunteer workers through their tasks, all with the objective of organizing tons of food into manageable and “gleaned” parcels which, within days, find their way to distribution centers and to the county’s hungry and homeless.  One out of seven residents of L.A. County experience food shortages – that’s more than a million people rendered hungry every single day.

We did our part, or at least helped a little, in our morning at the Food Bank.  Our group was brought into the “gleaning room.”  Brrr.  The food, which included a lot of perishables (and a lot had already perished), had to be kept cold, which it, and all of us, were.  Somewhat hurried instructions about what we were supposed to do did not really register with any of us, but we clearly had the job of separating out food that could not continue on the journey to the hungry.  It all became clear pretty quickly, as we split up into labor lines and, helped by Food Bank staffers (all of whom work hard, quickly, and with humor), we began “to glean.”  Glean we did.  Rotten vegetables?  Toss them (weigh them first).  Expiration date well past?  Toss it (weigh it first).  Unfrozen turkey?  Ick.  Toss it (weigh it).  Lots of syrup containers.  We got the idea that some wholesalers of food may use the food bank as a charitable way to divest themselves of foodstuffs and products that even they knew would not make it to the hungry.  But, to be fair, the vast amount of food we encountered – fruit, vegetable, meat, eggs, boxed and dry food, candy, cakes, soft drinks, cheeses, snacks, and on and on – did pass muster, did get boxed by our assembly line efforts, and did move through the system to the next steps in other parts of the warehouse, to be further separated and re-boxed again for shipment out to the needy.


We worked nearly three hours.  We processed the entire mountain of boxes that sat before us as we walked into the gleaning room, and we were not cold any longer.  It was tiring and inspiring, both (it always is).  And we worked as a LASA team, all of us, and we were proud of ourselves.

The Food Bank says it can feed someone a meal for a quarter.  A family of four for a dollar.  That stunned us, as did the sheer number of those among us who are hungry every day.  As we moved off to lunch in downtown’s Central Market, we were all reminded of the disparities across greater L.A.  We each had a budget of about $15 for lunch in the Market.  Not extravagant in the least, given the rise in prices (and options) in recent months.  We ate well, and we had the chance to sample some of the great array of ethnic food that continues to be a keystone attraction of a revitalized downtown.  But, we thought, our $15 for, let’s say, a bowl of rice, chicken curry, a spring roll, and a Coke, could become a meal for 60 people if it were run through the amazing operation of the LA Food Bank.


Food for thought.

See you next month!


LASA Receives Grant from the Francis Bacon Foundation

We are honored and thrilled to announce that the Francis Bacon Foundation has granted LASA $10,000 to continue our work unpacking the puzzle of Los Angeles with civic-minded high schoolers. We are filled with gratitude for the Foundation’s support and look forward to serve students from across the County with their generous assistance.  

LASA Learns Public Safety

On November 12, LASA explored justice and public safety in LA via two thought-provoking field trips with law enforcement.

We met in the courtyard of the Huntington and boarded our bus to visit Pasadena police. Lt. Tracey Ibarra greeted us and Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez provided us with helpful thoughts on the education background his is looking for in his department, diversity in policing, and the critical role of community engagement. We passed around a (surprisingly heavy) body camera. For those students interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, Lt. Ibarra acted as a terrific guide.

Then we went downstairs and met with members of Pasadena’s SWAT team. They explained the wide range of their work duties and we climbed on their vehicle and handled some of their (very heavy) gear. We jumped back on our bus as they headed out to protect Bruins at the football gate at the Rose Bowl later than day.

After a quick
(and delicious) lunch break at the Huntington’s new 1919 café, we boarded the bus and traveled through downtown to LAPD’s Rampart. Sergeant Juan Franco and Senior Lead Officer Victor Gutierrez talked about their career paths and their current work with the Community Relations Office. They conveyed the gravity of the importance of their work and weight they carry day-to-day as they approach every aspect of their jobs. We toured their space from the gym to the holding cells and walked away with a deeper understanding of the humanity of not only police work but of civic engagement more broadly.
We ended the LASA year with these two law enforcement visits and look forward to unpacking new issues and questions in 2017.

Athletics and Angelenos: LASA explores sports and archives in Los Angeles

On October 15, LASA explored sports in Los Angeles (as an industry, as a force reshaping the landscape, and as a cultural experience).

We met inside USC Gate 1 and were joined by Anne-Marie Jones of LA84. Her energy for non-profit work in LA guided us to think about the wide range of possibilities for future work in non-profits but also in sports outside the more obvious contexts of playing and coaching. She planted an impressive number of seeds.

We then walked to the Coliseum for a comprehensive and entertaining tour of the iconic space. From the Court of Honor to the locker room, we learned about the deep history of the Coliseum – as a sports venue (college, professional, and Olympic) and as a space for speaking events and concerts. Much of the history of LA from the 1920s to the present is wrapped up within those stands and on the field. Thanks to Niki Angleton who helped us behind the scenes and to our terrific tour guide, Sheree, for her depth of knowledge and boundless enthusiasm.

After a lunch break in the USC History Department, we visited the LA Archives Bazaar at Doheny Library. The Bazaar draws collectors, institutions, and people interested in LA’s past together. We interviewed many who were present about the scope and contents of their collections and how they got started. And we even participated in a bubble gum blowing contest in connection with a display on baseball and LA. After gathering on the front lawn of Doheny to share our reflections on our archive discoveries, we walked across campus and ended the day exactly where we started it – inside Gate 1 feeling like we had run a marathon on our day of thinking about sports.

Doing Business in L.A.: LASA visits Glenair

LASA kicked off our Saturday sessions on September 10 with a focus on Doing Business in LA. Gathering at the Huntington, our teams of students brainstormed their visions for “doing business” on the whiteboards. Colorful pitches for companies and cross-industry strategies for success impressed everyone. The restaurants and t-shirt manufacturing of tomorrow’s LA prove to be innovative!

We then boarded our bus and visited Glenair Manufacturing in Glendale. As guests of Ron Logan and Rob Tillman, we watched a slide show that provided the perfect context on the company both from a product/services perspective (because most of us didn’t really have previous experience with interconnect manufacturing!) and a corporate values perspective. Rob led a terrific tour of multiple buildings and ground operations of their business. We even met Rose, whose loyal dedication to her work and the company was inspirational. Thank you to Glenair for their hospitality and for providing us with lunch. We suspect the day enticed more than one student to become an engineer.

When we returned to the Huntington, we heard from Rick Wartzman about LA’s wealthy and the businesses they run. From the demographic data about wages to the biographical information, we were super impressed with some of our students’ knowledge about economics and wondered about the future of LA and her workers and businesses.

Finally, we welcomed Kyle Finck from the L.A. Times to explore opportunities for student journalism. Keep your eye on HS Insider (at to see if our students publish their work!

LASA Kicks Off Our 5th Year!


The first week of August we kicked off LASA 2016-2017 by mapping, scavenger-hunting, touring, and floating! On Monday, August 1, we welcomed this terrific class and created maps of our Los Angeles(es). Check out our varied and creative renderings of Los Angeles here. We devoted Monday to thinking about the scale of Los Angeles – geographically and demographically. After searching for hidden gems across the grounds of the Huntington Library and interviewing visitors about their trips to the Library, the students discussed race, demography, and the seismic realities of the ground beneath us with guests Allison Varzally (Cal State Fullerton) and Bob De Groot (USGS).


Tuesday we started at the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library – the perfect location for the theme of the day – Los Angeles’ built environment and architecture. We learned about the future plans of the library (and how its numerous and diverse branches serve the surrounding communities) from Head Librarian John Szabo. Eager to move about downtown, Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times, led us on a walking tour after talking about his personal career journey and future work with Bill. We shared lunch in the shade of the Broad and then divided into groups to check out LA’s architecture in Plaza Los Angeles, Union Station, and City Hall. After what turned out to be an exhausting (and warm!) adventure through downtown, we regrouped at the library and Raphe Sonenshein led us through a lively conversation on politics in Los Angeles – the coalitions, histories, and thoughts about student engagement in today’s political landscape.



We returned to the Huntington Library on Wednesday to consider Los Angeles and water. Our teams of students estimated water usage of the different portions of the Huntington’s gardens and then we welcomed John Folsom, the head gardener at the Huntington, to talk about conversation, re-landscaping and re-designing irrigation in the face of drought, and his construction and repairs on the wells that deliver water to the grounds. After thinking about water usage in our immediate surroundings, Bill led Jeffrey Kightlinger, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), in a discussion of water broadly – from the sourceDSCF3668s Los Angeles draws on to future plans given drought and expanding possibilities for opportunities for recycled water. After lunch, we bused to the massive and impressive MWD water treatment facility in LaVerne. Thanks to the MWD for allowing us this glimpse into where the water that flows from our taps is cleaned and tested. We toured both the chemistry facility (in protective plastic glasses!) and the 1941 Art Deco building. From the roof, we took in the skyline, the progress of the construction of new ozone treatment building, the solar panels that feed electricity into the grid, as well as the pools of water entering from the Colorado River and being treated.


On Thursday, we rested and then kayaked the LA River on Friday! We are excited about continuing our explorations of LA in September. See you then!