Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cars, stars and parsing art (looking back on 1/25)

Saturday morning was going to be great; my drive across LA to the Santa Monica Beach House offers light traffic and a good parking spot. But my old Mustang had other plans; an unscheduled stop at the auto mechanic for an emergency repair.


I arrived late for my public office hours, shared this weekend with Star Tourz, a truck-based solo art exhibit with public questionnaires. Corrine Siegel parked her art vehicle at the Community Beach House and set up her display.


My Artist in Residence efforts, were outdoors on Saturday. I was sitting under a canopy with a table and sign, paired with Star Tourz. The weather was beautiful and the crowds were milling on the beach especially outside the cafĂ©.  This helped my public office hours a bit; some of her visitors would speak to me.  The young woman gyrating with a hula hoop attracted some attention outside the van, as did the moving lift on the art truck.


But the Artist in Residence is a quieter form. The individuals who engaged me actively sought me out; the Austrian artists in residence from the MAK Center/Schindler House, and the 2013 Beach House Writer in Residence, coming in from Antelope Valley to meet this year’s creative. 


Form impacts function, when art and site are faceted. When we parse,dividing a sentence, artwork, or experience into parts, we identify their relations to each other sometimes with a loss of meaning. According to E. M. Forster, our human impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the coda of his 1910 novel Howard’s End: "Only connect.”

-Helen Lessick

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sun, sea and o wasps!

My public office hours on Monday coincided with a private event at the Beach House. OWASP held lectures, panels and a lunch. They're not Vespa owners - the Open Web Application Security Project is an advocacy group for open-source web application security. These folks from around the world bring community and communal values to the web.

Thanks to the open layout of the Beach House, and my AIR public office hours, an OWASP board member and former chief of security for Mozilla came up and introduced himself during a break.  He was fascinating, talking about their global efforts, net neutrality and the need for better OWASP graphics. The web is also a public place in need of placemaking.

The best public spaces bring us together with individual and families we don't know we have. 

-Helen Lessick

Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphany at the Beach

Greetings Santa Monickers, and all the ships at sea.
It is an epiphany here at the Marion Davies Beach House on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica. Epiphany, January 6 in my father's Russian Orthodox religion, is the accepted date the Wise Men found the Christ child, guided by that star. Also known as Twelfth Night, it is the day we realize how special it is to be where we are. We look up and see what made us come to this place.

Over the next ten weeks I will be working on essays about public art and place making; public, arts and places. Exploring the amenities of the Annenberg Beach house and my offices in the Marion Davies residence.

What can creatives do to make a site a place? Does public art help or hinder that effort?  Does beach culture inform culture at the beach? Does politics, intellect and adult themes have a place in public, or should every public place be for children?   And who decides?

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Jan. 5 - Preparing for my first day as the Writer in Residence at the Annenberg Community Beach House. For the next ten weeks I'll be cogitating on placemaking, community and art, so I biked to Mulholland Fountain for inspiration. One hundred years since the California Aquaduct opened, the fountain has its third remodel. It is a place, but one few people use, even though it is a beautiful site on a sunny Sunday, an open slope next to a dense housing complex in Los Feliz with new public art and landscaping.  How do we attract a community to a place?