Kathleen Irvine, one of Willmore City’s most dedicated advocates and peacemakers, is deeply troubled by Wastefulness. And we mean that with all the weight of a capital W because that is why she, along with the entirety of Willmore City Heritage Association (WCHA)’s arsenal of tireless volunteers, have taken on Cesar Chavez Park, resulting in new programming for the park.
New programming, of course, didn’t instantly come to Cesar Chavez Park; after all, it was a space that was widely devoid of human activity. Irvine and crew initially struggled with the fact that such a great park wasn’t used on multiple levels: from its inaccessible amphitheater to unused space, Irvine didn’t question the community not participating more than the space’s usability.
”The reason that it all started was of course, my thing about wasting,” Irvine said, “the wasting of lives, talents, opportunities… It just leads to questions and concerns. The amphitheater was a great resource that was being wasted. Why? There’s this great Community Center that is not open on weekends when there are so many families that could use it. Why? It was all beyond me.”
But not beyond her desire to do something: applying for grants after grants—from our own Placemaking Grants to Walmart funds to the Knight Foundation—WCHA has managed to not only alter the physical space itself but generate programming. This provides a win-win with accessibility and activities, with the Children’s Gateway Garden—Long Beach’s first ADA-accessible garden—and the new amphitheater—ditching spikey terrain and, again, adhering to ADA principles—acting as new-but-not-really spaces that intelligently used existing infrastructure to help activation.
Irvine is keen to point out that one is faced with a Long Beach parks system that has little money. However, if you create a space which is simultaneously accessible and reaches all areas of the parks—with an infrastructure that is practically entirely there already—money can thereafter be generated through the creation of classes, senior and children programming, and performance art while losing money can be lessened by focusing first (even before aesthetics) on maintenance.
Those principles have now been tested and their theory proved correct. Look at this inaugural programming that has been created:
Saturday, April 16: CAMS Kids Dance Troupe with the Jazz Angels
Saturday, June 11: Jazz Angels and Long Beach Swing Dance Community
Saturday, July 9: Long Beach Symphony
Sunday, July 17: Khmer Arts and Kayamanan Ng Lahi
Sunday, July 31: Shakespeare By The Sea – Othello
Saturday, August 13: MOLAA Sugar Skull Workshop and Mariachi Festival
Friday, August 19: Musical Theater West
Saturday, September 3: Jazz Angels Jazz Bands Extravaganza
Fridays, June 17, July 29, and August 26: Chef Isaac Salgado: Kids Kwizine, a small children’s event integrating the Children’s Gateway Garden and healthy items that can be made from what is growing there.
Applause, applause. Now go get your park on, DTLB.