We are super thrilled to share LA Made on the Library as Incubator Project blog today! This large-scale series of cultural programming leverages the wealth of interesting and diverse local talent in the Los Angeles area. Thanks to Wendy Westgate from the Exploration & Creativity Department, Engagement & Learning Division, Los Angeles Public Library, for answering our questions, and to the LAPL for the use of images. Enjoy! ~Laura

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): What is the elevator speech for the LA Made Program at LAPL?

Wendy Westgate (WW): The Los Angeles Public Library’s LA Made cultural program series aims to educate and inspire individuals in the areas of literature, arts, and music, as well as in other areas of knowledge with a humanities context. It focuses on the diverse cultural landscape of Los Angeles, highlighting the immense artistic and performance talent that has developed under the course of the City’s eclectic history. The overall goals of the series are to attract new Library users, increase year-long Library usage, stimulate lifelong learning, encourage creativity and storytelling, celebrate the history and diversity of L.A., and enhance social and community connectedness.

LAIP: What was the impetus for establishing this program?

WW: In creating the LA Made series, one of our goals was to offer free and engaging programming for our adult patrons, with offerings that represented the true diversity of Los Angeles. In addition, we hoped to win over non-library users and—through our programming—bring them into the library so that they would become aware of the myriad resources and information available with a free library card.

LAIP: Can you give us a couple of examples of LA Made events/workshops/partnerships?

WW: LA Made shines a spotlight on the diverse pool of artistic and performance talent and knowledge that exists in Los Angeles, including art, theater, dance, music, and literature. Examples include performances by the Lula Washington Dance Theater, Klezmer Juice, the Golden Bridge Choir, Karmagraphy Bollywood Dance, Theatre 40, Will Ryan and the Saguaro Sisters, and Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles. Other highlights include a series of Tamale-Making Workshops, a Yiddish Cabaret show, and a sold-out appearance by RuPaul.

The one and only RuPaul gave a talk titled ‘Real Talk With RuPaul” to a sold-out auditorium.

Golden Bridge Choir performed a Father’s Day concert. The choir is led by Maggie Wheeler and Emile Hassan Dyer.

The professional company of the Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Photo by sol3000, WhatIsCreativity

Following a screening of the (then) new film “Neruda,” David Kipen moderated an audience Q&A with director Pablo Larrain and actor Gael Garcia Bernal.

LAIP: In our experience, all collaborative programs (let’s face it–all programs!) are messy and challenges arise. Can you fill us in on a couple that you’ve encountered with LA Made?

WW: As you can imagine, quite a number of Angelenos were interested in attending the program with RuPaul, yet the Taper Auditorium does have a seat limit. We attempted to make this event accessible to a greater number of people by arranging for a live video feed to be streamed into a courtyard adjacent to the Taper and set up a Facebook Live Stream as well, which the public could watch on their device from any location.

Another challenge was how to decide which branch should host which program (we had a roster of performers who were willing to do programs at more than one branch). We came up with a plan that required the Librarians to select their first, second, and third choices. We proceeded on a first come, first served basis, also taking into account meeting room size to make sure branch and performer were a good match. We coordinated 88 branch programs this way. Another 16 larger scale programs took place at the Taper Auditorium in our flagship Central Library.

LAIP: What advice do you have for libraries that are hoping to work with local artists to offer community programming?

WW: Do your research by reading local newspapers, watching local TV news, and listening to the radio (public radio in particular). You will come away with a wealth of new program ideas. Never be afraid to reach out and ask if a person or group would be willing to participate—the worst they can say is “no”! Many performers and artists already love the library and are happy to partner with us.

Form a committee and brainstorm all the possibilities for fun and interesting programs. Then divide up the labor and start contacting people and groups to see who is available to participate, and negotiate the best price you can—be sure to remind them that the library is a non-profit entity and can’t pay what private-sector businesses can.

Finally, let them know how much you appreciated their collaboration with the library and that by doing so, they made a difference in the lives of many people.

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