After a weekend of pie, crazy family members (that we love) and even crazier discounts, you’re probably feeling the itch to do some good and to give back a little to the folks that really “get” you.
We get that you’re sick of hearing the same songs over and over on the radio. We get that you want fresh local acts, to experience the culture of your neighbors and to share yours. To experience the genuine LA.
We get that making connections can be hard these days. You crave real-life interaction: drumming out a cool rhythm with a new friend or getting sassy with your family while you learn Bollywood dance. You deserve to be outdoors, in nature, having a blast under the summer stars.
We get that trying something new can be scary. You deserve a safe space, where you can learn to tap or samba without judgment (and without breaking the bank).
Consider including us in your end of year giving and thanks for “getting” us!
Cranes and bulldozers have been digging up the Ford stage, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop jamming! Starting March 5, we’ll be presenting JAM Sessions all over LA County – from Watts to Newhall and many places in between. Be sure to sign up here to get the latest scoop (of JAM)!
Last month, we introduced you to Ford staff members who make it all happen. This month, we sat down with frequent JAM facilitator and Freedom Drum Circles founder Christopher Ramirez.
What excites you most about JAM Sessions? Christopher Ramirez:To see parents and children playing music together is very inspirational. And, seeing people that don’t know one another creating rhythms as one brings a smile to my face. I also love how JAMs create a very safe space for everyone: people of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds.
Can you share a memorable moment from your JAM experiences? CR: At the end of one drum session, there was a woman who just kept on drumming – even after the rest of the group had stopped. She had her eyes closed and was creating her own rhythm. When she stopped, she explained that she was pregnant and that she hadn’t felt her child move for weeks until that drum circle. Everyone cheered and hugged her. It was an incredible moment.
What have you learned from facilitating JAMs, as an artist and as a community member? CR: I’ve learned that art can create a platform in which we transcend our perceived limitations and differences. Specifically, I’ve learned how drumming can be a tool to help build community spirit.
What motivated you to become an artist? CR: I can’t imagine a world without music and the arts. After all, the heart is the rhythm we were all born with. So, it is our birthright to play music!
I recently read a study that found that 80% of people in the USA wished they played music. Only 10% of those people were professional musicians and the others were passive observers. I want to change that and JAMs are a great way to start.
What’s the first art experience you can remember? CR: I remember coming home from school and walking into my house. The front entry was always filled with traditional Mexican music – that was my parents for you. The middle of the house was filled with R&B and soul music – that was my sisters for you. The back of the house was filled with rock ‘n’ roll and jazz – that was my brothers for you. The house was always filled with music!
We sat down with programming staff members Ilaan Mazzini and Jennifer Fukutomi-Jones and asked them to give us the inside scoop on the work they do with the Ford’s public engagement programs (like, what is public engagement anyway?):
What does the term “public engagement” mean to the Ford? Ilaan Mazzini: It’s giving our audience more choice in how they can participate with the performing arts – beyond just being spectators. It’s also a mutual exchange: less giving and taking and more sharing.
Besides JAM Sessions, what are some other ways the Ford practices public engagement? IM: In thinking about the Ford as a County park and about how we have underutilized spaces, like the plaza and entryway gardens, we created Find Your Space. For this program, we open up our plaza spaces to anybody who wants to organize a gathering around the practicing of an art form. We give the space for free but require that the events be free and open to the public. This last year we had everything from African folklore embroidery and board game design to play readings and Americana folk songs. We want to expand on that for 2016, especially as the Ford will have a new plaza space when we reopen.
Why are these kinds of participatory programs so important?
IM: Everybody has a different comfort level. Some people want to try everything and some people want to sit and watch. If we can customize or respond in a way that makes more people feel comfortable participating in the arts, that to me would be successful. Our goal is to create a way for everyone to tap into their creative spirit.
Jennifer Fukutomi-Jones: In LA, there are so many different cultures. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to understand even just a little bit more about each other.
Have you had any memorable or unexpected moments at a past JAM Session? JFJ: There is this incredible intergenerational connection that happens at JAMs. We had a square dancing JAM at the Ford and there were a bunch of little kids who were not participating. And then different adults in the JAM started helping guide the kids. Suddenly the whole group was in synch. It was a beautiful moment of community.
IM: There’s a lot of handholding in square dancing and facing each other and turning, so you’re constantly rotating who your partner is. It was amazing to watch how over time the adults were helping these kids, so that they could equally participate.
What are the Ford’s future public engagement plans? IM: We’re really looking beyond what we deem our “engagement programs.” We now see everything as an opportunity to have an exchange, to listen and to provide different levels of participation.
Interested in engaging further? The video below documents some of the Ford’s public engagement programs and their impact all over LA County!