A new project by the Los Angeles Poverty Department (the LAPD) asks: What will LA be like in the future? What makes this project unique (and not another Blade Runner mash-up) is that the LAPD is a performance troupe made up mainly of homeless and formerly homeless people. It is a way of predicting and describing LA’s future from the point of view of those made most vulnerable in its streets, and a way of valorizing analysis and points of view rarely heard.
The project is called UTOPIA / dystopia. “The future,” says the LAPD, “is being painstakingly crafted, created and promoted by a coalition of development and civic political interests: the City Fathers who know best. UTOPIA / dystopia, project activities will engage long standing and new area residents, (including homeless and formerly homeless residents of Skid Row, the working poor, immigrants and their families and the area’s burgeoning loft-living population) to inform and broaden the public discourse, through strategic public art actions, and convenings.”
The project began with a public forum in April at the LA Central Library. Community residents were asked: “Is it a crime to be poor?”. On June 21, the LAPD presents 7 Glimpses of Utopia, an evening of performances and presentations by people who are making “utopian” contributions to life in downtown Los Angeles – musicians, developers, poets, architects, small business owners, community activists, and workers. Among the participants are the creators of the landmark Grand Central Market, local activist Pete White, co-director of LA Community Action Network; downtown fashion designer and native of Iceland, Stella Dottir; Henry Procter of The art of Cleaning, Manuel Compito (aka OG Man) a local artist in the downtown Skid Row community, and local musicians.
The LAPD was founded in 1985, the first American performance group made up primarily of homeless and formerly homeless people. The LAPD is dedicated to building community on Skid Row, Los Angeles. Other projects include:
Agents & Assets, a “national residency performance project” based on transcripts from a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing looking into allegations that the CIA was involved in trafficking crack cocaine into the Los Angeles area.
Is There History on Skid Row? a local history preservation project
Fried Poetry, a spoken work and performance group on the subject of recovery from addiction
Emergency Evacuation Plan for the City of Charlotte, a research and performance collaboration with residents of Charlotte, North Carolina to gain a better understanding of the experiences of hurricane Katrina