Category Archives: Blog

5 years together…

Summer 2017 marks the fifth anniversary of Grand Park, “The Park for Everyone.” In just five years, Grand Park has embodied its slogan and become L.A.’s crossroads, town green and communal backyard. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Angelenos and visitors pass through this special place. They come to capture serene moments in their workweek. They come to splash in the fountain with their families. They come to dance, eat, watch, move or create at one of Grand Park’s hundreds of free events. They come to march and let their voices be heard. They come to ring in the New Year surrounded by fellow Angelenos.

Anniversaries are occasions to reflect back on the memories and the journey. Grand Park’s journey is a story of a million Angelenos who believed in it and have shaped it and made it their own. The Big LA Portrait Gallery is a thank you to those Angelenos. THEY are what has made Grand Park the success that it is.

The Big LA Portrait Gallery is modeled on the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. whose mission is “to tell the story of America by portraying the people who shape the nation’s history, development and culture.” At Grand Park, we are celebrating part of the story of Los Angeles, stories of its people. It is their passion, creativity, humanity, humor, commitment, and diversity that make Los Angeles such a wonderful place.

The 100 portraits of Angelenos were shot by 10 Los Angeles photographers, each asked to capture their L.A. For some the portraits are centered around place such as Sam Comen’s Central Ave. For others, they reflect communities of shared interest such as Joe Pugliese’s Sunday’s Best. These ten series show just a few of L.A.’s thousands of distinct groups all connected to each other in different, powerful, and meaningful ways.

Grand Park was created to be a place of connection and this project honors and celebrates our unique interconnectedness and the vibrant and powerful fabric of L.A.. Thank you Los Angeles for making the first five years so wonderful. Here is to many more!

-Julia Diamond

Interim Director, Grand Park

In the spirit of Angeleno expression, Grand Park reached out to the photographers to pick their brains about their experiences as photographers and artists in Los Angeles.

How does Los Angeles inspire  you as a subject for photography?



I shoot where I roam. I roam Los Angeles. Mostly east of the river and downtown. But I’m moved by all of Los Angeles, its complexity. It has never ending pockets, layers of human individuality in constant flux.

-Rafael Cardenas



I’m inspired to shoot in Los Angeles because it always seems to be at the frontier of history. This place is in flux, always on the verge. Nothing is static: and that’s incredibly interesting to photograph. I think it comes down to the myriad communities that call LA home — we’re reinventing the city as we reinvent ourselves.  It’s exciting to be part of LA, and to make photographs that examine it’s constant evolution.

-Sam Comen




The light in Los Angeles is hazy and lingering making for endless inspiration.

-Jessica Sample




LA inspires me because it is a place of seekers; they’ve come to realize a dream, however illusory. It’s a land of fantasy and escape, of Peter Pan’s staving off adulthood, compromise, the drudgery of insignificance. Most won’t see their name in lights. And the inevitable let-down and disappointment that comes with falling short – sometimes way short, brings pathos into the picture. Sometimes the dreamer finds that it’s ok that things didn’t quite work out as anticipated. They find another path that may not be grand, but nonetheless brings them satisfaction, a feeling of value.

-Gregg Segal

Los Angeles has always inspired me, from long before I knew it as a place that existed in reality. When I arrived here as a young adult it took years to reconcile the city in my mind and in my eye. It revealed itself slowly to be different from the one I knew as a setting and a backdrop for so many works of music, film and fiction. In the actual Los Angeles, I found a much more diverse and exciting collection of character and spirit than is often seen from the outside. Even now after so many years photographing the people of Los Angeles, I am still only beginning to discover what and who this city is made of.

-Joe Pugliese

LA is known as the entertainment capital of the world, but to me it’s so much more that that. When you dig a little deeper you find all these hidden gems that are underrepresented in the media and these are the kinds of stories that inspire me the most about this city. 

-Jessica Pons

The Big L.A. Portrait Gallery is part of an awesome summer of free fun. 

Fun Family Activities Around Grand Avenue

Heads up, the coming weeks will have lease event closures and routine maintenance to prep for the fabulous summertime ahead (here is a taste of what’s to come).


Yes, patience is needed in the coming weeks, but never fear, Angelenos, there are plenty of fun options nearby to keep the whole family cool and entertained:

Credit: Henry Salazar

Tour The Music Center! Free, self-guided tours of its spectacular Walt Disney Concert Hall can be reserved from 10am-2pm each day July 5-8. Guided tours are complimentary and offered at 12pm and 1:15pm Thursday-Saturday. More info: 

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is free for children 12 and under, 2 for 1 admission ($15 for adults) with a TAP card, and open every day except Tuesday. Free admission to MOCA for the whole family is accessible on Thursdays from 5pm-8pm. More info:


The Broad is just a stone’s throw from MOCA and also offers exciting contemporary art for free. The museum is open every day except Mondays. Admission for the onsite standby lines is first come, first served, based on availability. The wait time in the onsite standby lines is 10 to 45 minutes on an average weekday. More info:


The Wells Fargo History Museum is open 9am-5pm Monday through Saturday and offers free guided tours, historic Los Angeles maps, and a replica stagecoach you can board. More info:


For a breezy view of beautiful downtown Los Angeles, check out the observation deck at City Hall. You can check in with security at the 201 Main Street public entrance and they will direct you onwards and upwards to the 27th floor. Open M-F 10am – 5pm. Deets from WelikeLA

Thank you so much for your patience, please come back with the fam to visit Grand Park throughout throughout the year.



My oh my. Five years together – how awesome is that? Let’s continue to kick it during the 4th of July Block Party, let loose during a whole season of The Music Center’s Dance DTLA, or be silly with the little ones in the beloved splash pad. It will be a magical summer in the park for everyone.






Part of a three-location festival, Grand Park + I3 Arts Fest’s Interaction Park will host large-scale interactive art installations, transforming Grand Park’s Event Lawn into an urban art gallery.

INTERACTION PARK Musical artists:

The Gaslamp Killer, Mike G (of Odd Future), Oscure, Bartek, Earthquake State, Captin’ Jay

Works include:


Through the Cattails by Aphidoidea

40 coroplast hexagon abstract cattails that provide shade during the day and emit animated light by night


Anthropocene by 5Gyers

A response to plastic pollution and inspired by Da Vinci’s Vituvian Man – the piece sends microbeads and light throughout the piece via attached stationary bicycles.



Melting Rainbows by Aaron Axelrod

The artist uses his face and various body parts to press up against a transparent plexiglass surface to create psychedelic drips and effects that are then live projected onto a theater screen


Jabba Barge by Adam Mostow

A large metal mutant vehicle fabricated and sculpted by David Haskell




Infinity Boxes by Matt Elson

An interactive social piece where participants’ faces are turned into contemporary portraiture.



Mechan9 by Tyler Fuqua

A giant fallen robot that is 35-feet in diameter.



Grand Park + I3 Arts Fest’s Interaction Park will be held on the Event Lawn. For more info about I3 Arts Fest, visit


BOOTCAMP // EVERY TUES JUN 6 – SEPT 26 // 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

All summer long, Grand Park visitors can explore the entire park and get a free workout at the same time at Grand Park’s Bootcamp. Open to everyone and all fitness levels, this free series is a fun way to connect with others and make an end-of-day workout accessible and fun. Boot camp sessions are held on Grand Park’s Event Lawn.



Grand Park’s Sunday Sessions celebrates Los Angeles’ contributions to the global art form of dance music. As a vibrant music scene bursting with ingenuity, creativity and boundary-pushing music making, Los Angeles offers a particular blend of urban spaces, global cultures, enticing weather, collaborative spirit and open mindedness.

SUN JUN 11 // Aaron Paar // Tony Watson // Scott K // Vikter Duplaix

SUN JUL 16 // Kristi Lomax // Thee Mike B // Lars Behrenroth // Mark de Clive-Lowe

SUN AUG 13 // Kaleem // Jun // Tony Powell // Mystery Guest (announced soon)

SUN SEPT 17 // Sunday Sessions Gets Deep: Celebrating 18 Years of DEEP-LA.



A summer favorite now in its 13th year, The Music Center’s Dance DTLA is an evening of dance under the stars on most Friday nights in the summer months, from June – September, 2017.


Hosted this year entirely in Grand Park, the series features Dance Downtown, every other Friday night, where participants can learn new dance moves in a judgment free zone with a different dance genre at each event.


Hosted this year entirely in Grand Park, the series features Dance Downtown, every other Friday night, where participants can learn new dance moves in a judgment free zone with a different dance genre at each event.



Grand Park + The Music Center’s 4th of July Block Party returns with a wonderful way to celebrate America’s independence. Featuring picnics, play, music, dancing and a new fireworks show, the event is jam-packed with ways that make Fourth of July the ultimate summer holiday celebration. The afternoon offers games and art making for all ages including soccer, tag, bubble fun and chalk art. Two musical stages with DJs throughout the day and live performances in the evening will entertain audiences with sounds from America featuring everything from 70s Funk and Soul, to a full-scale Pops orchestra.



Grand Park teams up with FLAX (France Los Angeles Exchange) to present an international collaboration and dance performance by French video and performing artist Lola Gonzàlez and Los Angeles-based artists, choreographer Oguri and composer Paul Chavez. Inspired by the complex landscape of the city, the trailblazing performance entails a traveling processional, which tackles ideas of community, collaboration and the impact of urban living. Sixty performers, a mix of professionals and nonprofessionals, will set off from several distinct locations throughout Los Angeles. Echoing recent unrest in this country and the world, the groups will march through the corridors of Downtown to gather together at the iconic Grand Park for an epic performance, punctuated by individual actions and gestures as each participant acts out their role. The public is invited to join the journey! For the “call for participation” and to learn more, visit


L.A. TACO FESTIVAL // AUG 26 // 12PM – 8PM

Benefiting the non-profit Jovenes, Inc., the L.A. Taco Festival welcomes more than 30 taco vendors from all around Los Angeles to Grand Park. Angelenos can enjoy the many varieties and flavors of tacos made throughout the county. DJs, games and art-making round out the day’s festivities and make for a full and fun day in Grand Park.



The Music Center continues its series of intimate events that invite the Los Angeles LGBTQ and ally community to celebrate and connect with each other with Grand Park + Outfest Present PROUD Movie Night. Developed in collaboration with a coalition of partners and partner organizations to reflect the diverse interests and experiences of the LGBTQ Angeleno community, Grand Park partners with Outfest to present a picnic and screening in celebration of fresh and diverse voices in film. Filmmakers and actors will introduce the showcase of short films from the Outfest Fusion Festival and share insight about their craft. Guests can come early to enjoy a late summer afternoon in the park with the sights, sounds and tastes of the summer including DJs, food trucks and the park’s popular splash pad and playground. The screening will be held on the Performance Lawn.

Outfest Fusion is an annual film festival celebrating queer communities of color. To learn more, visit

Information subject to change


Grand Park is an LA County park powered by The Music Center.

Los Angeles County. Grand Park. The Music Center.

Our L.A. Voices found in PUBLISH! Deconstructing Emily

This weekend’s Downtown Bookfest was ah-mya-zing. showcasing over a dozen literary partners and activities, performances by some of L.A.’s best emerging and established writers, artists and musicians, and the beautiful balmy weather added jelly to the proverbial toast.

As you sat on the park’s fabulous pink furniture, Peter, Jessica and Douglas of Writ Large Press gave a quick lesson on how to work a vintage typewriter and you were released into the writing wild – stamping letters, words, and lines with the intent of deconstructing Emily Dickinson’s poems, and creating something new.

Over ONE HUNDRED poems were written Saturday afternoon in Grand Park by Angelenos of all ages and backgrounds, here are the works – published, signed, sealed and delivered:

Big ups to the Writ Large team, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs for providing free copies of Emily Dickinson’s works and all Downtown Bookfest partners for helping make Grand Park’s Downtown Bookfest a feel-good, inspiring day of unleashed OUR L.A. VOICES!

About Writ Large Press

Writ Large Press is a DTLA based independent press founded in 2007. In addition to publishing unique literary titles, Writ Large Press is dedicated to challenging the role of the book to engage community and respond to the times through three ongoing project: Ghostmakers, a book that was written, presented, and destroyed through the course of 2015; Publish!, a community writing and publishing project; #90X90, 90 consecutive days of literature as resistance. #ResistanceIsLit


PUBLISH! is our ongoing participatory, community writing and publishing project. Kicking off in 2013 in the Old Bowery Subway Station in NYC, PUBLISH! has traveled from art galleries, to train stations and parks, engaging writers, new and experienced, in DIY publishing through the use of typewriters, speech-to-text software, broadsides, Instagram, and mathematical equations.

Publish! is about more than writing a poem. It is about more than a book. It is about you. It’s about authoring your own narrative. It’s about owning your own stories and sharing them with your community through the act of publishing.


Spring is for OUR L.A. VOICES

An intro to Grand Park’s Our L.A. Voices, a season-wide celebration of Angeleno expression.


Photo by Javier Guillen for Grand Park/The Music Center

LUNCHTIME! Concerts // EVERY THURS MAR 2 thru MAY 25 // 12:15PM – 1:15PM

Young Angeleno artists voice their creativity and expressions through music.


Photo by Javier Guillen for Grand Park/The Music Center

LUNCHTIME! Writers’ Meetup// EVERY TUES MAR 7 thru MAY 30 // Noon – 1:30pm

Write where you are. Grand Park’s Teaching Writer-in-Residence traci kato-kiriyama curates writing exercises for all levels. Meetups will have special guests, including leaders in journalism and script-writing to support cultivating new writings or to nurture existing works.


Photo by Javier Guillen for Grand Park/The Music Center


In collaboration with the City of Los Angeles’ Big Read Festival honoring the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Grand Park’s Downtown Bookfest welcomes all to an afternoon of readings, performances and activities geared towards families.


Photo by Javier Guillen for Grand Park/The Music Center

PROUD Story Slam // SAT MAR 25 // Noon – 4PM

Part of Grand Park’s ongoing PROUD Series celebrating LGBTQ L.A., the PROUD Story Slam presents narratives about how Los Angeles connects us no matter who we are or whom we love. From L.A. gay rights pioneers to Angeleno trans comedians, hear amazing stories that transcend geography, generation, gender, race and background. Be prepared to laugh and perhaps even shed a tear.


Photo by Shared Studios

PORTALS PROJECT at Grand Park // MON APR 10 thru SUN APR 23

The Portals Project brings an immersive space – a gold shipping container with screens and speakers – to connect Angelenos to faces and places that are curious about L.A. life.  Exchange thoughts, ideas, recommendations for music, recipes, and anything in between in this two-week activation.


Love is in the Air…

Are you looking for a last minute date idea for Valentine’s Day?

Grand Park is your perfect (and free) romantic destination.

Grab your special somebody and stroll side-by-side among the glimmering (electric) candlelight – a little more sparkle to an already spectacular vista.

Hold hands to the tunes of classic Motown and sultry R&B – playlist lovingly selected by Master of Love Adrian Younge.

Pack a picnic and head on down after sunset – tables are first come first served – but make sure to leave the vino at home.

Last minute ain’t no thang, when Grand Park is your personal Lover’s Lane.


Let Grand Park be the place where love of one other flourishes. Donate today on behalf of someone special or on behalf of the love you feel for a special place like Grand Park.

Happy Valentine’s Day.



Master Altar-Maker Ofelia Esparza: L.A.’s National Treasure

Ofelia Esparza at Noche de Ofrenda. Photo by Rafael Cardenas

For Ofelia Esparza, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is her busiest time of the year. The weeks leading up to Día de los Muertos are spent planning and creating altars at numerous locations are town. She’s gives presentations at college campuses on the meaning and history of this celebration. With Día de los Muertos growing in popularity every year, community leaders like Ofelia are essential in keeping the essence of this tradition alive and well. Her unwavering commitment can be seen in the altars she creates. As a retired educator and life long artist, she has no plans to stop anytime soon.

With the support of her family and the community of artists that she belongs to, Ofelia has been able to instill the true meaning of Día de los Muertos with countless individuals. For her, the meaning of Día de los Muertos is something that was instilled in her at an early age by her mother. Usually in coordination with the Catholic calendar, her mother had altars at home at various times of the year. They weren’t elaborate or large like the ones Ofelia makes today, they were small enough to fit on top of a dresser, table or shelf, emphasizing intimacy. They were adorned with flowers from the family garden, which included the traditional marigold, also known as the Cempasúchil.

Community Altar created by Ofelia Esparza, Grand Park. Photo by Javier Guillen, Oct 2015

Community Altar created by Ofelia Esparza, Grand Park. Photo by Javier Guillen, Oct 2015

Her mother never went into detail to explain why she placed certain items or did things a certain way because her practice of the tradition was rooted in an indigenous tradition – it was simply something that was done generation to generation. However, through Ofelia’s own research, experience, and learning from others who celebrate Día de los Muertos, she has been able to piece together the meaning and significance of items commonly found on altars. For example, the Cempasúchil attracts spirits through its bright color and distinct scent. In addition, calaveras (skulls) have been used since pre-Colombian times to represent the dead. Artists like Jose Guadalupe Posada, who used calaveras in his political cartoons and artwork, contributed in establishing the skull as part of the Día de los Muertos language of symbols and icons.

While the visuals of the tradition have changed over the years, the spirit of the celebration has not, which is to honor and remember ancestors and loved ones. In our lives, we go through what Ofelia explains, is three deaths. The first is the day we take our last breath. The second death is when we are buried, never to be seen again. The third, and the worst death anyone can go through, is when we are forgotten. “We’re only here for a short time and just like a flower that wilts or gold tarnishing, all things are temporary, but we live on in the memory and hearts of our ancestors because we are all here for a purpose.”

Los Angeles’ own Self Help Graphics & Art has been instrumental in growing the tradition of Día de los Muertos in the United States. Through happenstance, Ofelia’s beginnings at Self Help Graphics & Art date back to 1979 when a posted sign for instructors lead to her first meeting with founder Sister Karen Boccalero. In need of instructors for Día de los Muertos community workshops, Ofelia was hired on the spot after sharing her family’s history with the tradition. Since that day, Ofelia and her family has been a staple at workshops, but also in creating the community altar that has come to define Día de los Muertos at Self Help Graphics & Art.

Starting out as a participant in the building of the community altar and eventually leading the project, the altars themselves took a life of their own. Community residents would share their personal items and display personal pictures to honor their loved ones. With her families’ help, Ofelia also created themed altars in the downstairs space of the old Self Help Graphics & Art building called Galeria Otra Vez, which lead to the creation of Noche de Ofrenda, a Self Help Graphics & Art tradition that continues to this day, now in Grand Park. Noche de Ofrenda began in the mid-90s by Tomas Benitez, and the event was intended to host guest in the space to see the altars and art for that year’s celebration. Over time, the night transitioned into more of a community-oriented space for individuals to contribute to the community altar, but also for Ofelia to talk on the history of Día de los Muertos and its tradition.

Self Help Graphics & Art, along with Galería de la Raza in the Mission District of San Francisco, is one of the oldest institutions in the U.S. that have helped popularize Día de los Muertos. By continuing the tradition of bringing community together, these organizations are true to the spirit that inspired Sister Karen as she began building the tradition.. At the same time, she also involved community artist to participate and share their works on Día de los Muertos, a tradition that is continued to today, culminating in artist and community members coming together in celebrating the lives of loved ones.

Self Help Graphics & Art Day of the Dead circa 1970s. Photo by Self Help Graphics & Art.

Self Help Graphics & Art Day of the Dead circa 1970s. Photo by Self Help Graphics & Art.

As Día de los Muertos continues to grow and change, Ofelia is steadfast to remind individuals that Día de los Muertos isn’t just a “Mexican Halloween” celebration, despite the days being right after each other. “One shouldn’t consider Día de los Muertos a holiday because it devalues the tradition and meaning behind it.”

Ofelia Esparza. Photo by Javier Guillen

Ofelia Esparza. Photo by Javier Guillen

Ofelia encourages the curious to ask questions about Día de los Muertos and to not be afraid to inquire more about altars, or to contemplate and reflect on the idea of how our loved ones are remembered once they leave this world. “It’s not my job to say you can’t do this or you can’t do that. What I want to pass on is the tradition of remembering our loved ones, celebrating their lives, and keeping up their legacy for the next generation” says Ofelia, remembering what her mother used to tell her: “Ojala sigas con las tradiciones (I hope you carry on these traditions).”

-Guest blog by Erick Huerta, @ElRandomHero

See Ofelia’s Community Altar revealed at NOCHE DE OFRENDA on OCT 29, as part of GRAND PARK’S DOWNTOWN DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS. All altars will be on display thru NOV 6.


Fall and Winter Magic in Grand Park


A warm welcome to the changing seasons as we deepen roots one gathering at a time.




Presented in partnership with Ryman Arts as part of the global initiative The Big Draw.

The concept is simple: drawing, doodling, simple expression no matter what age or background. Let the park gardens and breezes inspire you (the morning Starbucks jolt will help).




Presented in partnership with Self Help Graphics & Art.

The night evokes memories of the past and passed. Traditions are linked and Angelenos connect with traditions across borders and states.




Each individual altar comes with its unique story –  from family history to social justice narratives. Connect with these stories by walking through the park’s paths and gardens.




Trucks come to two locations – Olive Court and the Marketplace (near CIty Hall).


Breathe, relax and sink into Grand Park bliss. Bring your own mat or borrow one from Grand Park at no cost.





30 unique angel sculptures by local artists spread their wings in Grand Park.




Grand Park shines and glitters with the spirit of the season




Ring in the New Year at the flagship West Coast public New Year’s Eve countdown.



PAPER AIRPLANE Takes Flight in Grand Park



Yay! The Paper Airplane shade structure has landed in Grand Park!

An example of public art with a practical purpose, the structure can be moved and relocated to “take flight” in any area of Grand Park.

Dean and Elenita

Artists Dean Sherriff and Elenita Torres came up with the concept of the giant paper airplanes, and after a public vote, Los Angeles agreed that their concept would be the one to take flight to make A Cooler Grand Park.  Each plane represents one incorporated city in Los Angeles County and in its entirety, represents the 88 incorporated cities in the County.


Canvas Specialty’s engineers and industrial designers took the artists’ concept, then created the airplanes and structure and brought the concept to flight.  This project was fabricated in East Los Angeles and took six months to complete from concept to installation.


This inaugural public art project in Grand Park would not have been possible without the support of the Goldhirsh Foundation’s My LA2050 Grants Challenge.

BTW If the inspiration hits you and you have an idea for a better L.A., this year’s My LA2050 Grants Challenge is up and running! Propose your vision by OCT 4.

Beat Swap Meet at Grand Park


The final event of 4 Days of Hip-Hop Dance at Grand Park and the Music Center is the Beat Swap Meet on Sunday June 19th. Coming on the heels of the Ain’t No Half Steppin’  panel, Sleepless at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and Compagnie Käfig at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a palpable spirit hangs in the air on Grand Avenue in the Cultural Corridor.

The Beat Swap Meet for those that do not know is a travelling record swap meet that started back over 8 years ago. The Grand Park edition is the 8th anniversary and it promises to be an exciting afternoon of several dozen vendors selling vinyl records, apparel and lots of miscellaneous music related merchandise. Several local independent record labels are on hand selling their wares and also lots of vinyl collectors are there selling rare records and hard to find collectibles. As much as the event is associated with Hip-Hop, there are thousands of records from every genre including Blues, Funk, Jazz, Reggae, Rock, Punk, Soul, Metal, Dancehall, Hip-Hop and the undefinable all will on be on hand.

Jeremy Sole with Mike the Poet

Prominent local DJ’s like KCRW’s Jeremy Sole will be there selling gems from his own personal collection. Zulu Nation member and venerable Los Angeles Hip-Hop artist L. Scatter will also be in the mix selling records and sharing conversation. DJ Abel, known for his great DJing skills and time at Stacks Records in Cerritos will also be in attendance fixing turntables for any DJ’s that need help with that. Among the many local record labels on hand with their own table, one of them is MoFunk and its co-founder XL Middleton.

XL Middleton

XL Middleton is a Pasadena-born musician and one of the key figures in the Modern Funk Movement. Earlier this week, he shared with me his enthusiasm for Beat Swap Meet, Los Angeles and funk records. “I started MoFunk Records with Eddy Funkster,” XL exclaims, “one of the deepest collectors of 80’s funk records that I’ve ever met, who is also one of the resident DJ’s at Dam Funk’s Funkmosphere night here in LA. We were already aware of what a worldwide phenomenon that modern funk music was becoming, and we found it ironic that there was so little of it coming from the city that had really adopted it as its signature sound, decades prior. So we wanted to start this label to give people our unique take on the funk. It’s based on things, both positive and negative, that we saw growing up in LA in the 90’s – backyard parties, low riding, popping and locking, breaking, gangbanging, all the things that, for better or worse, were an integral part of the landscape, so to speak. The music is an amalgamation of synth-heavy 80’s R&B, electro hip hop, and 90’s g-funk.”

XL has a lot of enthusiasm about the Modern Funk Movement. He explains that there is a burgeoning scene of many artists and LA is one of the epicenters. “I can’t name them all because there’s just so many,” he confesses, “but I’ll give you a few. Zackey Force Funk, in many ways we think of him as a part of MoFunk too. He was the vocalist on “Press Play,” which me and Eddy Funkster produced, and is now considered one of the essential tunes in the modern funk canon. There’s Brian Ellis, another amazingly talented multi-instrumentalist and recording artist. Psychic Mirrors from out of Miami, they’re another favorite of mine. Their tune “Charlene” is probably still my favorite modern funk song ever.”

On the MoFunk label he has several artists. “First there’s Moniquea,” he says. “She was the first artist we released on MoFunk, with the 7″ single “I Don’t Wanna Get Used To It,” as well as our first full length LP release, “Yes No Maybe.” She’s got a really unique voice and she grew up listening to tons of 80’s funk and new wave,” he explains. He has also recently signed an artist from the Bay Area, Diamond Ortiz, a multi-instrumentalist and composer/producer. They have already released a 7″ from him and an EP, “The Boomerang EP.” Ortiz just finished his first full length, “Loveline,” and it’s coming out before the end of the year. Beyond that, MoFunk also just put out a 12″ from a group called Shiro Schwarz out of Mexico City. They are planning to do much more with them in the future. XL tells me there is much to be excited about with MoFunk and the Modern Funk Movement.

XL Middleton loves Los Angeles, the Modern Funk Movement and Beat Swap Meet. He’s been participating in several ways with the Beat Swap Meet over the last 3 years. In 2013 Moniquea and he performed when Beat Swap Meet was in Chinatown. “I remember thinking how amazing it was, in every sense, but especially on a cultural level.”

He sees the event as a microcosm of the city itself. XL concludes our discussion by saying, “Beat Swap Meet is a cultural cross-section of everything in the city that falls outside of what LA is stereotyped to be. It’s so much more than just a place to buy used records. It’s where people can come together and feel free. That sounds so cliché, but what I mean is – There’s no dress code, you don’t have to pay $30 to get in, it’s not a place that’s overrun by aspiring stars and Instagram models. It’s everything that LA truly is, that is sometimes hard to put into words. But, if you come out and experience it for yourself, I think you’ll understand.”

Considering Grand Park is in the center of the city and the place for everyone, there is no better place for Beat Swap Meet to be on Father’s Day than the iconic rectangular three-block park connecting City Hall and the Music Center.

Mike the Poet, guest blogger/social media host #hiphop4days