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5 Free Things to Do in L.A. This Week

Jackson Pollock's Mural: Now on display at the Getty Center
Jackson Pollock's Mural: Now on display at the Getty Center

This week's roundup of stuff to do is marvelously eclectic. You could fly a kite in the South Bay, see a groundbreaking mural unveiled at the Getty Center, or watch student films that show the intersection of race and physical space in Los Angeles. Whatever you do, don't complain there's nothing going on - not only are these five incredibly interesting events, but they're each 100 percent free. 

5. Check out a Student Film Fest
UCLA and USC might be crosstown rivals, but if there's one thing the two universities can work together for, it's the preservation and projection of rare 16mm films about Los Angeles' cultural history. This Saturday at DIY cinema space Echo Park Film Center, UCLA's Dr. Allyson Nadia Field, assistant professor of cinema and media studies, and USC's Dino Everett, archivist of the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, will do just that when they dig through their collections to present six shorts about race, identity and environment. Race and Space in Los Angeles: 16mm Films From 1949-1973 includes "Chavez Ravine," a 1957 USC student film about public housing in the area where Dodger Stadium now sits; "Felicia," a 1965 UCLA student film about growing up in Watts, shot in the spring before the Watts riots; and "Eastside Story," a 1974 UCLA student film about a Chicano youth's identity struggle after his gang moves away following the demolition of their East L.A. neighborhood. Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N. Alvarado St., Echo Park; Sat., March 8, 8 p.m.; free. (213) 484-8846, echoparkfilmcenter.org. - Jennifer Swann

4. Go Fly a Kite
Few things in life are as satisfying as twisting a couple of sticks and a strip of fabric into a flying object. The thrill of sprinting like a goon while a trusty sidekick matches your pace from the other end of a string is unmatched - but the trick is finding enough open space to take flight. The most reliable place in Southern California to find strong winds and a suitable runway is by the ocean, so it makes sense that Redondo Beach is hosting its 40th annual Festival of the Kite today. Take part in the launching of a giant kite, try to win the award for "highest flying kite" or just find a little space to get airborne. Either way, remember: Tangling lines can be a great way to meet people. Redondo Beach Pier, 100 Fisherman's Wharf, Redondo Beach; Sun., March 9, noon-5 p.m.; free. redondo?pier.com/events. - Sean J. O'Connell

3. Ponder the Future of Newspapers in L.A.
Tonight's Zócalo Public Square asks the burning-if-not-faintly-quaint question, What Kind of Newspaper Does Los Angeles Deserve? While L.A. has always been blessed with newspapers it truly needed - this very Weekly among them - at this point in our media-saturated fever dream, it's good to consider the newspaper as a worthy entity and not just the thing you get stuck reading when your phone needs charging. While Zócalo's "L.A.'s major newspapers dwindled down to one: the Los Angeles Times" premise conveniently ignores La Opinión, you'll hear a klatch of experts sounding off on how change in everything from technology to tildes has reshaped the landscape of news consumption. The experts include O.C. Register owner-publisher Aaron Kushner, who plans to publish an L.A. Register (maybe they can use some of those old Brand X kiosks), former L.A. city councilman Michael Woo and 35-year Times veteran Sandy Banks, who's seen it all when it comes to covering the warm heart of the city and beyond. Petersen Automotive Museum, 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Mon., March 10, 7:30 p.m.; free with RSVP (parking $8). (323) 930-2277, zocalo?public?square.org. - David Cotner

Turn the page for more awesome free stuff to do this week.
 

Pussy Riot gets discussed at the Mark Taper Auditorium on Wednesday
Pussy Riot gets discussed at the Mark Taper Auditorium on Wednesday
Photo by C. Denis Sinyakov

4. Contemplate Pussy Riot
When rebel collective Pussy Riot took its "Punk Prayer" into Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior two years ago, it was not a gimmicky stunt but a legitimate act of revolution. Prompted by Vladimir Putin's cynical, ongoing and deeply manipulative embrace of the church and its national congregation - essentially and outrageously reducing the culture of Orthodox Christianity to a propaganda wing for his oppressive regime - Pussy Riot was compelled to protest. Rarely have art and agitation collided so memorably. This visit from Russian-born journalist-author Masha Gessen, discussing her new book, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, should be a profoundly, er, arresting affair. The Pussy Riot phenom is far more complex and genuinely radical than the facile carnival of DayGlo balaclavas and whip-wielding Cossacks that the media gleefully serve up, and the outspoken, openly gay Gessen (author of 2012's scorching The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin) is the ideal voice to place the subject in its proper sociopolitical context. She's joined in conversation by St. Mary's College professor of politics Suzi Weissman. Expect a thorough and illuminating dissection of this ardent, fearless and endlessly admirable gang of stink stirrers. Los Angeles Central Library, Mark Taper Auditorium, 630 W. Fifth St., dwntwn.; Wed., March 12, 7:15 p.m.; free, resv. required. (213) 228-7025, lfla.org. - Jonny Whiteside

5. See a Landmark Mural 
All kinds of celebrities come to Los Angeles when they need a facelift - even paintings. When important canvases start to sag or fade, they check into the Getty Conservation Institute to rediscover the allure of their youth. The difference is, these masterpieces are proud to show off not only the results but also the gory details of the conservation process. Jackson Pollock's Mural has to be one of the most fascinating patients ever to check into the institute for treatment. The first work commissioned from Pollock by iconic art patron Peggy Guggenheim, the mural was completed in 1943 (thank the art-history gods, it was painted on canvas rather than directly onto her foyer wall), and donated to the University of Iowa in 1951. It was first operated on in 1973, and in 2009 became the Getty's patient. Aside from the technical marvels of the restoration, this particular work is considered one of the most important executed by the famous abstract expressionist - precisely because it is the finest (and rare) example of the crucial transition Pollock made from his earlier, African-inspired, loosely figurative painting to the dramatic, active, game-changing, drip-and-splatter style that made him a star. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the cleaning is the degree to which evidence of that later direction made itself felt in this work. After years of painstaking research and scientific experiments involving everything from the curvature of the stretcher bars to the replication of the random house-paint Pollock apparently favored - not to mention the dynamic and gestural vagaries of the artist's then-evolving style of working - it's finally ready for its close-up. The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood; March 11-June 1; free (parking $15). (310) 440-7360, getty.edu. - Shana Nys Dambrot

Editor's note: A previous version of this story had the right date for the Festival of the Kite, but the wrong day of the week. It is on Sunday, March 9. We regret the confusion.

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