Cultural Wars, Debacles

We're not sure that the comments in response to Joseph Mailander's article on budget (and venue) cuts at the Department of Cultural Affairs ("Culture Wars Hit Barnsdall, San Pedro," Feb. 18) are completely fair to the people in question. But it's nice to see (or hear) someone feel strongly about such things:

"Long gone are the glory days of Cultural Affairs," writes Kathleen, "when the Los Angeles Festival gave us something for our tax dollars, when Dance Kaleidoscope was giving us free world-class dance by local and internationally renowned companies, when we were called the 'city of festivals.' Shame on the mayors who thought that no one in this second great cultural capital could provide for its citizens and instead brought in Adolfo Nodal of Miami and Washington, D.C., Margie Johnson Reese of Dallas and Olga Garay of Miami, who have overseen the dismantling of a department that in previous incarnations provided this city with phenomenal performing and fine-arts education and presentation, nurturing generations of young painters, sculptors, dancers, actors, opera singers and instrumentalists, while providing exhibition opportunities for professional artists and support for professional performance venues and companies.

"Cultural Affairs is in worse shape than our streets, and that Garay would go along with a gutting of its last vestige of relevance or service, the Barnsdall Art Center and the Warner Grand, providing a limp excuse that nowhere else are there art centers (how untrue!), should put her at the top of [the chief fiscal officer's] hit list."

Armando Duron has a different take altogether: "The unprovoked attack on the Latino Theater Company and the equally unsubstantiated hit on the Department of Cultural Affairs ... only promoted a racial divide while ignoring a whole series of facts: (1.) DCA participated in the FIL in Guadalajara and ARCOmadrid because the city of Los Angeles was invited to each of these venues and outside funding was secured for the vast majority of the expenses incurred by DCA. (2.) Los Angeles is the first city to be invited, as opposed to an entire country, as the special guest at ARCOmadrid. (3.) What mess are you referring to? LTC took over a venue that was hemorrhaging $80,000 per year in maintenance expenses while it remained closed. (4.) Can you cite the last article in the Weekly that reviewed the "prestigious Will & Company"? (5.) The truth is that Will & Company was [a] front for a private developer who wanted to control the venue. (6.) Generally the critics who wonder whether there is a bias in favor of L.A.'s Latino culture are the ones who are used to getting their west-of–La Brea/MOCA/Disney events funded. (7.) The Maria Elena Durazo event was not an LTC-sponsored event. (8.) In case L.A. Weekly still hasn't noticed, Latinos are the majority in the city of Los Angeles. It is our culture that has been long-ignored, and when it is reported on in these pages it is usually through the incompetent eyes of your demographically challenged staff. (9.) If it's a culture war you're looking to promote, be on notice, it is a war you can no longer win."

Maria has a response to that: "My goodness, Mr. Duron, who's promoting the racial divide? Accusing Will & Company of fraud in presentation of their proposal to the city, and suggesting that any art not Latino is "Disney"? Do you really believe that no tax dollars should provide arts services to the people of Los Angeles? For this seemed to me and everyone in my office the meaning of the title: the war between the mayor, wanting to eliminate such services, and the communities that want them. Or perhaps you just mean that no tax dollars should be spent on anyone other than you."

And now for something a little lighter, about a form of cultural diversity driven not by philosophy or goodwill but by hunger pangs — food trucks! Jonathan Gold's report on the L.A. Street Food Fest (Feb. 18) brought a flurry of notes from foodies, most of whom had also been at the event.

Like Yutjangsah, who writes, "Reading this fast-moving prose makes me feel like I was there. Oh, wait. I was there! I loved the nibbles and bits I cadged off honest liner-ups. Like a Europeeyan, I believe in cutting the queue at the most Singha-weakened juncture. It's my tip to food festers everywhere. Be ready to practice a 'Who, me?' innocent shrug lest you be challenged. And wear running shoes."

Veronica: "Love the festival reference — as a music-festival junkie, that must be why I had a great time on Saturday. I got the food I could get, and spent the rest of the time soaking up the sun with good friends."

But not everyone had such a good time. To wit: "They must have seen you coming and given you the 'gold' treatment," writes Seal Sanchez. "The fries I got from Louks were inedibly undercooked. The pork-belly bun from the Flying Pig was only a chunk of fat, dressed up. The spicy garlic pizza was too spicy to eat, and burnt. Too bad the planning on this event sucked. It could have been great fun."

"Street food!?" asks Other Jay. "Just because a restaurant's operation is put on wheels does not make it street food. Street food is prepared for and by local people who would sell their food on the public streets. Usually the food is homemade. And there is history and culture associated with the purchasing of such food. But now it is trendy, and people are commercializing and gaining profit off the hard work of cooks who have endured countless food raids and harassments for years. Visitors and tourists: Look for street food in the streets."

"City Hall's Revenge on Cecilia Estolano" (Jan. 7) incorrectly identified City Councilman Ed Reyes as the politician who roughly reprimanded CRA Executive Director Estolano in a debate over industrial land. Reyes was not involved.

"Rubbers Revolutionary" (Jan. 28) repeated incorrect information that county health officials linked 16 unpublicized AIDS cases to porn-industry performers. In fact, health officials never made such a link.

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