This is a good week for your wallet – we've got two free festivals: the weeklong, multi-venue Los Angeles Design Festival, and on Saturday, a celebration of everybody's favorite green clay man, Gumby. Then take your pick of three great weekday events, all absolutely free: an ethereal art exhibit, an improv comedy show in a bookstore, and a free screening of that movie everyone's been talking about, Chef. Did we mention it's all free?
5. Appreciate Design
The Los Angeles Design Festival blankets the city with more than two weeks of art, architecture, design and all-of-the-above special events: guided and free-form bike, car and walking tours, eclectic lectures, related exhibitions, parties, workshops and more parties, kicking off with, what else, a party. Fittingly, the bell-ringing (and dublab music) take place at Echo Park's landmark Jensen Recreation Center, whose unique retro and retrofitted architectural features themselves tell a worthy L.A. design tale. Hosted by Natural Curiosities, an indie art and design production collective with its factory HQ on-site, the fete honors the long career of underappreciated design pioneer Gere Kavanaugh, a spry and still-working woman of a certain age, who lived through the modern history of West Coast design – and made some history of her own along the way. With so much packed into the festival program, small wonder there's already something to do during the afternoon even before opening night: The first of three regional "Design Hooky" self-guided tours takes on the Eastside, featuring Michael Maltzan, Materials & Applications, Shepard Fairey's print empire HQ Studio Number One, Bestor Architecture and dinner at Allumette. Then comes the party. Jensen Recreation Center, 1706 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; Fri., June 13, 6-10 p.m.; free. Festival runs through June 29. (323) 342-0007. ladesign?festival.org. ? – Shana Nys Dambrot
4. Go Gumby
For most kids younger than 65, Gumby was their introduction to stop-motion animation. The high-pitched, oddly shaped hero and his horse companion, Pokey, had their television debut on The Howdy Doody Show in the mid-1950s – and from there the sky was the limit. In 1960, creator Art Clokey moved his production company to Glendora to churn out more than 100 episodes of Gumby and Davey and Goliath, and the city takes immense pride in its role in animation history. The inaugural Gumby Fest will be a six-hour celebration of all things Gumby, featuring a temporary museum; an animation presentation from the producers of Robot Chicken; and a panel featuring Clokey alumni, including his son Joe and makeup wizard Rick Baker. All that, plus a lot of videos of Gumby walking through walls. Not a bad legacy for a simple hunk of green clay. Glendora Library, 140 S. Glendora Ave., Glendora; Sat., June 14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; free. (626) 852-4891, gumby?fest.net. – Sean J. O'Connell
See also: 30 Free Things to Do in L.A. Any Time
3. Step into Dreamworld
Artist and curator Renée A. Fox is enchanted by the idea that beauty, desire, fear and faith exist in a complex, sublime co-dependence in which the light cannot exist without the dark. In her own work, one often sees images that evoke forms of fantastical nature, rendered with a hybrid botanical/anatomical eloquence. In her latest curatorial effort, Night Terrors and Daydreams (on view at Mid-Wilshire gallery the Loft at Liz's), Fox assembles 10 like-minded colleagues in a group show that explores the relationship of Nature to human emotion. Julie Anderson, Gary Brewer, Miri Chais, Leonard Greco, Kymber Holt, Nancy Jeffrey, Kenneth Ober, Roland Reiss, Susan Sironi and Holly Williams each take a unique approach to the theme. Some work in haunting abstraction, others in evocative symbolic narrative, with the group spanning the gamut from painting and drawing to sculpture, ceramic, textile and architectural installation. Works such as Sironi's altered classic books, Chais' sodded and secret floating world, and Brewer's seemingly sentient, alien botanicals all contribute to the exhibition's haunting, opulent loveliness. For more instigation of subconscious agitation, attend Tuesday night's walkthrough with Fox and several of the exhibiting artists. The Loft at Liz's, 453 S. La Brea Ave., Mid-Wilshire; Tue., June 17, 7-9 p.m.; free. Exhibition continues Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., through June 23. (323) 939-4403, theloftatlizs.com. – S.N.D.
Turn the page for an exciting improv show and a free movie screening with Roy Choi.
[2. Laugh out Loud
Room 101, one of L.A.'s original and most popular indie improv shows, tonight takes its comedy to the Last Bookstore in downtown L.A. Hector Santa-Cruz, Nick Mandernach, Rene Gube, Toni Charline and Joel Jensen, who make up the improv group Shakedown, run Room 101. These improv vets are known for producing monthly pop-up – style improv shows at unique venues: a flower shop, an amphitheater, even a hotel room. During the latter show, the Shakedown team had to incorporate the hotel's manager into their improv set after he came in to follow up on a noise complaint. Set to perform at the Last Bookstore show is an impressive lineup of improv ensembles, including Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre's house team Bangarang! and the powerhouse two-man group Outlook of the Poet. All the improv teams will use the backdrop of the Last Bookstore to inspire their sets. "Performing at unique locations is risky and fun because we don't control the space," says Shakedown member Mandernach. "A lot of customers at the Last Bookstore won't be expecting an improv show." Did we just let the cat out of the bag? The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Wed., June 18, 8 p.m.; free. (213) 488-0599, lastbookstorela.com. – Steve La
1. Sit at the Chef's Table
Roy Choi, papi to the food-truck movement, kicks off a new series from Zócalo Public Square and KCRW, "My Favorite Movie," with a screening of Jon Favreau's indie hit Chef. The film follows chef Carl Casper (Favreau), who quits his job at a fancy restaurant in L.A. to start a food truck. If this story sounds familiar, that's because it is: Choi did the same thing back in 2008 after being fired from a corporate job in the kitchens of the Rocksugar chain. Favreau penned his script without knowing Choi's story (if you don't know it either, you can check out Choi's memoir, L.A. Son) but later hired the chef as a technical consultant, and Choi became a producer and friend. Choi was on set every day that Favreau cooked, so he should have plenty to say about the movie during the post-film Q&A, which will be moderated by Evan Kleiman of KCRW's Good Food. Why Choi isn't bringing a Kogi truck with him to the Million Dollar Theatre is beyond us, but Grand Central Market next door will stay open late, until 7 p.m., so that you can get your taco fix before the show. Million Dollar Theatre, 307 S. Broadway, dwntwn.; Thu., June 19, 7 p.m.; free, reserve online. (424) 229-9493, zocalopublicsquare.org. – Sascha Bos
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