When L.A.-based sculptor Thomas Houseago's eldest daughter went off to college in Edinburgh, Scotland, earlier this summer, she brought along her bass guitar. It's a practice she was encouraged to pick up by none other than Flea, who, besides being one of the most famous bass players in the world, co-founded L.A.'s Silverlake Conservatory of Music in 2001.
“Flea was the first person who said to [her], 'here’s a bass, here’s how you play it' … [and] she's found it so enriching,” Houseago says of his daughter. “It’s hard to be a teenager and find herself in the world. Playing bass gave her this feeling of agency: I can play music, I can be in a band. It became a safe space for her and a healthy space for her.”
Houseago, who's been friends with Flea ever since the musician visited him in his studio a handful of years ago, also has two younger children who are beginning to take classes at the school. “Education is about getting a job,” he says, “but actually one of the most essential functions as a human is to be able to think creatively.”
Houseago is one of several big-name visual artists — several of them L.A.-based, including Ed Ruscha and Kenny Scharf — who donated work to be auctioned off at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music's annual fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 9. This year's event also features music by Randy Newman, Anderson .Paak and, of course, Red Hot Chili Peppers, who'll perform alongside SCM students. Shepard Fairey designed the invitations.
It's the first fundraiser to be hosted in the school's beautiful new, Barbara Bestor–designed space on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Feliz, which opened last October. It's a move the school was able to make in large part because of the success of the annual fundraisers. “That we were able to buy this building has so much to do with art donated,” Flea says.
In the new space, the school has been able to expand its mission, taking on more students and offering more scholarships to kids whose families wouldn't otherwise be able to pay for an education in the arts. “We currently have 800 students,” Flea says. “And whoever can't afford it goes for free.”
The art community's enthusiasm for the school's mission makes sense to Flea, even though their disciplines are different. “I think almost every artist or person in visual art or music or theater, any kind of art … they know how important it was for them as a kid to have a vehicle to express themselves,” he says. “It's obviously different for everybody, but I think it’s a very common scenario, being able to give voice to dysfunction or beauty they feel. They know there’s lots of kids like them and they want to help.”
Houseago echoes that sentiment: “I know from my own experience as a young kid, that [without art] I could have become a lot more destructive with my energy.”
Other artists who've donated work over the years include Damien Hirst, Kara Walker and Sterling Ruby. Flea, an enthusiastic art collector, says, “[All disciplines] are the same to me; they’re all just opportunities for people's spirits to shine.”
He continues, “If we play our cards right, [the conservatory] will outlive us. It will be a music school in the community for a long time, and we’re helping. We’re reaching out to our community, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Silverlake Conservatory of Music's annual fundraiser, 4652 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; Sat., Sept. 9. Email email@example.com for ticketing info.