Music, Art, and Mimes, Oh My!: The Expo Line Throws Itself a Party

WVTC Performer Raul Cardona with Lady Gaga wax figure. Photo Credit: WVTC

In economics, “free riders” are usually a bad thing.

Starting Saturday, however, Metro encourages you to test out the Expo Line on its opening weekend by free riding to your heart’s content (well, from 5 A.M. to 7 P.M., that is).

To make the proposition more inviting, Metro is throwing itself a party on wheels.

To kick off the events at the new stop at Expo Park/USC, members of the Watts Village Theater Company (WVTC) will board trains with riders, traveling with them and performing site-specific, cultural pieces at several stops. Attendees will have the opportunity to take (and keep) Polaroid photos with performers. Performances are scheduled for 10:00 to 10:30 A.M. at the Expo Park/USC Station, 11:00 to 11:30 A.M. at the La Cienega Station, and 2:00 to 2:30 P.M. at the 7th St./Metro Center Station.

Because one theater experience on a train is never enough, a mime from the 24th Street Theatre will travel along the line and performing at the four major stops of the route. And yes, I’m pretty sure that their mime will be a lot better than this guy.

At Pardee Plaza at the USC stop you will also have the opportunity to listen to music by the Brian Schwartz Quartet (presented by Make Music L.A.) and visit the booths of the California Science Center, the California African American Museum, the Natural History Museum, USC Athletics, and the Metro/LADOT Bicycle Program, among others.

If you’re riding Saturday morning and are interested in the history of South L.A., check out the “State of South L.A.” event, a community discussion on issues of policing, economic inequality, organizing and political power, and race relations in South L.A. 20 years after the riots at the First AME Church. The short ride over to the event from the USC station will give you a great opportunity to explore the beautiful and historic neighborhood of West Adams. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and is home to a seriously impressive number of churches.

On Sunday, hop off at the USC stop with your bike and head south on Vermont to 81st St. for the South L.A. Rises event. The event, sponsored by several local organizations including Community Coalition, seeks to bring the community together in a positive remembrance of the L.A. Riots with music, entertainment, speakers, and food to help move community relations forward.

At the Expo/Crenshaw Station you can head to the West Angeles Church parking lot (just north of the stop on Crenshaw) where you will be able to annoy/impress friends and neighbors by belting out your favorite karaoke tunes. Pick up information about the City Lites Network Inc., the Leimert Park Book Fair, and the Louisiana to Los Angeles Organizing Committee at booths there. If you choose to stick around and explore the neighborhood, walk or ride about a mile south on Crenshaw and check out Patrick Henry Johnson’s beautiful mural, Elixir, profiled here.

If you ride the line on Sunday between 2:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M., take advantage of the proximity of this stop to the Leimert Park Artwalk, located at the intersection of Crenshaw Blvd., Leimert Park Blvd., and 43rd Pl. Drums, art, fashion, spoken word, and community — what could be better?

At the last west-bound stop, the La Cienega/Jefferson Station, you can enjoy African jazz with Derk Reklaw Cuzmo (presented by Make Music L.A.), Fantastic Fig — the (self-proclaimed) “world’s greatest close-up psychic magician” with a cat, and more karaoke (in case you didn’t get your fill in the Church parking lot at Crenshaw). Informational booths will be manned by the Expo Construction Authority and KLOS/KABC radio, among others.

The engravings at the La Cienega stop, created by artist Daniel Gonzalez, illustrate the history of Ballona Creek and the surrounding areas. You are invited to attend the reception he and Jose Lozano (the La Brea Station artist) will be hosting at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Recreation Center (6300 Hetzler Rd.) from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Saturday. The reception provides a great excuse for you to stretch your legs, get your hike on, and check out the great views from the overlook in the park. You can ride up the paved entrance or take the trail off the Jefferson entrance, if you are on foot.

If you bring your bike, hop off the train and onto the Ballona Creek Bike Path. The path will link you up with The Strand in Playa del Rey — a 22-mile bike path that will run you from Will Rogers State Beach in the Palisades all the way down to Torrance. You should be able to access the Ballona Creek path from a ramp between Syd Kromentha Park and La Cienega Pl., a block west of the Expo stop. If not there, try the entry point at Jefferson Blvd. and Duquesne Ave. (heading southwest from the Expo stop).

If you make your way back downtown, before you connect to wherever else you need to go at the 7th St./Metro Center Station, take a minute to enjoy the Latino jazz sounds of nine-piece band, Double Gee NineNet (presented by Make Music L.A.) and other performers. Visit the information booths of IRIS from Cirque du Soleil, the Music Center, AQMD, the L.A. Kings, the L.A. Downtown News, Coca-Cola, the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, or the Colburn School of Music, among others. Before leaving, be sure to get your photo taken at Snap Yourself!’s photo booth. Because, as you know, pics or it didn’t happen.

Finally, if you’re up early on Saturday and near Exposition Park, join in the Flash Mob for Housing at the corner of Vermont Ave. and Exposition Blvd. While the opening of a new line can bring many benefits to communities, it can also drive the prices of housing up near rail stations. TRUST South L.A. is holding a rally and participatory flash mob performance to call for affordable housing near transit stops. The event begins at 9:15 A.M.

Metro disclaimers: Expo Line opens this Saturday with events being held at four stations along the line from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. All events are free to attend. Please note that the Farmdale and Culver City stations will not be open and will be bypassed by all trains. These two stations are still under construction and are set to open this summer.