Category Archives: Community

I love my hometown…record shop

As the Westchester Town Center BID Ambassador, it’s Steve Rhodes job to know all the businesses in the Westchester business district, and there’s one that he knows particularly well: Soundsations. The music enthusiast says he stops in three to four times a month to check out the local record store’s inventory, which includes vinyl, DVDs, CDs and T-shirts.

“I don’t know what I’d do if this place didn’t exist,” said Steve who has lived in Playa del Rey since 1990.  “I think music should be available to everyone and having a record store close by is awesome. I always find records here that I haven’t seen in ages, or forgot existed, and albums that are hard to find.”

As the dad of two sons, Jaren, 17, and Jacob, 12, stopping into the shop with his kids has been a great way to share his passion for music and find new bands that they can all enjoy listening to.

“I could come in here all the time,” said Steve as he reminisces about some of his favorite albums. “I can get lost in here. You end up getting into random conversations with people about music and that’s half the fun.”

Steve loves Soundsations and thinks you will, too. Check out Soundsations for all your music needs at 8701 La Tijera Blvd. in Westchester. 

Pictured:Soundsations co-owner, Lee Wilson, and Steve Rhodes (right) show off some of their favorite albums.

Does your favorite local business deserve a shout out? Send us an email at westchesterhometown@yahoo.com for a chance to share your favorite hometown spots with our readers.

Posted February 2019

Bringing art to Westchester/Playa

Jawsh Smyth works on Melting Man, located on La Tijera Blvd. at Sepulveda Westway.

Colorful mini-murals on utility boxes are popping up all over the neighborhood, thanks to talented artists who are helping bring more public art to the community and beautifying some of the area’s busiest thoroughfares.

Noticing that other areas in L.A. had artwork on their utility boxes, NCWP President Cyndi Hench thought bringing the program to Westchester/Playa would help transform the drab, gray boxes into cool, colorful additions to the neighborhood’s streetscapes. She connected with the newly formed Westchester/Playa Arts Committee for support on the project and a call for artists was put out early last year. The committee, which is made up of local residents, business leaders, community group representatives and artists, was delighted by the proposals they received.

“We were amazed at the level of artwork that was submitted,” said committee member and LMU Senior Director of Auxiliary and Business Services, Andy O’Reilly. “The selection of the mural artists was tough! There were so many incredibly unique interpretations of what this community represents. The utility box mural project, and the fact that this volunteer public art committee exists, speaks to the community’s commitment to public art and to our talented neighborhood artists.”

With funding from the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP), Councilmember Mike Bonin’s office and the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation (DFCF), with support from the Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club, 11 designs were selected and approved by the committee, the NCWP and the city. Artists began painting in mid-January, and all of the boxes are anticipated to be completed by March.

“We’re already hearing great feedback from the community about how the boxes are resonating with people, making them proud of their community and interested in seeing increased beautification efforts,” said O’Reilly. “It’s great to hear that people are excited to see the art, and we’d like to thank the artists who have given their time and talent to help beautify our community.”

The Westchester/Playa Arts Committee is looking to secure additional funding and hopes to announce the next call for utility box artists in the spring. 

If you’re interested on being on the email list for upcoming utility box mural opportunities, please email westchesterplayaart@gmail.com.

Meet the artists

Jawsh Smyth

Playa Vista artist, Jawsh Smyth, works as a graphic designer but in recent years has taken more of an interest in the fine arts.

His colorful, surreal and playful design depicts his alter-ego, Melting Man.

“Melting Man is a character that I started developing to address a couple of things on a global level—like climate change and global warming,” said Smyth, who got some help painting from his children. “But Melting Man has sort of became a representation of myself and dealing with the ups and downs of life. It’s sort of this multi-meaning character.”

Smyth is also the artist behind the 16-foot mural, “Oaxacan Dancer,” located at Westchester’s Cinco.

Check out Smyth’s utility box located on La Tijera Blvd. at Sepulveda Westway in Westchester.

Steve O’Loughlin

Steve O’Loughlin has been a professional artist for more than 25 years and has been creating public art for more than 15. 

A Westchester resident since the early 90s, O’Loughlin’s goal is to use his artistic skills to translate and express the spirit of the community. His utility box painting, which uses his signature knotwork patterns, is an homage to traffic as it flows smoothly and gets us safely to our destination.

“It’s a celebration of cooperation and watching out for your fellow man and following the rules,” said O’Loughlin. “I’ve used this design before, but never in such close proximity to actual traffic. It gave me a deeper appreciation of what the piece is about. I’ve worked with this pattern since I moved to L.A., and I think this is a great application for it.”

O’Loughlin has murals and artwork all over Westchester, including at Covenant Preschool, Holy Nativity Church, Wright Middle School and at numerous elementary schools.

Check out O’Loughlin’s artwork on the box located on Sepulveda Blvd. at Sepulveda Eastway in Westchester.

Valerie Gresham

A toy designer by day, artist Valerie Gresham loves to draw and paint in her spare time, especially when it comes to sketching her dog, Sparky.

Gresham used Sparky, a Miniature Pinscher and his friend, Luna, as inspiration for her playful design that depicts the two playing in a local park while planes soar in the background. 

“Having art in the community is a wonderful way to enhance the community.  If the painting brings a smile to someone passing by, it is rewarding to them and to myself as the artist,” said Gresham. “As a resident in this community, I feel especially connected to this art project.  For me as an artist, it is a great way to give back to the community I live in.  I am enjoying seeing the other artists’ painting on the other boxes too.” 

Check out Gresham’s design on the box located on Westchester Pkwy. at Pershing Dr. in Playa del Rey.

Gloria D. Lee, Leslie Lauerbach-Davis, Karen Taka and Marion Wong

Four local artists showed off their skills to complete a box in Playa del Rey showcasing the Ballona Wetlands. Artists Gloria D. Lee, Leslie Lauerbach-Davis, Karen Taka and Marion Wong are all members of the Westchester Senior Center Art Class and were the only group submission for this first round of utility box murals. 

Lee has been teaching art classes in Westchester for more than 20 years, and the painters who submitted the design thought participating in the utility box mural project would be a great opportunity to give back to the community through art.

Check out the box, located on Pershing Dr. at Manchester Ave. in Playa del Rey, for scenes of the flora and fauna that help make up the Ballona Wetlands and the bike path.

Emerson Avenue Community Garden sets goal to raise money for capital improvements

The Emerson Avenue Community Garden (EACG) is readying to launch a capital campaign to raise money for improvements at the nearly 1-acre plot of land located at Wright STEAM Magnet. Through hard work and dedication, EACG volunteers have transformed what was once a neglected, weed-covered piece of land into a thriving green space with 38 garden/food plots that opened in 2011. The space is also home to a school garden that is used by Wright STEAM and WISH students and staff, a butterfly garden, a California native plant garden and over 50 trees. More than just a green space, the EACG hosts workshops, gardening days and the popular end-of-summer bash, the Westchester Arts & Music Block Party.

The EACG is able to use the space under a joint user agreement with LAUSD, which requires the nonprofit to make improvements to the property, including bringing the space into ADA compliance and adding new entry gates. To create a more park-like atmosphere, the group also plans to add seating areas, create better walking paths, install additional lighting and increase storage.

Continue reading

Mamai works to bring wellness to Westchester

Sandra Kawahito is on a journey to help the women (and men) of Westchester heal, strengthen and restore themselves through Pilates, physical therapy, acupuncture and yoga at her boutique wellness center, Mamai.

Kawahito found her calling after suffering an injury that caused horrible pain during her third pregnancy. Passionate about sports and fitness, especially soccer, she was given the ok by her doctor to continue her exercise regime, which ended up causing an injury that could have been prevented.

Pregnant with her fourth child, she was determined to not suffer the same types of problems and with the recommendation of a friend, she sought out a physical therapist that specialized in women’s health issues and pre- and post-natal care. With the help of the physical therapist and the studio’s wellness team, Kawahito was able to heal from her injuries and felt better than she had before, something she didn’t think was possible after having four pregnancies so close together. Inspired by what she had learned during physical therapy and determined to help others, she became certified in Pilates and began the search for a place to start her own studio where she could share what she had learned with other women. Continue reading

Get ready to Rock Roll & Run!

Local elementary school students get ready to run in the 1K at the 2018 Rock Roll & Run for Education at LMU. This year’s race will take place on Saturday, March 9th.

Sign-ups are now open for the Second Annual Rock Roll & Run for Education presented by the LAX Coastal Education Foundation in partnership with Loyola Marymount University. The event will take place on Saturday, March 9 starting at 8 a.m. on the campus of LMU.

This timed fun run (with a music theme) brings together 21 local schools for a festive day of friendly-competition with the proceeds benefiting education. Last year, $60,000 was raised and organizers are hoping to surpass this number in 2019. More than just a race, the community event also features a race expo with community booths, free food,  giveaways, live music, a costume contest and more. Organizers also say there are a few new additions and surprises for the 2019 race. Continue reading

Rotary Club readies for February makeover of the Westchester Townhouse

After more than 70 years of serving the youth of the community, the Westchester Townhouse will finally get the makeover it deserves courtesy of the Rotary Club of Westchester.

Since opening in 1945, the Townhouse, located on Emerson Ave. next to Kentwood Elementary School, has been a hub for youth-focused nonprofit groups, including the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, schools and theater group, Music West, who are able to use the space free of charge. Without the budget for upkeep, the Townhouse has had maintenance deferred, leaving the charming space in bad need of upgrades. Looking for the support of the community and to bring awareness to their situation, Townhouse board member and Girl Scout troop leader, Anne-Marie Ross, suggested the group hold its first fundraiser in recent memory last April. The open house style event brought out hundreds to support the Townhouse and as luck would have it, Westchester Rotarians also stopped by. After viewing the space, their wheels starting spinning– the Townhouse would make an excellent location for the club’s next Makeover Project. Continue reading

Tompkins says goodbye to Westchester

The last beer was poured and the final burger was served at Tompkins Square Bar & Grill on Saturday, November 17 when the bar closed after 14 years of being a popular Westchester hangout.

“I have to say there has been a river of love from this community the last few weeks that I’ll take to my grave. It’s surreal,” said Billy Tompkins who owned the bar along with his brother Jeffrey. “You don’t know until you know. It just lets me know that we did it right, and we’re leaving Westchester better than how we found it. We’re so proud of what we’ve done here.”

Continue reading

Westchester’s SOFESA works to help homeless families and children in need

Jess Echeverry is no stranger to a life of transience. Now a mother of five, living with her family in Westchester, she spent much of her youth on the streets in and out of motels and homeless shelters in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She endured her parents’ divorces at a young age, sexual abuse as a child, and at 16, she was pregnant and homeless, and eventually forced to give up her baby.

But by 25, her life had changed dramatically for the better: She was married and ready for a new adventure in California. In her new city, Echeverry and her husband began taking notice of the large homeless population in West Los Angeles, particularly on the streets of Santa Monica. The hardships and tribulations Echeverry had endured growing up made her very empathetic towards the homeless she witnessed there, so she began volunteering her time to give back to a community she felt a connection with. Continue reading

Looking to give back this season? Check out these local groups

Interested in donating to a collection drive or giving back this holiday season? Consider checking out these local groups that are working to make a positive impact in the lives of others:

St. Margaret’s Center

Just a stone’s throw away from Westchester, St. Margaret’s Center is collecting toys for its annual Christmas program. Every year, the center distributes thousands of toys to children in need. Locally, there are two drop-off locations. Head to Toe Salon, located at 6310 W. 89th St. in Westchester, is collecting toys through December 10 during regular business hours. Miss Haircut Salon, located at 8733 La Tijera Blvd. in Westchester, is collecting toys through noon on Friday, December 14. Toys can be dropped off Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Interested in donating online? Visit amazon.com, choose “Find a List or Registry,” type in St. Margaret’s Center and browse their wish list. Purchased items will be sent directly to the center. St. Margaret’s Christmas Program will take place on Saturday, December 15 at Lennox Middle School. Continue reading

Our picks for the best local holiday events

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and we can all be thankful that there are tons of events and activities this month to help celebrate!

Santa will be making special appearances all over town, so we’re confident that this year, Westchester/Playa is on the good list! And the Marina will once again be hosting some of the area’s most festive events full of lights, music, wonder and even (literal) tons of snow!

Whether you get your photo taken with jolly old St. Nick, enjoy carolers, make holiday crafts or take in a holiday movie, this month you’ll have plenty of chances to enjoy the magic of the season!

Mark your calendars for this month’s best holiday happenings: Continue reading