Inaugural WAM Block Party looks to merge music, art and community

Since its inception in 2011, the Emerson Avenue Community Garden (EACG) has hosted a variety of events from pancake breakfasts, movie nights, dinners and community volunteer days, but the nonprofit group with the motto of “Build a Garden, Grow a Community,” is hoping to expand that network with its largest undertaking yet, the Westchester Arts and Music (WAM) Block Party. EACG’s mission is to develop and maintain its 1-acre plot on the campus of Wright STEAM Magnet into a “sustainable, organic food garden and green space” that is used for education and community building.

“The genesis was to use music and art to bring awareness to the garden and our community at the same time,” said EACG president John Sharpe, a self-proclaimed music lover.

With few, if any, community events focusing on art and music in the Westchester/Playa area, Sharpe felt the climate was right to create a new event that merged the two with a family-friendly community block party vibe.

“Our feeling is that there’s a huge demand for something like this. There’s nothing like this in Westchester,” echoed Westchester resident and EACG publicity co-chair Travis Pham. “We feel that we can be the stimulus to bring art and music to the community. We think this event has a lot of potential.”

The committee has created an ambitious line-up of activities for the daylong arts celebration that will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Both the garden and Emerson Avenue, which will be partially blocked off, will be utilized. The event will feature 8 bands that will entertain the crowd with a variety of music genres from Big Band, Irish Traditional and Reggae to Indie, Pop/Rock and Jazz. Other performances will include dance routines from LA Arts Collective and the Westchester Lariats. Magician Fantastic Fig will also be on hand throughout the day to amaze attendees with his card tricks.

In the EACG, attendees will find a kids’ activity area that will encourage families to create arts and crafts, while exploring the garden. Activities will include face painting, a photo booth, chalk art, knot-tying lessons, a succulent potting station, a woodworking demo, mobile screen-printing and more.

If all the interactive art activities and performances weren’t enough to tempt people to pull up a chair and stay awhile, organizers have secured some of L.A.’s most popular food trucks–Kogi BBQ, India Jones and S’Cream– to serve food at the event.

Said Sharpe, “We encourage people to bring a blanket, bring a chair and hang out all day. It’s a chance to meet and hang out with your neighbors.”

As an inaugural event, the group is thankful for its neighbors and groups like the Westchester United Methodist Church, Otis College and LMU for being supportive of WAM. The group is also grateful for the event’s sponsors, including premier sponsor the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation, for enabling them to be able to create something new that locals of all ages can enjoy.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the committee feels that Westchester is experiencing a renaissance, which has created the perfect environment for a local arts festival to thrive. With all of the new families moving in and development in the area, the time looks right to boost the local arts scene.

“I think it’s pretty obvious the demand is here for this, it’s just how we execute it,” says Sharpe. “Westchester is starting to get traction and get the amenities to catch up with everything else that is going on here.”

EACG hopes the neighborhood will come out to the WAM Block Party and join in their celebration of live music, dance, art, food and community. The goal is to make WAM a yearly event that everyone can look forward to.

“Our garden is all about community,” said Sharpe. “One of the things we’re trying to do through the garden is bring people out and connect them in a meaningful way. WAM is another way to do that.”

The inaugural Westchester Arts and Music Block Party will take place on Saturday, September 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Emerson Ave. between 80th Place and 80th Street. The event is free. Food and arts and crafts items from vendors will be available for purchase. While people are encouraged to walk or ride their bikes to the event, parking will be available on the campus of Wright STEAM Magnet.

For more information, please visit wamblockparty.org.