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Celebration Spectrum brings dynamic DJ sets, art installations to Grand Park

Grand Park’s Celebration Spectrum hopes to bring visitors closer together through outdoor installation art and music. (Courtesy of Maurice de la Falaise, Grand Park)

"Grand Park's Celebration Spectrum"

May 1 to May 31

Grand Park

Free

By Dana Binfet

May 28, 2021 4:16 p.m.

An uplifting art and music installation is finding something to celebrate after a year of isolation.

Curated by Tanya Aguiñiga and Mark “Frosty” McNeill, Celebration Spectrum intends to bring people together following such a challenging year. The free monthlong installation at Grand Park, found near the heart of downtown Los Angeles, features three UCLA DJs out of 24 sets from LA radio station dublab. Grand Park collaborated with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to display the exhibition in tandem with Mental Health Awareness Month. Grand Park’s director, Julia Diamond, said working with the county’s WE RISE initiative has allowed for Grand Park to be in touch with Angelenos’ current realities.

“Our slogan is ‘The park for everyone,’” Diamond said. “We work very hard to reflect, celebrate and honor Los Angeles in all that we do, and part of that is being attuned to what’s going on in LA at any given moment.”

This project is making a space for celebration as people come out of isolation and gather together to share these moments. Picnic blankets dot the grass on the Grand Park lawn as spectators sit, stare at the sky and see the chimes beaded through the trees at the after-party section of the exhibit, Diamond said. In one of the park’s five other sections, Diamond said huge disco balls are suspended 20 feet in the air alongside other iconic decorative elements and party lights born out of LA party supply stores.

Since the artists wanted to place the resources for the project back into the hands of the community, Diamond said Celebration Spectrum brought together local party supply vendors to source out almost 1,000 pieces to make up the installation. Alongside the wide-ranging half-hour DJ sets, she said the outdoor exhibition is dynamic, with different stages to be moved through like a party.

[Related: Digital art exhibit uses shared screens to share themes of humanity, isolation]

As one of the contributing DJs for Celebration Spectrum, UCLA librarian and dublab DJ T-Kay Sangwand said she is excited to see so many artists from across LA join together for this installation to create a safe and celebratory space after the isolation of the pandemic. Her setlist includes field recordings from Iran and California Indigenous communities, and she said she also aims to tie together the La Bamba and Chicano music scene in LA.

“(For) my particular playlist I tried to have music that was representative of these wide-ranging diaspora communities, … hopefully sounds that people might not hear otherwise, but represent all of the different ethnic communities that we have here in LA,” Sangwand said.

With a 12-hour sound slot for 24 different setlists, Sangwand said the DJs incorporate music to showcase a diverse assortment of sounds and experiences. Ethnomusicology doctoral student and dublab DJ Dexter Story said his setlist is an East African music mix featuring songs by artists from the Horn of Africa, which he said he selected for their upbeat tempos match the energetic atmosphere of Celebration Spectrum.

“I’m hoping that this marriage between Grand Park and dublab turns into something that really empowers people,” Story said. “I want my playlist to give people a sense of the diversity in Los Angeles and the diversity on our planet – maybe even inspire people to want to travel again, to go be with people and to bring some peace to the world.”

[Related: School of Music panel to discuss storytelling in a film’s musical composition]

For Alexandra Lippman, also known as DJ Xandão, her setlist was largely influenced by her time in Rio de Janeiro conducting dissertation research on the politics of music and sound. The postdoctoral fellow said her lively Celebration Spectrum set is an intentional collection of music that celebrates cross-border connections. In selecting the music for her playlist, Lippman said she sought out songs to bring about joy after such a hard year. Celebration Spectrum is intended to reflect the diverse LA community while also creating a space for celebration following the pandemic, she said.

After a year of loss, Diamond said Celebration Spectrum creates an experience that fosters connections, evokes memories and provides a sense of enjoyment for the LA community. The installation is a collaboration with the community, Diamond said, encouraging people to submit photos of their celebrations and gatherings. Diamond said the interactive component is an effort to transform visuals into an in-person experience.

“I hope that (the exhibit) will help motivate people to go out as safely as we can, and get some of those special moments and remember what is so nice and juicy about (the) life that we’ve been deprived so much of over the last year,” Diamond said.

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