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‘LA Vibes’: First Thursdays brings mural art, skating and UCLA spirit to Broxton

A mural is pictured. April’s First Thursdays event on Broxton Avenue featured UCLA alumnus and artist Lily Breeze (right) and her team painting a cityscape of Los Angeles. (Jonah Danesh/Daily Bruin)

By Eva Danesh and Jonah Danesh

April 9, 2024 8:22 p.m.

This post was updated April 9 at 9:34 p.m.

The UCLA community celebrated Los Angeles culture Thursday at April’s First Thursdays block party.

Roller skating, skate performances, a live mural painting and food trucks were featured on Broxton Avenue for “LA Vibes,” drawing in more than 2,200 attendees, said Eddie North-Hager, interim executive director of UCLA Media.

Chancellor Gene Block said the monthly event series has deepened the university’s connection to Westwood Village and has brought in tens of thousands of people over the past two years.

“Overall 50,000 people have come,” Block said. “Hopefully this is going to catalyze this relationship, and we’ll see Westwood come more alive for us.”

[Related: Westwood celebrates community through inaugural First Thursdays event]

The inaugural First Thursdays event in March 2022 featured artist and UCLA alumnus Lily Breeze painting a mural honoring UCLA. Breeze returned to this month’s event to paint a cityscape of LA.

Joined by her team, Ja and David Bey, Breeze said she started her sketch early in the day to bring the art to life when attendees arrived, adding elements of graffiti with spray paint, paint markers and stencils. As her team worked throughout the evening, students and community members were invited to add to the mural using spray paint to tag their names and draw symbols, she added.

Taking a blank wall and making it a colorful skyline as a community is representative of LA culture, Breeze said.

“What’s beautiful about LA natives specifically is that we take something and make beautiful things out of it,” Breeze said. “Bridging different art forms, different styles to create what is LA.”

(Jonah Danesh/Daily Bruin)
This month’s theme, “LA Vibes,” celebrated Los Angeles and its culture. Pictured are attendees using spray paint, stencils and paint markers on their own city limit signs. (Jonah Danesh/Daily Bruin)

Skating was front and center at the event. Attendees enjoyed performances from the LA Skate Hunnies and the UCLA Skate Club and were able to attempt to roller skate on their own.

The LA Skate Hunnies started out as a space for female skaters and has since expanded to include everyone on all types of wheels, including bikes, skateboards, longboards, inline skates and roller skates, said member Francisca Cromwell. The group performed at the event and led a rollout for attendees.

Since there are few designated places for skaters around LA, having an organized group to go on rollouts safely is valuable, Cromwell said. She added that the community the group has created is important to her.

“It took me a year to find it after moving to LA, but now I have a group of friends around one of my favorite activities,” she said.

UCLA’s Skate Club was founded with a similar mission – to create a community of Bruin skaters, said Noe Cazares Jr., a board member and one of the club’s founders.

When he came to campus, he said he found fellow Bruin skaters who joined together to create a community.

“Ultimately, our goal is to foster community between skaters and legitimize skateboarding as a sport and an art,” said Cazares, a fourth-year neuroscience student.

The Skate Club holds skate sessions in designated areas on campus and performed skate demonstrations at Thursday’s event.

(Jonah Danesh/Daily Bruin)
Pictured are the LA Skate Hunnies, a skating community that performed for First Thursdays attendees and later led a rollout in Westwood. (Jonah Danesh/Daily Bruin)

Other students also found the event’s location beneficial in allowing them to connect to LA.

The event’s proximity to university housing also made it an accessible activity, said Jessica Tam, a third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student.

The event’s theme aligned well with LA’s vibe, offering students a chance to unwind and enjoy their evening, said Bobby Zole, the founder of Splatterz Painting Studio in Westwood. Events like First Thursdays serve as an ideal platform for experiencing Westwood and uncovering new activities and places otherwise undiscovered, he added.

Zole said he appreciates the event’s efforts and success in attracting a diverse crowd to the village.

“It is a great community event that not only brings together college students, but it brings in a lot of families from the surrounding areas,” he said.

(Jonah Danesh/Daily Bruin)
April’s First Thursdays event attracted over 2,200 attendees, according Eddie North-Hager, interim executive director of UCLA Media. Over the past two years, the event series has hosted tens of thousands of attendees. (Jonah Danesh/Daily Bruin)

Idella Smolyar, a fourth-year psychology student, said she appreciates having a spirited event at the start of the quarter. She added that the theme resonated with her because even as an LA local, UCLA has still given her a different perspective of the city and what it has to offer.

As for future events, North-Hager highlighted that Joy Fest, now in its third year, has become a highly anticipated celebration of spring at UCLA, featuring a vibrant mix of intellectual and creative expressions through stage performances, brass band music and dancing, perfectly encapsulating the dynamic UCLA spirit.

Ultimately, Block said community members from across LA joining First Thursdays reflects UCLA’s unique engagement with the neighborhood.

“We’re a big family here,” Block said. “You think about all the people who attend our sports events – many of them are not alumni. They just love being part of our community. It’s wonderful.”

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