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LA River Celebrated At Free, All-Day Fest At The Soraya, April 5

The LA River is on the verge of a new era. For the past six months, The Soraya/CSUN have brought together eco-artists, students, musicians, dancers, and composers in order to explore the waterway's many complexities in order to tell its story as it is about to change forever. With a mixture of civic pride, environmental awareness and astonishing creativity, this group of artists has harvested vast amounts of wild non-native river reeds, plastics, river rocks and more-all utilized as creative inspiration that will be celebrated in a daylong free festival, Future Currents: LA River, on Friday, April 5 starting at 11am at The Soraya/CSUN.

"The arts can be a powerful means for communities as they face important public issues, influencing hearts and minds, and being an effective way to bring people together with diverse points of view," said Thor Steingraber, Executive Director of The Soraya. "We have historically thought about ways in which sustainability and environmental issues intersect with the performing arts. This six-month project involved two top eco-artists, arts students from CSUN, California's second largest university, and the innovative vision of The Soraya. Through the power of art, music and dance combining with environmental sustainability, we hope Future Currents: LA River project will focus on the some of the crucial environmental issues facing the river and create artistic response to them."

Future Current: LA River Background
Until recently, the significance of the once free-flowing Los Angeles River, a gentle 51-mile waterway meandering through fourteen cities from the Santa Susana Mountains through San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, had been mostly forgotten, or even for some dismissed.

However, that status is undergoing a transformation as the future of the River has risen to the forefront - championed by elected officials, environmentalists, developers, journalists, and many factions of the public who might otherwise not find a common issue such as this to bring Angelenos together in a unique way that propels the conversation about the city in the 21st Century.

A collaborative effort, Future Currents: The Los Angeles River has the combined force of one of the region's most innovative arts organizations and one of the state's largest and most diverse universities to inspire creativity, engagement and awareness about the river that flows through its heart. Leading the efforts will be two of the nation's top eco-artists, Lynn Neuman and Steve Appleton.

Future Currents: LA River Festival Schedule
11:00am & 2pm
Liquid State / CSUN Percussion Ensemble with Danny Shamoun
The CSUN Percussion Ensemble will perform Liquid State, a composition by CSUN student Genevieve Hilburn. The instruments will be made from natural materials gathered from the Los Angeles River, harvested river reeds and river rocks. The ensemble will be joined by Los Angeles Ney player Danny Shamoun.

11:30am
Visioning Bodies/Artichoke Dance choreographed by Lynn Neuman
Eco-Artist and Choreographer Lynn Neuman premieres her piece choreographed for Future Currents: LA River. Visioning Bodies, a contemporary folk dance for a resilient future, creates a way of existing in place, time, and energy that models co-created and interconnected systems.
Visioning Bodies will move throughout The Soraya Courtyard and Lawn, and as well as around and in the sculpture entitled Alluvial Wave, created for Future Currents by Steve Appleton.

12:30pm
Global Trance Ensemble featuring Danny Shamoun
The music of The Global Trance Ensemble has its roots in the musical traditions of Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan. The Global Trance Ensemble makes its debut featuring Los Angeles Ney player Danny Shamoun. Shamoun has brought some of the top LA musicians performing Middle Eastern music together for the first time to highlight the Ney, a flute made from the harvested reed, Arundo Donax, the same material used by Hilburn in Liquid State.

1:30pm
CSUN Kinesiology Students / Student Choreography
Under the direction of Professor Paula Thomson in collaboration with Lynn Neuman, CSUN Dance students will perform works choreographed for Future Currents: LA River. Neuman spent time with the student dancers starting in October of 2018 teaching them about site specific works, and artists' roles in ecological activism.

4:30pm
Happy Hour Performance will feature a reprise of Visioning Bodies and The Global Trance Ensemble
Future Currents: Los Angeles River will conclude with a culminating performance in The Soraya's courtyard, complemented by local food trucks and a beer garden.

About Future Currents: LA River Project
Two of the nation's most engaged artists who work in the sphere of environmental issues head the Future Currents: LA River team. One of the nation's leading eco-artists, Lynn Neuman, artistic director of Artichoke Dance Company, and Los Angeles community activist and environmentalist Steve Appleton, collaborating with CSUN students, a higher learning institution which has been named for two consecutive years by the Sierra Club one of the top 100 university campuses in the country for its sustainability practices.

Future Currents: LA River looks at one of the environmental issues regarding the River. Plagued by the prevalence of Arundo donax, a highly invasive non-native water reed that was introduced to California in the early 19th century, this plant has proven as resilient as it is detrimental to the native ecosystem. The question posed is how it can be mitigated without pesticides, which can have its own deleterious effects.

It is here that Neuman and Appleton focused the work of this project, unleashing the power of art, music, and dance to bring greater awareness to the river and the promise of its future - which is beginning to arrive: in a recent article on the future of the river, the Los Angeles Times noted, "Things have changed over the past few years-dramatically in the last year alone-and a genuinely thriving creative community has blossomed."

Much of the project will occur in Frogtown, a neighborhood just a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles and where Appleton's LA River Kayak Safari is located. Cut off by the sprawling Highway 5, this small river community was nearly forgotten, inhabited mostly by warehouses and light industry. It is here, however, that sections of the LA River most closely resemble its wild past, where water cascades over rocks and where birds nest on the riverbanks.

Along the banks, a 42-acre parcel of land, known as the "G2 parcel" was recently purchased by the City of Los Angeles for redevelopment as a public park. Formerly a train yard, remediation at this site is now underway.

CSUN and Sustainability
California State University, Northridge President Dianne F. Harrison has said that sustainability is on the list of the campuses' strategic priorities. Between 2013-2015, the campus achieved a 24% reduction in water consumption. The CSUN Sustainability Center was founded in 2009 to integrate sustainability practices into all aspects of the campus, from operations and infrastructure to outreach and education.

About The Soraya
The Soraya, a 1700 seat performing arts venue opened in 2011 to serve the CSUN community, the 1.9 million residents of the Valley, and the broader regional market in Los Angeles, was awarded LEED Gold certification (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design), and consistent with university priorities, places sustainability among its key objectives. In 2016, The Soraya presented the Global Currents Festival, which brought together artists from 13 nations and cultures to share perspectives, ancient and modern, about water conservation. For more information, visit The Soraya.org.

About Lynn Neuman and Steve Appleton
Lynn Neuman is Artistic Director of Artichoke Dance Company. She describes Artichoke as an eco-arts action organization that specializes in performances in public spaces such as parks, playgrounds, and festivals. Her site-specific work has been presented across America and internationally, designed to engage communities on local issues, and enthralling diverse audiences and spurring on their joyful curiosity.

Neuman is an American Association of Performing Arts Professionals Leadership Fellow, a Marion International Fellow for the Visual and Performing Arts, and an American Littoral Coastal Clean Up Associate. She is widely known for her multi-year program to mitigate plastic pollution on Coney Island Beach.

Neuman collaborates with Los Angeles artist, educator, and community activist, Steve Appleton, whose work on environmental projects, public arts installations, and other social enterprises have become recognized throughout Southern California. Appleton has collaborated with numerous public agencies including Los Angeles County Vector Control District, Los Angeles Department of Sanitation, and the Los Angeles City Council. A long time Elysian Valley resident, he's been part of the visionary conversation about the LA River for years. His affinity for wild rivers originates from his experiences canoeing the rivers of Michigan as a boy. His company, LA River Kayak Safari is dedicated to the LA River and to creating tangible benefits for the LA community, Elysian Valley (aka Frogtown.)


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