Chiwan Choi getting everyone pumped up for the next 90 days.

Chiwan Choi getting everyone pumped up for the next 90 days.

Sprints for the Arts

Writ Large Press' 90x90 series; Cielo Gallery; Wolf and Crane

Sprints. They’re good for the body, in short and intermittent bursts. Are they good for the arts?

90x90LA was a series of inclusive literary events held 90 days in a row in 2014, hosted by Writ Large Press. They’re back at it again this year with a focus on cultural solutions for the end of times we might as well be living in. Potlucks, readings, collaborations, round tables and so forth—spread throughout downtown, Little Tokyo and South Central—with Cielo Gallery as the project’s base camp.

It sounds ambitious. It sounds exhausting. It sounds insane. Which makes it worth doing, if you ask me.

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Me pretending to be an extrovert with Renee Johnson giving me the thumbs up!

I went to the opening event at Cielo not knowing what to expect. It was a refreshingly low-key potluck, with most of the people in attendance being writers. I felt a little bit like an outsider because I’m a visual and performance artist so I’m unfamiliar with that community. I pretended to be an extrovert and struck up conversations with a dancer/teacher/poet, a body painter, Cielo gallery owner Skira Martinez, and co-coordinator of both the series and Writ Large, Chiwan Choi. With a focus on community and the spirit of collaboration, this opening night was a lot less extravaganza, and a lot more “let us all gird our loins.”

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Skira Martinez and Chiwan Choi

After looking over the schedule posted on their website, and then at my own, I decided that the next event in the series I’d make an effort to show up for would be “Drunken Masters Comedy,” held at Wolf and Crane in Little Tokyo—great bar! The way this event works: comedic writers debut essays they’ve been working on, and the “masters”— comedians and writers working professionally in entertainment—do a shot before each set and then offer useful critique.

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The “Masters” L to R: Janine Brito, Kevin Kataoka, Tamra Brown

It was such a great show! The audience had an opportunity to hear from four different writers of various backgrounds, three of whom were women (fuck yeah). It’s a brave thing to get up in front of strangers and offer your creative work for judgment and critique, and comedy is NOT easy. So kudos to Lisa Deng, Amanda Choo Quan, Tanha Dil and Michael L. Porter. They each offered us deeply personal, extremely relatable and funny stories pulled from their private lives, not-so-private experiences, and musings about the the City of Angels. The judges for the evening were hilarious in their critiques, never mean spirited, and really cared about offering advice that the comedians could use to push the comedy of their stories without disrespecting the source of what made them great.

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The evening’s first two performers: Lisa Deng and Amanda Choo Quan with her Lionel Richie mask

At the event, I had the opportunity to finally meet Peter Woods, another co-founder of Writ Large Press. He confirmed that as a result of this past Sunday’s event—a gathering of minds where curators and event-planners worked with intention—78 out of the 90 days were now filled.

I have to say, I love the DIY spirit of the entire endeavor; the focus on community and inclusion using culture as an opportunity to push civic engagement. If you’re reading this and you decided not to go to at least one 90×90 event, I feel quite comfortable calling you a bad person. Handle yourself. Get involved. This 90-day sprint will keep the LA arts community in great shape.

Photos by Alexia Lewis