Autumn and the Arts: A Recap of the Arts and Cultural Events from Fall 2023

Hundreds of California residents and local community members gathered to experienced three Arts in California Parks pilot projects in October 2023. All three projects showcased the intersection of culture, nature, and community in the Golden State, including the fusion of nature and music at Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve, a civic journey with the community arts festival Procession to celebrate the importance of water along the historic paths of the Los Angeles River, and a celebration of life and remembrance at the Dia de los Muertos event at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

Sylvan Sound Check at Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve

On the crisp evening of Friday, October 20th, the tranquil beauty and sounds of Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve merged with the eco-themed melodies of the Jim Ocean Band. The Armstrong Forest Theater served as the backdrop for this musical experience, the Sylvan Sound Check.

Under tall green trees, four musicians stand on a natural stage on a rock wall. They are dressed casually and comfortably. The bass player on the left has a blue electric bass and is involved in playing. The central figure is the singer, holding a microphone and wearing a red cape. Just barely visible behind the red cape is the face of the drummer, concentrating. The last musician has an acoustic guitar and is standing at the microphone singing and playing.
The Jim Ocean Band perform at the Sylvan Sound Check at the Armstrong Forest Theater in Armstrong Redwood State Nature Reserve. Photo by Justin Lindenberg.

Sylvan Sounds, officially launching in the summer of 2024, merges nature and music. On October 20th, the Sylvan Sound Check provided a preview of what’s to come. Stay tuned and mark your calendars for to see different featured artists at the Armstrong Forest Theater in Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve! Get ready for the blended serenading sounds of the majestic redwoods and other symphonies, an experience that will create an unforgettable fusion of music and nature.

Procession Community Event at Los Angeles State Historic Park

A bright sunny day along a gravel path in a park. The path is full of poeple dressed in traditional Japanese robes, most of whom are also carrying paper parasols and other shade. In the background are several folks holding support poles for a light blue ribbon of fabric representing the Los Angeles River.
One of three Procession groups retrace the former paths of the Los Angeles River. Photo by Fulcrum Arts.

The sun was blazing, but that didn’t stop community members in Los Angeles from embarking on a unique civic journey with Procession, a moving arts festival that traces multiple historic paths of the Los Angeles River. This dynamic social art project celebrates the vital importance of water through three walking performances across the city streets, converging at the iconic Los Angeles State Historic Park.

The performance was led by local artists, including members from multiple tribal communities. Lazaro Arvizu Jr. (Gabrielino/Tongva), Tina Calderon (Gabrielino/Tongva, Chumash, Yoeme), and Little Tokyo’s Nobuko Miyamoto guided participants along the river’s former paths, with each artist sharing their distinct cultural practices and traditions along the way.

Dia de los Muertos at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

A smiling dark-skinned woman grins while painting a large mural in bright colors. She's bracing one paint-covered hand against the mural board while painting with the other. Everything is sunny and warm.
Artist Isabel Garcia paints a mural at the Dia de los Muertos event at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Photo by California State Parks, Brian Baer.

In the heart of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, Dia de los Muertos came alive in a vibrant celebration of life and remembrance. Visitors were invited to explore museums, admire altares de muertos (altars of the dead) honoring influential Old Town citizens, and participate in hands-on activities.

One of the highlights of the event was the Community Altar, where attendees could honor their loved ones by contributing their names. This collective remembrance emphasized the power of community and shared memories. Adding a touch of magic to the evening, the Plaza de Armas hosted a free community showing of Disney Pixar’s “Coco.” Families and friends gathered under the stars, embracing the spirit of Dia de los Muertos and reveling in the rich tapestry of traditions that make this celebration so special.

These recent events not only showcase the diverse cultural offerings in California but also underscore the importance of community, nature, and shared experiences in our lives. The Arts in California Parks program and selected projects will continue to offer arts and cultural events that benefit our communities.