LOS ANGELES — The pop-up culture fest Our L.A. Voices is all about bringing people together in DTLA’s beautiful Grand Park, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, things this year will be a little bit different as the festival moves online.
Equal parts cook, historian, and teacher, Karla Vasquez has been researching and sharing treasured food culture from her native El Salvador for years. Vasquez said recipes tell not only the story of El Salvador but also of the many strong women in her life that helped make food so important to her.
“I'm an immigrant and a migrant,” said Vasquez. “That narrative is very much foundational just as far as my identity, my values. So, when I intersect with the food world, it's how I've received a lot of my culture, and L.A. has been this place where I can step into the history of my people.”
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Vasquez was scheduled to do a cooking demonstration at this year's Our L.A. Voices culture fest that normally happens in Grand Park. But then COVID-19 happened.
“This pandemic hits, and finally we pivoted and said we're going to do it online,” said Vasquez. “Then people were just so excited.”
One of the headlining bands is Balún which has its roots in Puerto Rico via New York. Band members Angélica Negrón and Jose Olivares are disappointed they won't be able to play in Grand Park but are happy the festival was able to pivot to online live streaming.
“We were really excited to perform at Grand Park,” said Negrón. "But we're also incredibly grateful that at this time Our L.A. Voices found a way to make it happen and still honor their commitments to the artists.”
Olivares says connecting with the audience is key for Balún, so they had to reconceive their performance mode to suit the new situation.
“There’s no feedback. You don't have people in front of you that are reacting to it and you're like adapting to those reactions. We didn't want to compromise our live performance just because we're at home," Olivares said.
Billed as the spring arts festival, Our L.A. Voices focuses on the cultural diversity that makes L.A. so rich and demonstrates Grand Park's commitment to local artists.
“I love to share, and I love storytelling so much,” said Vasquez. “And I think that we are in a story all together right now.”
Almost all of the artists scheduled to perform will take part in the reinvented festival, and while Grand Park itself will be empty, the sense of community will still be there.
The festival will take place online April 25 and 26.