HAVE-A-GREATER BIXBY PARK: ART UNDER UMBRELLAS, JAZZ ATOP BAND SHELLBy Dave Wielenga
The renovation of Bixby Park can sometimes feel like an eternal purchase order, a manifest for elements of infrastructure rendered forever out of reach by a changing wish list and an unwinnable race between fundraising and price increases.
Meanwhile, the revitalization of Bixby Park is evident all over its 16.7 acres of 105-year-old grounds—not to mention the calendar, which seems to get marked up with the details of some new event almost every day … such as Saturday, when the first Art Under Umbrellas exhibition will be presented around the band shell from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. … and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., when the Poly Jazz Combo will use the iconic structure the way the musical gods intended, devoting their weekly Free Jazz in the Park program to composers like Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. And last month began a Farmers Market, which fills Bixby Park with fresh and healthy eats every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Under The Umbrellas is a one-off event, for now. But creating an environment for a variety of local artists (21 of them at last check) to present their work for sale (under umbrellas, we’re presuming—not only a nice touch, but with the weird wet weather, very prescient) further reopens the possibilities for Bixby Park. Ditto for the musical set by an indie band called Sympathetic Frequencies, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. After Bixby Park’s long, steady slide from one of Long Beach’s most-esteemed parks to a sad casualty of the poor and overcrowded conditions that beset some of the surrounding neighborhoods, there is positive energy in the park again.
Art Under The Umbrellas is a fundraiser for Friends of Bixby Park, its not-for-profit guardian angel, and the event is already a moneymaker—each of the artists contributed $50. Other revenue rivulets include a bake sale, an opportunity (none dare call it raffle) drawing and an arrangement with four nearby restaurants—Park Pantry, Olives Gourmet Grocer, Café Ambrosia and Paradise Bar & Restaurant—to offer under-$10, to-go lunches and donate $2 of the price to the park project.
But the success of Art Under the Umbrellas won’t be measured on a ledger; it’ll come down to a head count. Revitalizing Bixby Park doesn’t depend on finding the money for a state-of-the-art sandbox, and restoring its role as Long Beach’s village green won’t be accomplished by city council decree—not that amenties and resolutions would hurt.
But Bixby Park’s place in Long Beach will be determined by people’s daily, personal answer to this question: Want to go to the park? When people are in Bixby Park, the place is vital. When they are there a lot, Bixby Park becomes a town square. When they get to know one another, Bixby Park has a constituency. And when that happens, just watch how fast Bixby Park gets that super-duper sandbox.
ART UNDER UMBRELLAS BIXBY PARK • 139 CHERRY AVE LONG BEACH 90802 • 562.570.1601 • FRIENDSOFBIXBYPARK.ORG • 10:30 AM TO 3:30 PM
FREE JAZZ IN THE PARK POLY JAZZ COMBO • BIXBY PARK • 139 CHERRY AVE LONG BEACH 90802 • 562.570.1601 • FRIENDSOFBIXBYPARK.ORG • 5PM TO 7PM