For the past 20 years, the Greenway Arts Alliance has supported programs at Fairfax High School through the weekly Melrose Trading Post, productions at the Greenway Court Theatre and partnerships with the community.
On Sunday, Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Greenway Arts Alliance’s co-founders Pierson Blaetz and Whitney Weston will join supporters and school officials to celebrate 20 years of improving education and making a difference in the community.
“Twenty years ago, Pierson and I saw the enormous possibilities in partnering with Fairfax High School. We knew that arts education and working with the school could be transformative, for them and for us,” Weston said. “Our initial introduction was a parents’ meeting at which only two parents [and] the principal were there. We quickly realized more than an arts program, the school needed money. So we created the Melrose Trading Post, which was supposed to be a one-day event, and has since become both an economic generator [and] an incredible teaching tool for the students. That initial foray has turned into a commitment of excellence for the students, the artists and the community.”
Blaetz came to Los Angeles from Pennsylvania in 1991 to pursue a career in acting. He and Weston came up with the idea to help the nearest high school in the neighborhood. He never imagined in 1997 that the project would be so successful.
“What was a single idea for the school has grown into a community based partnership that has benefitted the entire Fairfax community,” Blaetz added. “Families make their living through Melrose Trading Post, students find their passion through the Greenway Institute and many professional artists have built their careers at the Greenway Court Theatre.”
The celebration on Oct. 8 begins with the Greenway Arts Alliance Donor and Friends Brunch and Live Musical Tribute from 10 a.m. to noon. The organization’s supporters will be joined by students from Fairfax High School. Seamus Dever, of the television show “Castle,” will host a musical tribute. Tickets to the brunch and musical tribute start at $55.
The festivities at the Melrose Trading Post will occur throughout the afternoon. Greenway will honor numerous supporters including Lisa Richards and Steve Mendillo, who will receive the Greenway Arts Alliance’s Arts Leadership Award; fashion designer and former Melrose Trading Post vendor Shareen Mitchell, who will receive the Melrose Trading Post Visionary Award; and Fairfax High School principals Carol Truscott, Carmina Nacorda and Kenneth N. Adiekweh, who will be awarded special recognition honors.
The public is also invited to the “Market Mash” celebration from noon to 5 p.m. at the Melrose Trading Post. It includes a performance of “Oh What a Night!-A Musical Tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.” Entertainment will also be provided by the a capella group Harvard Yardbirds, Da’ Poetry Lounge, Greenway Court Theatre alumni performers, actress Sirena Irwin, the Fairfax High School Singers, pep band and Korean drummers. Singer, actress and Hollywood personality Angelyne will appear with her famous pink Corvette. Photographer Osker Jimenez will display his collection photographs of The Lava Lady in an exclusive pop-up exhibit. There will also be children activities, photo ops and more. Entrance to the Melrose Trading Post, which includes the “Market Mash,” are $3.
Blaetz said the Melrose Trading Post is central to the Greenway Arts Alliances’ success. Every Sunday, 245 vendors gather in the school’s parking lot near Fairfax and Melrose avenues, offering unique items ranging from antiques and vintage clothing to hand-made goods and furniture. Greenway Arts Alliance supports arts programming at the school through admission and vendor fees from the Melrose Trading Post. Fairfax High School students volunteer at the Melrose Trading Post, providing them work experience, Blaetz said.
Greenway Arts Alliance also stages student and professional productions at the Greenway Court Theatre, located on the campus near Fairfax Avenue. The organization renovated the venue in 2000 into a 99-seat theater. “The House on Mango Street,” a production based on a best-selling book of the same name by author Sandra Cisneros, runs through Oct. 28.
Blaetz said helping students at Fairfax High School has become “a life mission,” and the Greenway Arts Alliance is “going stronger than ever.” The celebration on Sunday will kickoff a year of programing at the Greenway Court Theatre.
The Greenway Residence Program will open the venue to productions by emerging Los Angeles-area theater companies that do not have a permanent home. The Greenway Arts Alliance and Urban Theatre Movement will co-produce Oliver Mayer’s “Yerma in the Desert” in November.
Blaetz added that he always seeks support from community partners and encouraged the public to get involved.
“In looking ahead, we are eager to share our unique approach,” Blaetz said. “Based on the hundreds of inquiries we have received from schools and nonprofits, there are many organizations who could benefit from our successes and learn from our mistakes over the past 20 years. In many ways, we’ve never felt stronger and more prepared to be artists, educators and community builders.”
For information, visit greenwayartsalliance.org.
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