By Brandy Black
Growing up in a big city like Los Angeles affords a child advantageous access to culture, art, music, and architecture, but it can be lacking as to a sense of community, a place to connect on an intimate level. A big-city parent might also feel prevented from letting her children explore their surroundings freely. An over-protective maternal instinct can’t help but kick in when considering the inherent dangers of traffic, strangers, and crowds. My little Angelenos are simply not permitted to be as independent as I was when I was growing up. This burdens me, because I believe community and independence are essential ingredients to a child’s growth. Which is why my wife and I go out of our way to find opportunities -here in L.A. -where our children can run free.
We found the answer in Skirball Cultural Center’s Family Amphitheater summer performances. On a recent Sunday morning, my family and I ventured out for Bonne Musique Zydeco, music inspired by blues artists of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. I knew this would be not only an opportunity for the kids to hear music beyond Taylor Swift but for us to extend our living room dance party to a larger audience.
As always, telling the kids we were going to break routine and do something different resulted in moans and complaints. But soon after we arrived, they couldn’t stop dancing. My wife and I sat back and watched as our kids did their thing. They danced. They raced. They chased. My three-year-old son found the water fountain (on his own!) to hydrate between songs. I was transformed back to the days when my parents would take me to local music festivals and I would “disappear” while they caught up with friends. It felt good to be my own person while my kids did the same. We were all empowered.
After the show we explored Noah’s Ark, a long-running Skirball favorite. We are no strangers to this exhibit, and attend each year. What I love most about this installation is that it appeals to kids of every age. Our 7-year-old loves to point out the objects that make up each animal, like combs, purses, bottle caps, and bicycle parts. Our twins (age 3) were mesmerized by the life-sized giraffe, climbing the ark, playing with puppets, and conducting a storm. My wife and I? We sat watching from the gorillas’ laps as our kids’ imaginations went wild. It is a beautiful thing to see your children inspired by creativity. We left past nap time when they couldn’t keep their eyes open any longer, but as we walked out my son said “What’s the name of that place again?”
“Skirball Cultural Center.”
“Best. Day. Ever!”