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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
La Plaza de Cultura y Artes
The focus of this podcast is La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, also known as La Plaza. This is a new museum located right next to Olvera Street and Union Station. The address is 501 N. Main St. There is no cost for admission. Parking is available in many different lots that surround Olvera Street and the prices can vary from 5-15 dollars for the day. The hours for the museum are Wednesday-Monday from 12 noon-7 pm.
Our first introduction to this museum was on a field trip with 45 1st graders. We had seen the renovation of the historic building that houses “The Plaza) during our previous visits to Olvera Street but we did not know there was a museum being built. What a pleasant surprise! The focus of this museum is primarily the Mexican-American experience in Los Angeles. For the field trip however, we never went inside the museum but rather explored the edible garden, participated in a cooking lesson and listened to a storyteller. The garden is well-maintained and they grow all sorts of fruits, vegetables and herbs. The children made their own biodegradable pots out of newspaper and planted seeds. The museum staff was exceptionally kind, patient and very knowledgeable about growing vegetables. We also learned that the staff will soon be guiding schools around LA in their own school gardens and that they currently have a pilot program. The cooking demo was a lot of fun: every student was given an area and all of the ingredients and tools to make pico de gallo and then they of course got to eat it. We have learned that their is a new chef that works with students and one of his new creations is ice cream. There is also a field trip option to explore the inside of the museum.
Our most recent visit was with our kids and we spent time at all of the indoor exhibits and also re-explored the outdoor garden. The downstairs is an exhibit called LA Starts Here which is focused on the history of the Mexican American experience in Los Angeles, including ranchos and life under Mexican rule, immigration, worker strikes, participation in the military, movie and television acting, sports figures and more. There was a lot to take in and the exhibits were modern with touch screens and hands on interactivity. This downstairs exhibit also included Voces Vivas, a collection of 4-5 videos of prominent Mexican Americans being interviewed about their experiences in Los Angeles. These include Esteban Torres, a former US congressman and Edward James Olmos, an actor and director.
There was a lot of text here and many areas required explanation from adults so I wouldn’t recommend the downstairs exhibit to children younger than 7.
Upstairs, however, there is a wonderful exhibit called Calle Principal which explores what the downtown area of Los Angeles looked like in the 1920s. My kids had a blast exploring each of the stores and this area is terrific for younger kids. Every room had many ways to interact with the materials. In the pharmacy we could all smell the herbs that were used to treat illnesses. The photography studio had clothes to dress up in. The bookstore had children’s books in Spanish and English to read. There was a record and phonograph store for kids to learn about what music used to be played on.
In addition to exploring this free museum on your own on any given weekend or free time, there are a number of events held here that your family would enjoy. Please check the website, lapca.org, to see if there are any events happening that you could plan on going to.