Mama Laura outside the original Babe's & Ricky's Inn on Central Avenue with Jonathan Hodges.
Mama Laura outside the original Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn on Central Avenue with Jonathan Hodges.

I first encountered artist Kim McCarty’s work on the walls of her husband’s famed restaurant, the eponymous and trendsetting Michael’s in Santa Monica.

Lest you think this is simple nepotism, Michael’s is renowned for hosting private gallery showings upstairs. And McCarty is a respected artist who’s been featured in numerous museum and gallery exhibitions across the country, and her work is included in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and L.A.’s Hammer Museum.

Now you can sign up for the opportunity to work alongside her as “Kim McCarty Paints” at Santa Monica Museum of Art. This pop-up installation and art sale are presented by GRACIE, the museum’s award-winning gift store. McCarty is donating the majority of proceeds to the museum.

A watercolor studio in the project room will provide visitors with close-up access to McCarty at work. Visitors can sign up to paint alongside McCarty in this setting.

Best known for her fragile and ephemeral images of slender, youthful figures, McCarty uses a “wet into wet” watercolor medium that allows the paint to flow and pool, creating ethereal patterns over the surfaces of the paper.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of translating my very private art practice into the public space of the Santa Monica Museum of Art,” McCarty said. “The process will certainly affect both my work and the work of visitors who paint alongside me.”

Register in advance at (workshop general admission $25, members/students $10). “Kim McCarty Paints” opens April 6 and runs through April 20.


Blues, live and on film


Devotees of the blues get a double treat, this week only, as “Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn” opens at Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex Friday, April 5.

This award-winning documentary offers live blues performances to complement the movie, which tells the story of the last days of a legendary L.A. blues club, recounted by the musicians who played there.

The back story’s almost as interesting as the story of “Mama Laura,” Laura Mae Gross, who ran this legendary club for 53 years, and who died at the tender age of 90 during the making of the film.

Director/producer Ramin Niami, an Iranian-American filmmaker (known with his co-producer Behrouz Arshadi as the “Iranian Blues Brothers”), spent three years earning the trust of the South Central Los Angeles community to document this important piece of L.A. blues and music history.

Niami gathered the stories of musicians who played at Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn, run by Mississippi-born Mama Laura, who brought well-known and up-and-coming musicians together, regardless of race, age, or gender.

Originally located on legendary Central Avenue in South Central L.A., Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn drew world-famous bluesmen like John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Albert King, who often dropped in to the club to jam with L.A.’s best blues artists, Guitar Shorty, Keb’ Mo’, Zac Harmon, Deacon Jones and Ray Bailey.

The film features original music by some of the most important blues artists alive and features stunning guitar performances and personal stories about what it means to devote oneself to the hard blues life.

Last month, Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn premiered as the centerpiece of L.A.’s Pan African Film Festival and took home the festival’s Programmer’s Award.

There are four daily screenings. Live blues performances and Q&As will follow all 7 p.m. screenings and on the weekend, the 4 p.m. screenings as well; no additional fees required, just your movie ticket.

So far the line-up includes Ray Bailey, Friday, April 5 (7 p.m.); Gregg Wright, Saturday, April 6 (4 p.m.); Dennis Jones, Saturday, April 6 (7 p.m.); Deacon Jones, Sunday, April 7 (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.), Southside Slim, Monday, April 8 (7 p.m.); George Dez, Tuesday, April 9 (7 p.m.); Richard Martin-Ross, Wednesday, April 10 (7 p.m.); and Suzanne Thomas, Thursday, April 11 (7 p.m.).

Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn ends April 11. If you miss it at the Monica 4-Plex there’ll be a digital release and it will be available April 9 on iTunes Premium, Amazon, YouTube and elsewhere on the web. More info at


The original party animals


Jacaranda, Music at the Edge, adds its voice to Britten 100/LA, the citywide centenary anniversary of composer Benjamin Britten.

These bold music presenters plan a three-concert survey of Britten’s music, starting on Sunday, April 7 with “February House: Brooklyn’s Original Party Place.” The theme comes from the storied Brooklyn residence where Britten and his partner, tenor Peter Pears, lived in the early 1940s

Located at 7 Middaugh St. (and long since demolished) it was called “The February House,” because many of its celebrated residents had February birthdays. It became a gathering place for composers, literary lights and a famous stripper.

In 1939, Britten and Pears left England by ship to avoid the war and start a new life in New York, where they became lovers. For a busy and intoxicating year, they lived at February House with poet W.H. Auden, stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, authors Jane and Paul Bowles, magazine maven George Davis and the children of writers Thomas Mann and Carson McCullers. Composer Aaron Copland partied at the house, as did critic and composer Virgil Thomson, Balinese gamelan expert Colin McPhee, 24-year-old composer Leonard Bernstein, singer-actress Lotte Lenya, and ballet’s George Balanchine, among many others.

April’s concert evokes this creative and social nexus with music by Thomson, Copland, Paul Bowles and McPhee, as well as by Britten. The concert will feature music by duo pianists Anna Grinberg and Liam Viney, Keve Wilson on oboe and Eric Jacobs on clarinet.

The second concert takes place on April 27 with a staging of “Curlew River,” a 1963 chamber opera intended for performance in a church, and featuring tenor Steven Tharp and members of the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus.

The series concludes on June 1 with “Young Apollo: God of Music, Poetry and Healing,” surveying Britten’s work from piano pieces written between 1925 and 1963, to his last major work, the Third String Quartet from 1976.

For reservations and information visit or call (213) 483-0216. All concerts take place in the architecturally stunning chapel of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica.


Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for

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