(C) 2014 Michal Story www.storyseen.com
(C) 2014 Michal Story www.storyseen.com

CULTURE WATCH — Although I’m a three-decade-plus resident of Santa Monica, I hesitate to admit that I’ve never set foot inside the beautiful and beloved St. Monica’s Catholic Church.

But that is about to change.

This Friday at 8 p.m., The Dream Orchestra, under the leadership of Music Director Daniel Suk, ushers in the holiday music season with Handel’s “Messiah,” featuring the newly formed Opera Chorus of Los Angeles, a group of 35 of LA’s best professional opera and choral singers, along with the Dream Youth Choir, a small group of talented teen vocalists, among them soprano Golda Berkman.

At the tender age of 15, Berkman is on an early trajectory to future operatic renown. She’s already sung Puccini in Irvine, was a soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, has performed with L.A. Opera and will appear onstage at Carnegie Hall.

Berkman opens this Messiah concert with three holiday songs. Alongside three other rising opera stars, she will help bring to life the Messiah’s great arias, duets and more. By the way, sit back and let the professionals do it for you ‚Äì this is not a singalong!

But it’s not just the majesty of the music that’s featured at this special event.

Golda Berkman is the daughter of Urth Caff√© founder, Shallom Berkman. This proud papa is treating the audience to a lavish catered post-concert reception in the church’s grand Banquet Hall, featuring many of Urth Caff√©’s signature artisanal dishes and desserts, and special organic blended teas and coffees.

For tickets to this one-night-only concert, Friday, December 5 at 8 p.m., visitwww.dreamorchestra.orgor call 800-838-3006; senior and student tickets are available and $5 discounts are offered on tickets purchased at Urth Caff√© locations. St. Monica’s Catholic Church is located at 725 California Ave.

A portion of the ticket profits will be donated to Archdiocese Office of Restorative Justice Juvenile Ministry, an organization that helps to rehabilitate formerly incarcerated youth.


youThink is a program of the Zimmer Children’s Museum that empowers youth to find their voices, think critically and take action for social change. Through school, after school, weekend and community programs, youTHink provides underserved communities with arts and leadership training.

Tonight only, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., 36 students from South L.A., Compton, central city, downtown and the eastside will share their visions of “Where I’m From,” in poems and photographs they created as part of youTHink’s Ambassador program, a year-long arts and leadership program.

“Where I’m From” is the culmination of a photography workshop led by award winning photojournalist Sophia Nahli Allison, with students learning key composition concepts as well as techniques to visually explore their lives through the lens of a camera.

Before the workshop began, students crafted poems on the theme that served as their starting point for inspiration, encouraging them to capture moments, objects and surroundings that define “Where I’m From.” The poems will accompany the photographs.

With Christmas and Chanukah just around the corner, the students’ photographs will be for sale and make great gifts. All proceeds benefit the youTHink program and Zimmer Children’s Museum. The exhibition is free, and takes place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. tonight only at Blue Five Art Space, 2935 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. 90064. Find out more atwww.youthink.org.


Santa Monica College has a remarkably accomplished photography department, with an emphasis on providing technical, creative and business skills to people seeking a career in commercial or fine arts photography.

Faculty and industry partnerships, hands-on internships, and relationships with four-year colleges make this a unique community college program, with a comprehensive range of classes for the serious photographer and opportunities for continued study and employment.

In an interview withPhotovideoedu.com, Department Chair Professor Ford Lowcock says that industry partners tell him, “We are no longer just photographers, but now we are content providers. Not only do we teach technique, we must teach our people how to communicate more effectively through imagery. They have to be able to tell a story. This issue of being effective storytellers has been incorporated into the curriculum.”

A good example is work by photographer Michal Story, whose photos are featured in this show. She’s taken images of local buildings (and Millennium Park in Chicago, above) and turned them into constructed fantasy scenes. She’ll have several images on view, including a unique explosive vision of the fuchsia-colored Lorna Jane store and a masterful mash-up of images of the un-built apartment complex on Broadway that’s been boarded up on Santa Monica’s eastside for nearly 20 years.

The curriculum is vast and once they complete the core, students can move on to portfolio classes. “What we have mostly are people who are really hungry to make life changes,” says Lowcock, “people who want to get into photography and succeed. We have a little bit of an older group coming through, so many of them already have a career and have decided they want to change.”

At the end of each fall and spring semester, portfolio students get their own gallery exhibit as a group show. This free exhibition showcases outstanding works by these well-trained mature students.

The Fall Student Portfolio Photo Show will be on view from December 6 – 19 at the SMC Photography Gallery, located opposite the elevators on the second floor of Drescher Hall on the main campus.

A gallery reception will be held this Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. For additional information call (310) 434-4289.

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also reviewed theatre forLAOpeningNights.com.


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