We had the good fortune of connecting with lily larsen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi lily, how do you think about risk?
I think about risk as a battle between pushing myself to constantly try new things to evolve as a person and test my limits on how much I am willing to go and grow out of my comfort zone or do something I normally wouldn’t do if I feel that it is the right thing to do. I do believe it is a good thing to be content yet I also do not find myself to be fully content with my life yet, which is why I always find myself taking risks. I find content in taking risks because in this crazy world why shouldn’t we take some risks. Lately, I’ve actually been changing my perspective on what it means to take risks. Often I would see it as a scary thing, but now I see it as an opportunity to spread my wings as a person and develop a more open understanding of how I see the world.

There are so many things that I rarely ever take a risk on, such as skating up a ramp and pivoting back down.

When it comes to my efforts in Community Projects taking risks is something that has only pushed me forward in understanding my personal ability to bring folks together and make changes. Recently, I started the first-ever Public Arts Committee on the Mid City Neighborhood Council, it was an idea I had to share public art and connect local artists around Mid-City, 4 months later and we have a whole network of artists and are already planning a few murals to go up in the neighborhood. I could not just sit on this idea for months and never take the risk to propose it to the council. Imagine if everyone put their ideas to action. It’s one of the toughest things to do at first but my gosh is it the most empowering thing ever! I’ve only found good things through taking risks in my passion and career.

Needless to say, when it comes to taking risks in life- I’ve also found it important to pay attention to where the risks you take- take you.

Sometimes the more I push myself and my limits, I choose not to acknowledge that I may not be ready to deal with something new or different mentally. It’s more of a “let me see how much I can handle and just keep it pushing” mentality which I assume can sometimes stem from an unsteady environment. I find it very easy to adapt to constantly changing situations (I’m not quite sure if that’s a good or a bad thing). If you are like me and constantly feel on the move while trying to pace yourself at the same time- I think It’s good to just have time to sit with and digest whatever risk it is you are taking, whether that’s a project or a relationship or even a new route or latte flavor-. I tend to push myself too hard, in constant craving of those experiences, and don’t sit and listen to myself when it says “yo you need to take a step back and chill for a sec”. Don’t try to control life, just let Jesus or whoever takes the wheel for a while and that’s when the really exciting risks come to you!

I think it’s good to write down a list of things you want to do- and just start doing them! Everyone has different things they may consider a risk.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a local, I feel fortunate to experience theatre and art in so many pockets of the city. Yet! If one were to dive deep and explore each community of LA and the arts programs it offers, you would be amazed at the disparity in our different neighborhoods – some areas have access to everything you could imagine – and a few blocks away – there’s a desert. This runs along class lines, which is something our city needs to address in order to be great.

I grew up inside an arts program for youth – young kids with means and without were welcome in this theatre program and I have witnessed firsthand how art saves and changes lives. It opens our eyes, makes us dream of possibilities, and wakes the imagination that the education system can often dampen.

Art is fundamental to every child’s education. There is proven recognition that theatre teaches children lifelong skills – tools that they can use in any field they pursue. We never imagine a child without the sense of imagination, or creativity or without empathy – so how can we even conceive of our schools or communities without art?

Through my experience as an arts advocate i have been inspired to become an active leader for social change of the arts in my community: I believe it’s vital for us young people to access, expand and express our creativity through theatre and my vision and life goal is for communities and schools all across Los Angeles to have arts as not just an outlet or some kind of “enrichment” but to be given priority the same way they give math and science top billing!

The neighborhood of Mid- City has a rich history in the arts and culture of Los Angeles. But for a neighborhood where renowned singer Ray Charles had his recording studio back in the day, there is a lack of public art experiences for the Angeleno of Mid-City. The pandemic has impacted how we may be able to experience art and music in the form of art galleries or music festivals, but there is still a way to promote and encourage artistic experiences in our neighborhood through curating murals and creating a network of the artists and performing arts/art non-profits in Mid City.

Art is an experience for everyone, it does not matter whether you are homeless, your occupation or where you are from, it’s something for everyone to enjoy so why not push for an inclusive and creative environment through art!
I proposed the idea of this committee to connect local artists together and celebrate our history and our community.

My goal is to have a mural commissioned on the history and culture of mid-city. Oftentimes, public art can be associated with the changes that come with gentrification that try to erase the longstanding community, we can change that narrative which is also often associated with exclusivity. We can show through art that mid-city has always had a rich culture of the arts and we are inclusive of everybody while also promoting the importance of our longstanding community. Mid City and West Adams have always had a vibrant artist community and we are a community of hardworking Angelenos, It is important that people see this and recognize that our neighborhood is unique and strong.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My Best Friend and I hold pride on refusing to use any sort of GPS/MAPS, especially after taking busses for years. yet, if I was to entertain someone from out of town I would hope they are exposed to all LA, this is (given the COVID restrictions)

Pick up some house of pies pie, Drink at Echo Parque and people watch, Go to some of the views over off Sunset.

Hang out at the local parking lot which has turned itself into a homemade skatepark and then skate over to Adams and Crenshaw and get the best Birria Quesadilla you could ever find, proceed down Crenshaw (If it’s a Sunday) to head to the nearest takeover. Proceed to View Park and enjoy a clean view of downtown.

Go to Chinatown eat at Phillipe’s and support all the local business over there,- proceed to Olvera street, watch the dancing and get some more food and souvenirs to take home. If it is Christmas time then you will be able to experience Las Posadas

Walk all over Downtown. Go to Melrose and go eat at Pinks, go to Hollywood Blvd (from Cahuenga to Wilcox)

Go to MacArthur Park and enjoy their summer concert series

Go to the Ahmanson and the music center, get Starbucks at Grand Park and proceed on the Red line to Hollywood and Vermont, go check out Los Feliz and then hop on the 2 and head over to Thai Town, go get some Thai Grub off of Hollywood and Western.

Then proceed to the Byzantine-Latino Quarter in Pico-Union and go to Papa Cristos if you are Greek Orthodox, you may enjoy the church across the street.

Head east towards USC, check out the Doheny Mansion and walk around Mt. St. Marys campus, enjoy some good food over there (lots of options) then proceed to see any friends in the neighborhood.

Lastly, Don’t forget to go play pool at Dongs in K-Town. Support the Market Street Swapmeet. I urge everyone who visits the city to support our local longtime dives, diners, lil restaurants, cafes, street vendors, farmers markets, hot dog stands, produce trucks, and food trucks.

Go to a backyard show and check out the bob baker marionette theatre,
Go to the Magic Castle and Yamashiro (of course)
If you are on the Westside you will find that the Beaches right of Washington blvd. are a bit more empty than Santa Monica. El Segundo has a cute little village that makes a nice last stop before you head back to the airport.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Dante, Blaire, Liam, Julia, Heav, Tyler, Ms. Shelly, Cesar, Wilson, and family, Ms. Carmen, Mr. Meeks, and the folks on the local neighborhood councils, Ms. Julianna Liana. The local artists who attend the public art committee meetings, Allison, Ami & Jason, Ed and Ron, the opportunities at EmpowerLA, Ms. Semee, Ms. Jasmine, and the free programs put together at LA City Hall with the Mayors Youth Council that I attended throughout High School, Ms. Julia, LA Drama Club, Rock camp for girls, Baldwin hills camp, Center theatre group youth programs. The folks part of the Mid City LA Tenants Union. Mid City and West Adams, Ktown, Crenshaw, Leimert Park, Arlington Heights, and the LAnd.

Instagram: lilylarsen

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lilylarsenadolescentactivist/

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=if3qZWvQvXuILOOY1iLDbw

Image Credits
@TELETACO

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