A cultural gem in Santa Monica, the 18th Street Arts Center, is celebrating its 20th year, along with its adjacent arts center, Highways. Both organizations were founded to provide gallery and performance space to artists with alternative visions, and in the case of 18th Street, to also provide studio space. Despite the increasing difficulties of funding for the arts, 18th Street and Highways have prevailed.18th Street is marking the anniversary with two events. On April 11, a private dinner and benefit (which sold out quickly) was held at 18th Street, with special guest of honor Sir Ken Robinson, who led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education. On May 2, 18th Street will host, in the words of Clayton Campbell, 18th Street’s Artistic Director, “a free and open to the public Art Night, in which we will have several exhibits opening, and all of the studios will be open. Typically at these events we get about 500-700 people attending. It’s a really wonderful way to demystify the artist’s process-people are welcome to go into their studios, meet them.”During the weekend of May 1-2, Highways will also be commemorating its 20th birthday with a free theatre event, “CPR: A Public Training in Life Saving Skills.” This is the project of John Malpede, “ who’s a very important performance artist and director in Los Angeles,” said Campbell. Malpede has been working with the homeless through OPCC, and with Henriette Brouwers, will be directing members of the OPCC community in the event.Campbell has been co-director of 18th Street (along with Jan Williamson) for 15 years. Speaking of the organization, he told the Mirror that he feels that he and Williamson “really brought 18th Street from its formative years to where it’s an internationally recognized arts center. We focus on Los Angeles based artists but we have a very strong international program, which has become a model for a lot of different programs around the world.“The mission of 18th Street is to provoke public dialogue. We will always do that. We believe in free speech, free activity, and artists being part of the mainstream that contribute to the solutions that we need in our social structure.”
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