EXCLUSIVE: Jim Farber Travels Route 66 as the Arts Move West in Los Angeles
Artist and Journalist, Jim Farber, chats with Shalom Life about Route 66 and the death of the “Triad of the Arts Community”.
Jim Farber has had his hand firmly placed on the pulse of Los Angeles culture for thirty years as an artist and prize-winning journalist. Many people recognize his name from his byline in either the Copley Newspapers’ Daily Breeze’s weekend Rave Section and Daily News’ arts section where he covered classical music, opera, theatre, museums and a plethora of subjects ranging from NASCAR races to his 2008 interview with Geraldine Ferraro which made national headlines. Some remember him from his Daily Variety music reviews and others still from the beginnings of his journalistic career, in 1982, as the opera critic for the Jewish Community Bulletin.
But before he turned to journalism he was active as an artist and producer. He served as Associate Producer of the PBS television series Critic at Large, produced the first television special with British Rock group Pink Floyd for KQED in San Francisco, and was Displays Coordinator for Filmex, the Los Angeles International Film Exposition.
Photography aficionados knew him as a photo-montagist of considerable reputation. His “Dreamscapes” were the subject of major articles in Darkroom Photography and Popular Photography. His works were shown at the Popular Photography Gallery in New York, the Santa Barbara Museum, at the CameraWorks gallery in Los Angeles, which he helped to found, and at a recent thirty year retrospective on his photography at the Torrance Museum.
After thirty years you might expect that Jim would be slowing down and taking it easy but nothing could be further from the truth. He always seems to be working on several projects simultaneously. “You have to compartmentalize your mind. The brain is like a desktop. You work on a file, put it aside and pull up another file,” Farber shares.
For the past two years one of his files has been curating an upcoming show on Route 66 for the Autry National Center that will open at the Western Heritage Museum in May 2014. Route 66, of course, is the legendary way west immortalized by the Bobby Troupe song, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and the hit ‘60s TV series starring Martin Milner and George Maharis.
I talked with Jim recently in his backyard, which is only a few blocks from historic Route 66. His eyes lit up as he told me about a few of his favorite objects in the upcoming show. “We’ve got the original handwritten manuscript of The Grapes of Wrath, the actual sign from the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque, a 1960 Corvette that mirrors the one from the TV series, paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, and photographs by Dorothea Lange.
Disney Pixar will have a major exhibit from Cars Land and the movie Cars. Google Street View will have an interactive 360 degree view that will let the viewer to stop and take a look around anywhere they choose on the drive from Chicago to Los Angeles.” And of course, every recorded version of the song will be available for the sound system.”
He becomes more serious when asked about the current state of the arts in Los Angeles. He points to steady growth, especially since the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. He sees the number of presenters increasing and the audience growing, and he points to a westward movement.
“There is a proliferation of arts organizations coming to the west side. The Broad Stage will be opening in Santa Monica, and the Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills. The Center Theatre Group has already established the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City and the Actors’ Gang has moved there as well. The Jacaranda Festival in Santa Monica will be presenting a John Cage Festival.”
But he’s concerned with a growing problem of shrinking media coverage. He points out that the LA Times is the only major newspaper left and that’s where diminishing advertising budgets get spent making survival more difficult for other publications. The proliferation of Internet blogs has left a vacuum of fact checking in the information that is reaching the public. In short, there are plenty of artists and presenters but they are struggling more to get their work noticed. He sees it as the weak link in what he terms the “Triad of the Arts Community: presenter, audience, and press.”
Some projects take more time than others to complete but Jim Farber’s efforts continue. He produces and gets the word out. He still covers the opera for the Los Angeles Newspaper Syndicate. He adds that discussions are underway for the Route 66 exhibit to move to museums in St. Louis, Tulsa, Albuquerque, and Oakland. He also found time to recently write the program notes for the Center Theatre Group’s production of Waiting for Godot.
If all that isn’t enough, he also writes about his travels throughout the world for Creators.com, which syndicates them to newspapers throughout the country. Check his travel articles on www.creators.com in the lifestyles/travel section. Enter “Jim Farber” in the search box and find not only some incredible travel articles (be sure to check the one on Masada) but take a look at some of his really amazing photographs as well.