Juan Devis, KCETLink


The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information visit www.mylariver.org

KCET Departures is a multimedia oral history project exploring the neighborhoods of Los Angeles through community engagement and digital literacy youth programs. KCET Departures will create an online platform to publish stories and ideas gathered through immersive activities in the NELA communities:



My name is Juan Devis. I am the Vice President for Arts and Culture at KCETLink. We develop and produce and do a lot of different types of projects that involve both broadcasting and digital and new media. And at the same time, we have been trying to really find ways to really engage the community and find ways for them to participate in the development of the content that we have.

Departures began back in 2007 as part of a project that was based on cultural journalism. The idea of it was to prove that in different places in Los Angeles, there was enough culture and enough art and vitality that you could just spend one day in one block and you would be amazed as to how much history and stories and life and food all this stuff has.

One of the most important installments that Departures has ever embarked on has been the mapping and telling of the stories and history of the Los Angeles River. We got support from the Boeing Foundation to spend pretty much a couple of years looking at the history and the geography and the plans for revitalization of the L.A. River. We began in 2008 and since then we have become really a destination locally and in some cases nationally that tells the story of the Los Angeles River and the its future.

We have done that in many different ways. We have an editorial space, a blog where we are following the news on the Los Angeles River all the time. We have field guides where people can find out about activities they can do around the Los Angeles River, sightseeing that they can do around the L.A. River, sucha s where they can bike. And we have also done a series of articles and interviews in this sort of interactive model that really illuminate the history of the L.A. River pre-1932 when it was concreted to all the revitalization efforts and the master plan that we have currently. The exciting thing about this Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative project which is I would say the second chapter in this long journey that we have taken in exploring the Los Angeles River is that we are really looking at all those assets we have created and the media pieces we have created and the articles and the field guides and the interviews with the people that have been fighting for this river for the past 30 years. And we are being able to take all that knowledge and use it to activate a community, Northeast Los Angeles, to have them participate in how their area of the Los Angeles River should change and become a riverfront district. So we are taking this sort of passive storytelling approach to the Los Angeles River to a very active way of engaging the community to find out what they want from the river through storytelling and other activities that are going to inform this larger planning study later on.

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Through this participatory element, community engagement, we are being forced to look at storytelling from a different space. For example, what workforce opportunities does this area have? What opportunities do we have for land use and revitalization in some brownfields that exist in the area? What business development opportunities are there in the area? So we are looking at all these data sets that are given to us and this information that is being analyzed by other partners and we are trying to look at it and understand how to engage the community in finding information about how do they want workforce development to work in the area? How do they want land use to be developed and understood? How do they want recreation to happen in the river? So we are using all of our media platforms as a public media station to tell stories that in a way were born out of a research project that later on are going to be used to make certain practical decisions about how a particular area, in this case Northeast LA, is going to change.

Public Media has had a very particular purpose since its inception. It has been there to make sure that there is equal representation of the people. I think that the opportunity that we have with the Northeast LA project and Departures in this case is that we are being able to look at the role of public media in a very different way where our goal is not to produce a TV show but is to produce media that is going to create some sort of engagement and participation in the communities so that they can take action in making decisions about how that area should be developed or their lives should be treated. I think that is very different. One is very passive and the other is very active and it really changes the civic role of public media and I am very excited that we are being able to do that right now.


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