The COVID-19 public health crisis quickly curtailed Southern California’s dynamic and diverse arts and culture network in March 2020. From treasured cultural institutions to music festivals to black-box experimental theatres, hundreds of arts organizations closed their doors, and the myriad of cultural offerings that define Los Angeles, and its surrounding communities were abruptly canceled.
With a mission to use the power of media for public good, we knew it was incumbent on Public Media Group of Southern California (PMGSC), through our content channels KCET and PBS SoCal, to use our position as a cultural leader to strengthen our region when it was needed most. With a mandate to create, curate, and distribute content and experiences that open people’s minds, lift spirits, and connect people, we debated how could we share the myriad of cultural experiences that define Los Angeles and reconnect local artists and arts organizations with their audiences.
Partnering with the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs, the LA County Department of Arts and Culture, and other regional leaders, PMGSC created a new multi-platform arts program, Southland Sessions, which premiered on KCET and PBS SoCal in July 2020. Southland Sessions honored and highlighted Los Angeles’ diverse artistic community, created new moments of creative expression, and provided them free, on-air, and online, to Southern Californians.
Broadcast episodes featured conversations with local arts leaders, highlighted works by a variety of local artists, and showcased our vast and varied cultural ecosystem that is an essential and beloved element of the Los Angeles region. Many episodes featured hosts who introduced artistic works and talked about the featured artists, their visions, and their roles in LA’s cultural community. The series featured past performances at storied venues, virtual exhibitions, dance, and theatre offerings, and more— from the Watts Tower Drum and Jazz Festival to Mariachi Festivals to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Southland Sessions celebrated and embraced Los Angeles’ creative ethos.
Southland Sessions also included a robust digital presence hosted on kcet.org featuring cultural news and additional work from the region’s art maker as well as social media support. Through a multi-platform presence, Southland Sessions reconnected Los Angeles’ vibrant arts network to regional audiences and culture enthusiasts safely, easily, and at no cost.