Play the LA River Launches 51 Weeks and 51 Miles of Civic Engagement

Play the LA River launches Sept. 13 at Marsh Park II in conjunction with the annual Frogtown Artwalk

Los Angeles River

Play the LA River will hold a launch event Sept. 13. UCR history professor Catherine Gudis is a co-founder of the art collective Project 51 that is organizing the yearlong initiative aimed at encouraging greater recreational use of the urban river.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.  — Play the LA River is a come-one-come-all initiative led by the arts collective Project 51 that invites Angelenos to explore, enjoy, reclaim and reimagine the 51-mile Los Angeles River as a grand civic space that can green and connect communities. The project’s public launch event takes place on Sept. 13 from 4 to 10 p.m. at Marsh Park II in conjunction with the 8th annual Frogtown Artwalk. The park is located at 2999 Rosanna St., Los Angeles.

A celebration of art, recreation, games, citizen science and the ongoing L.A. River revitalization movement, the launch will be the public unveiling of the free Play the LA River card deck — a 56-site guide to the often-invisible river that runs through the heart of the Los Angeles area.

Catherine Gudis, associate professor of history at the University of California, Riverside and director of UCR’s Public History Program, is a co-founder of Project 51.

“Most people don’t know there is an L.A. River, much less how to get to it,” Gudis explained. “There needs to be a way for people to engage and play, and to make that space public again, especially in such a park-poor region.”

UCR alumna Lila Higgins, a museum educator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, also is a member of Project 51. Over the last 10 years she has been involved in administering, planning, implementing, and evaluating citizen science projects. She is also an artist working on various projects in the Los Angeles region focused on play and the L.A. River. Some of her work includes memory mapping spaces for play, planning events that invite people to gather and enjoy under-used urban spaces, and balloon mapping the entire 51 miles of the L.A. River.

Saturday’s event will also feature paper boat races, a game of giant Twister, balloon mapping, a plein-air painting workshop with Cole James and artworxLA, a “People’s Community Dance Class” with Marina Magalhães, poetry writing with The Poetry Society of Los Angeles, and bird and insect sightings with experts from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (NHMLA). Mariel Carranza and Rebeca Hernández will offer river-inspired dance and performance art, and the wulf. [sic] is curating music for the event. On hand to field questions and lead games of their own will be L.A. River aficionado Joe Linton and Project 51 partners. After dark, the play will continue with a campfire (and roasted marshmallows!), nocturnal insect viewings and a pop-up dance party (@PinDropParty).

Project 51 has partnered on Play the LA River with many of the leading L.A. River agencies and nonprofit groups, including artworx LA, Clockshop, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), California State Parks, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership and LA River Corp (with whom Play the LA River is in the running for an LA2050 grant). The project has received generous support from ArtPlace America, KCET, MRCA, UCLA, UC Riverside and the UC Humanities Research Institute.

“For the first time in the history of the Los Angeles River revitalization effort, there is finally a comprehensive platform for Angelenos to explore and engage with the multitude of exciting activities along the Los Angeles River corridor,” California State Parks Superintendent Sean Woods said of Play the LA River and the partnership with L.A. State Historic Park.

The revitalization of the L.A. River has been a collaborative effort over the past two decades.The launch of Play the LA River is a rallying cry to Angelenos to join these efforts and have a voice in the future of the river.

Last fall, public history graduate students at UC Riverside spent several weeks surveying sites along the river, examining the ecology and elements of the built environment, and determining how people might visit those sites and engage in both serious and more joyful elements of play that call attention to the river’s history and future, the historian said.

“The Los Angeles River is experiencing an amazing renaissance and the federal government through the Urban Waters Partnership is proud to be a part of this,” said Los Angeles River Watershed Ambassador Pauline Louie. “Regardless of whether you live close or far from the waterway, there are so many different ways to interact with a river that is simultaneously ecosystem, infrastructure and icon.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Play the LA River for “engaging even more people to discover and enjoy the Los Angeles River.”


Saturday, Sept. 13, 4 to 10 p.m.
Marsh Park II
2999 Rosanna St., Los Angeles
Play the LA River Website:
Launch Event Details:


Just opened by MRCA, Marsh Park II adds green space to the adjacent Marsh Park I, established in 2006 in the Elysian Valley (aka Frogtown), along the Glendale Narrows stretch of soft-bottom river. A magical spot, this street-end stormwater park catches runoff and is the largest and most ambitious park so far on the Elysian Valley stretch.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Catherine Gudis

Archived under: Arts/Culture, Politics/Society, , , , , ,

Top of Page