To see now: Watts Towers Arts Center reopens after a five-year renovation

People stand in front of a fence, looking at towers.
The 100-year-old Watts Towers in Los Angeles, shown last year, has now reopened.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Welcome to the first edition of L.A. Goes Out! *Cue air horns.*

I’m Steven Vargas, and I’ll be guiding you each week to Southern California’s top five events for the weekend ahead, helping you to navigate L.A.’s cultural landscape and to shortlist happenings for your calendar. I’ve got recommendations from Times critics and reporters immersed in the scene, and if you have suggestions of your own, we’d love to hear them: Send me the deets at It’s not just my newsletter, it’s our newsletter. Let’s dig in!

Weekly countdown

People standing in front of Watts Towers.
The Watts Towers in Los Angeles.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

1. The Watts Towers Arts Center
The campus, closed for renovation in 2017, had its reopening reception this week with the exhibition “I Wanted to Do Something Big,” a retrospective on the conservation of the South L.A. landmark built by Sabato Rodia in 1921. (For a deep dive into the history, check out our centennial article.) Today, Watts Towers is known as a beacon for arts education, cultural enrichment and social change, offering a space for art and artists in the heart of Watts. Check out the exhibit curated by Mark Gilberg, Rosie Lee Hooks and Rebeca Guerrero and open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays starting today. The exhibition is free, and details are on the Watts Towers Arts Center website.

A young man holding playing cards sits at a table with two others. Another person holds a fanned-out deck of cards.
Derek McKee, center, sits with fellow magicians Zach Davidson, left, and Franco Pascali.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

2. “This Is Only a Trick”
Abracadabra — or something like that. Derek McKee’s show “This Is Only a Trick” is a far more intimate and fresh experience than you might assume a magic show to be. The 28-year-old performer just wrapped up a sold-out six-month residency at the Hollywood Roosevelt’s Cinegrill Theater and will be reviving his show at the gallery Art Beyond Survival for an audience of 40 people, half the size of the Roosevelt crowd. My colleague Deborah Vankin, an arts and culture writer for The Times, suggested this event after going behind the curtain of McKee’s magic, witnessing his cardistry alongside that of fellow magicians Franco Pascali and Zach Davidson at a “magic jam” (instead of flying drumsticks, picture flying cards). If you’re ready to be wowed in an Arts District gallery, get your tickets from the show’s website. The show is at 8 p.m. Friday, and tickets are $50 or $75.

A billboard of sky and clouds against a concrete wall. It reads, "How much of care is patience?"
An installation view of “Chloë Bass: Wayfinding.”
(Virginia Harold / Pulitzer Arts Foundation)

3. “Chloë Bass: Wayfinding”
The piece at the Skirball Cultural Center in Brentwood represents the first time the campus has made use of its 15 acres for an outdoor installation. The series of sculptures imitate wayfinding signage, like maps and directories, to create an emotional journey. It poses five core questions to contemplate — like, “How much of care is patience?” or “How much belief is encounter?” — while viewing 34 smaller pieces centered on additional statements and archival images tugging on emotions such as desire, anxiety and loss. The piece also incorporates audio artwork narrated by L.A. artists Kyra Jones, Mollie Eisenberg and Jake Lawler. If you’re looking to take an emotional expedition — perhaps as a solo date? — “Chloë Bass: Wayfinding” could be the place to start. Admission to the Skirball is $7 to $12; children 2 and younger are free. The installation opens Thursday.

A smiling man in a red button-front shirt with beaded necklaces sits at a table in front of a sunny window.
Peter Sellars.
(Los Angeles Master Chorale)

4. “Music to Accompany a Departure”
Sit back and listen to the L.A. Master Chorale in this profoundly moving and historical piece recommended by The Times’ classical music critic, Mark Swed. Peter Sellars stages two dozen singers for Heinrich Schütz’s “Musikalische Exequien (Music to Accompany a Departure),” the first requiem written in German. Originally made in response to the Thirty Years’ War and a dear friend he lost, Schütz’s piece carries a new weight today. Swed says it’s “a wondrous ritual of leaving one world for another.” The show at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A. will be conducted by Grant Gershon and feature new texts by Alice Goodman. And if you want to go in with some fresh perspective from the artists, attend the Listen Up! Pre-Concert Talk on Sunday at 6 p.m. before the 7 p.m. performance. Tickets are $58 to $153 and can be found on the L.A. Master Chorale’s website.

A large rectangular image on the white wall of a gallery space with a concrete floor.
Sam Gilliam’s “Abacus Sliding,” 1977.
(Jeff McLane / David Kordansky Gallery. Collection of the Denver Art Museum: funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the United Bank of Denver, 1978)

5. “Sam Gilliam: White and Black Paintings, 1975-1977”
Take a peek into a moment of experimentation by Gilliam at the David Kordansky Gallery. After Gilliam’s death in June, the Mid-Wilshire gallery opened “Sam Gilliam: White and Black Paintings, 1975-1977,” sharing a period during which the artist played with color, scale and materials — at one point collaging canvas on top of canvas. Times art and design columnist Carolina Miranda is a fan of the work, which experiments with texture, often employing the use of a shag rug rake to create a three-dimensional feel. You can dip into Gilliam’s experimental practice for free at the exhibition running until Dec. 17.

Bonus round: ‘Fabric of a Nation’

A modernist image with a group of people in old-time athletic uniforms that say "Morris Brown."
“To God and Truth,” a 2019 quilt by Bisa Butler.
(Saravuth Neou / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Surprise, surprise! There were so many exciting things happening this week, I couldn’t resist throwing in a bonus. It’s all about quilts, how to make them and the stories they tell. Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories at the Skirball Cultural Center opens Thursday and features works from more than 40 artists, including Los Angeles-based creators Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Joel Otterson and Ramsess. The stories unfolding on the quilts embody the lives of people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and other underrepresented groups. Mixing older quilts passed down from generation to generation with more contemporary designs, the exhibition shows an evolution of an art form. Alongside “Fabric of a Nation” will be the interactive exhibitionTogether for Good: Caron Tabb and the Quilting Corner,” featuring a community quilt made by visitors; you can contribute your own story. (If you want to create with your hands, I’ve got yet another event for you later in this newsletter.) “Fabric of a Nation” is a specially ticketed exhibition with admission of $13 to $18, which includes access to general admission areas.

Your L.A. weekend, all mapped out

For a more comprehensive roundup of exhibitions, concerts, screenings, festivals and other events, check out listings coordinator Matt Cooper’s new Culture Guide, a mapped list of 40-plus events across the L.A. region. It’s a go-to resource for those who make plans based on drive time, and it also can be filtered by type of event and price. Matt updates it regularly, so check it out.


On my mind

Each week, I’ll also be sharing my SoCal discoveries and highlighting the events and artists shaping the community and culture of Los Angeles. One night I might be in a Chinatown alley to watch dance; the next night I could be at a glamorous gala aglow with celebrities. Wait, that’s exactly where I was over the weekend.

Couples hug with eyes closed near a harp. Another person leans against the wall holding a drink.
The Volta Collective performs in “Milk.”
(Anna Tse)

On Friday, I attended Volta Collective’s world premiere of “Milk,” a performance mixing prose, dance, live music and scent for a retelling of the Greek tragedy of Medea. What struck me was how immersive it was. It’s easy to be distracted by all the sounds of Chinatown, but the collective made sure to keep us in the story through all means possible, including our sense of smell. At the beginning of each chapter, dancers weaved through the crowd with scent-filled cups specific to a character or moment. One scent was Medea, Murderer, which had notes of “Helios accord (cinnamon, clove, saffron, blood orange), unwashed body, earth, blood, burning fire.” Every aroma combined with changes in movements and music, so the narrative could be felt visually, auditorily and olfactorily. As dancers collapsed upon one another in fatal dives, the scents landed differently. Suddenly, the unwashed body and blood notes felt real. All senses collided and created an overwhelming feeling of loss. As different cups were passed around, the tone of the performance shifted just the same.

On Saturday, at the opposite end of SoCal nightlife, I went to West Hollywood for the Baby2Baby gala at the Pacific Design Center. Mindy Kaling hosted the fundraiser for the nonprofit that provides essential children’s items like diapers and baby formula to families in need. By the end of the night, Kim Kardashian had been honored for her contributions, which that evening included $1 million toward the more than $10 million raised by the event.

A woman in a white dress and a man in a white button-down and suit jacket hold hands on a dance floor.
Tess Sanchez and Max Greenfield at the 2022 Baby2Baby Gala on Saturday at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.
(Araya Doheny / Getty Images for Baby2Baby)

I overheard a security guard mention “last year, there were so many crashers,” and I have to admit I felt like one despite being on the invite llist. Tyler Perry, who presented Kardashian her award, pointed out the disparity between those in the room and the communities the gala aimed to help. He said he grew up poor and was now able to donate to a cause he once would have benefited from.


Guests bid on auction items that included a Louis Vuitton handbag, a vacation to Tulum in Mexico and a stay at Soho Farmhouse, Soho House’s members club in the British countryside. Olivia Wilde, Kenya Barris and Max Greenfield, as well as other Kardashians — Kris and Kylie — roamed the event. When you’re so used to seeing them onscreen, it’s almost hard to recognize them in person.

A woman makes fish lips while taking a selfie with a man and woman. All are in formal wear.
Kim Kardashian takes a selfie with Cash Warren and Allison Statter.
(Stefanie Keenan / Getty Images for Baby2Baby)

How to theater: What to know if it’s new to you

Not everyone hits places like the Ahmanson or the Wallis every weekend, so part of what we’ll do here is demystify experiences for the newbies. I have friends who’ve said they want to see theater here in L.A. but find some of the venues intimidating. With that in mind, I reached out to the Geffen Playhouse’s front-of-house manager, Mel Yonzon, and part-time house manager, Emir Yonzon, who are married, to gather tips for first-timers.

The exterior of a Spanish-style building with brick on the front is seen at dusk.
The Geffen Playhouse.
(Hunter Kerhart)
  • When you enter a venue, ask the staff checking your ticket to point you to the right door inside and the fastest route to your seat.
  • “If you have a digital ticket, first and foremost, make sure it’s downloaded onto your phone or have it up in your email already,” Emir suggests. “Once you have that, make sure the brightness is all the way up on your phone, because it’s going to make it much easier for us to scan that ticket.”
  • “When you see the lights flashing or the bell ringing, that means one thing: that we want you to start going inside the theater,” Mel says. And as the flashing or ringing gets more frequent, the show is closer to starting.
  • Easily stressed? Get there early. Park and grab a drink at the bar.
  • Remember to hit the restroom before the rush right before curtain. Avoid the stress sprint to your seat.
  • Sometimes it can be chilly in the theater, so bring a cardigan or jacket just in case.
  • Check the theater website for COVID-19 protocols, as they are different for each venue and change all the time.

And lastly, enjoy the show!

Go-out speed round

A man with gray hair gestures while speaking as he sits in an armchair on a stage.
John Rubinstein as Dwight D. Eisenhower in “Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground” at Theatre West.
(Pierre Lumiere)

Every week, we’ll run down shows closing soon, new tickets on sale, date-night ideas, kid outings, free stuff and more.

Go out before it’s gone: Theatre West’s production of “Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground” by Richard Hellesen shares the life and legacy of of the 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Times theater critic Charles McNulty suggests this drama-filled solo show led by Tony winner John Rubinstein. Tickets for the show, which closes on Sunday, are $30 to $40 and can be found on Theatre West’s website.

Go out and celebrate the holidays early: It’s that time of year again. Rodeo Drive will hold its holiday lighting celebration from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday. The evening will include Santa Claus, food trucks and a performance by Grammy-winning musician David Foster and Broadway star Katharine McPhee. Details on the extravaganza can be found on the Beverly Hills website.

Go out for free: You might be able to buy tickets for the L.A. Phil’s Rock My Soul festival, continuing this weekend with “Prokofiev and Smetana and “Rock My Soul” Symphonies for Youth. But if you’re looking for a free happening, check out the orchestra’s collab with the California African American Museum, which is screening two films by L.A. Rebellion filmmaker Barbara McCullough: “Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification” (1979) and “Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections on Ritual Space” (1981). The screening takes place at CAAM at 7 p.m. Thursday. Details and RSVP instructions can be found on the museum’s website.

Go out and learn: Remember when I said I had an event for those wanting to create? Here it is: LACMA is holding a cardboard loom weaving class at 6 p.m. Friday. The class, led by artist Billie Rae Vinson, is inspired by Lenore Tawney’s work “Reflections Hanging,” on view in “Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980.” You can register for the $50 class on LACMA’s website.

Go out with the kids: A free zine workshop at the California African American Museum will run from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Kids can create their own zine inspired by CAAM’s latest exhibition, “because i am that.” Details on the event (and a link to RSVP) can be found on the museum’s website.

Go out on a date: Take a trip into the Upside Down at “Stranger Things: The Experience,” an interactive, 45-minute journey through Hawkins Lab, where you live out your own episode of the Netflix series. You’ll end up at an ’80s-themed party with food, drinks, merchandise, photo ops, games and more. Tickets to the experience in Montebello range from $45 to $99.90 per person and can be found on Fever. It opens Saturday, and tickets are expected to sell fast.

Go out with the family: Head out for a night under the stars. Drive up to L.A.’s Electric Dusk Drive-In on Saturday for a screening of Disney’s “Coco” in the parking lot of the old Sears in Glendale. Tickets range from $8 to $75 and can be found on this website.

Go out all day: Filmmakers and film buffs alike, check out NewFilmmakers Los Angeles’ DocuSlate documentary program on Sunday. The monthly film festival runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and will be screening five features and a series of shorts, all preceded by receptions and followed by Q&As. Take a look at the schedule and get your tickets on NFMLA’s website. Tickets are $10 to $30.

People walk at night among tall trees lighted purple, green and red.
Symphony of Oaks at the Enchanted Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens.
(Jake Fabricius)

Go out and wander: Stroll through the “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens. Starting Sunday, the interactive nighttime experience in La Cañada Flintridge provides a one-mile walk with mesmerizing lights throughout the gardens. Hours are from 5:30 to 10 p.m., rain or shine, and tickets are $22 to $40; children younger than 2 are free. Learn more and get your tickets on Descanso Gardens’ website.

More from the crew here

The 55 best places to see live music in Southern California.

65 of L.A. County’s most exciting indie bookstores.

8 L.A. spots that make you feel like you’re in a different decade.

11 L.A. date ideas to jump-start cuffing season.

I’m all ears!

That’s what I have for this week. Follow our feed of recommendations and itineraries on Instagram and Twitter, and if you have some recs of your own, send them to