Monday, May 9, 2011

Downey Civic Theater

Today's mosaics are mountd in the lobby of the Downey Civic Theater on Firestone Blvd. (or 2nd, at Brookshire) in Downey. The 748-seat theater is part of the Downey Civic Center and Embassy Suites Hotel.

The Downey Theater (the word "Civic" seems to be optional) had its gala opening with a performance of  "The Sound of Music" in late October, 1970, according to the Los Angeles Times. It's history goes back a bit further: for fourteen years, a Downey Children's Theater Group had operated out of a school auditorium. Eventually the city raised $1.9 million through cigarette and hotel taxes, specifically to build the theater.

The Times was impressed by the local participation: Downey residents assembled two 70-member casts for the musical, each complete cast playing alternate shows (except for John Woods, who played Capt. von Trapp in all shows. He was that good.) Local residents also made up the 35-piece orchestra. No mention of the lobby mosaics is made, though.

In March 1971, astronauts Alan Shephard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa landed by helicopter in Downey and spoke at the theater. It was a busy place--looks like everything from beauty pagents to opera to marionettes have played there.

The theater's had its ups and downs over the years, and I've looked over dozens of articles. But nowhere do I see a mention of the mosaics!

I suspect--since they deal so much with history--that they were added either during the nation's Bicentennial (1976) or Downey's Centennial, a few years ago. But that's a guess.

This last picture is added to give a sense of the lobby--the mosaics are upper right. The photos are in a Flicker stream presented by the Downey Historic Conservancy.

If someone can enlighten me, tell me when the mosaics were installed and who the artist is, etc. I will gladly post that information along with your favorite picture (as long as it's not obscene).

10 comments:

Andrew J Wahlquist said...

Just saw this post and forwarded to George Redfox who took the photos, he's trying to figure out the answer. Most certainly they've been there for quite some time, I like your 1976 guess, as that would have been in the theatre's golden decade. Downey hasn't paid much attention to the arts in recent years. Http://www.downeyarts.org

Vix said...

Thank you! I can appreciate that all cities are making cuts, and arts are often the first thing to go. It would be a shame to lose the information, though. Downey has some great history and I'm sure it will come back into vogue one day.

Andrew J Wahlquist said...

Charlotte Von Troch is the artist, who I think was a Downey local. I don't know anything about her, but she may still have a daughter living in Downey.

Vix said...

Thank you! And I thanked you on today's MOSAIC Monday post, July 18, 2011.

Andrew J Wahlquist said...

The correct spelling is Charlotte Von Troesch, I believe. There was just a big controversy in Downey as the Downey Unified School District quickly destroyed another huge Von Troesch mural at Downey High School that took many years and tons of art student involvement to complete. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pamlane/7634787368/
http://www.thedowneypatriot.com/blogPost.do?id=251

Vix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vix said...

Sad--I see it was torn down this summer and that Ms. Von Troesch was a teacher who helped students make the mural in the 1970s.
The 1st link is a photo of the mosaic mural.
There is a law about removing art on a building--the building's owner must make an effort to find the artist or their heirs and give them a chance to remove and preserve the art. I wonder if this was done?

Ashley Velasquez said...

I knew Charlotte personally, she was my neighbor for years. I'm sure her daughter was not aware of this. Sad to hear that Downey high school disrespected a legacy like that, that stuff wouldn't fly at Warren high. I admired her work and the stories she told. She was a great friend,may she rest in peace.

Vickey Kall said...

Thank you, Ashley!
I found this story from the Downey Beat (with a picture of the mural), from 2012: http://downeybeat.com/2012/07/art-lovers-angered-after-school-district-destroys-mural-76707/

Unknown said...

I have several works of Charlotte's. I inherited them from the son of a teacher who worked with her years ago. They are fantastic.