California Cultures

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					California Cultures – Shaping History
28th Annual Very Special Arts Festival – May 4, 2007 Curriculum Guide The theme for the 28th Very Special Arts Festival is California Cultures – Shaping History culminating at the Music Center Plaza on May 4th, 2007. We invite you to explore the richness of our cultures through theatre, poetry, song, music and dance with the many cultural resources in Los Angeles in preparation for the Festival. Teachers may wish to incorporate some of these ideas into their existing curriculum. If you design a unit around these ideas we invite you to contact us so we can post it on the VSAF website listed above. We ask all of you to participate in the Festival by either preparing a piece of art or performance that illustrates the theme for you. What does culture mean to you? Although difficult to define due to its many meanings, a common understanding of culture is the human activity that binds a community or population together, through their shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, artifacts or history. Categories might include ethnic cultures, pop culture, entertainment culture, environmental cultures, and science and technological cultures. What makes California cultures unique? California has always been on the cutting edge of change. It is a place that sets trends in almost all areas of life. California is a nation of immigrants – a melting pot of cultures. We are celebrating these unique cultures that have shaped our history. The following ideas are meant to serve as classroom activities appropriate for a wide age range of students. They are not presented in any sequence but simply as suggestions, which can be adapted, expanded and developed by you. This is an informal guide. Any adaptation of these suggestions for children with disabilities or mainstream children and any correlation to the state framework should be done by the teacher. The main purpose of this document is to demonstrate how many imaginative directions of study and inquiry are possible with the theme. Undoubtedly, you will be able to take the theme in many new directions not presented here. Several field trips are mentioned throughout this guide. If you are interested, get your name on a list right away because they fill up fast. Most of them are guided by experienced docents with additional supplemental materials for your class. Throughout the curriculum suggestions, you will find resources for further information. The Internet is an invaluable source of ideas and materials. You will find a list of good sites for research, curriculum and activity ideas at the end of this guide. Use your own judgment in adapting activities to your students‘ skill level and California State Standards. 1

―This is true culture which helps us to work for the social betterment of all.‖ ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
The young country of the United States was grounded in the ideals that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be available to everyone. This was one of the reasons that America was so attractive to immigrants. The idea that anything was possible was reinforced when gold was discovered at Sutter‘s Mill in California, causing a mass emigration to this state. Although few became rich, the possibility of wealth or fame became part of the American culture.

Ethnic Cultures
California represents a rich patchwork of ethnic diversities. Each ethnic group has had a different California experience that has influenced California culture. Immigration, perhaps more than any other social, political or economic process, has shaped the United States over the last century. The merging of cultures and ethnic backgrounds has produced both a richness of diversity and a number of problems. One-third of all foreign-born persons in the U.S. live in California. For this curriculum guide we will focus on three cultural groups that have shaped California. In your classroom you may choose other cultural groups that best represent your students.

California Natives
Native Americans have made California their home for over 10,000 years but today they make up less than 1% of the total population. Why and how have they shaped California? California natives lived in a plentiful land, in harmony with their environment. However, the arrival of early explorers introduced diseases, such as smallpox and scarlet fever, as well as changes in diet and nutrition that devastated the population. The Spanish introduced the mission system, further distressing the native population and culture. The tribes lost their land and farming and cattle grazing destroyed their habitat. After Mexico won its independence from Spain, the rule of California passed from Spain to Mexico. Spanish laws had declared that the land owned by the missions belonged to the Native Californians. With the secularization of the missions, the Indians were confronted with new problems of private ownership. The economy shifted from the missions and the ownership of the land soon fell to powerful Californios, or early Mexican Californian families. Just as the Native Californians were getting accustomed to the rancho system, the gold rush brought about a new era. On January 24, 1848, gold flakes were discovered at Sutter‘s Mill. 2

The dramatic rise in population from many different cultures further weakened the Natives. Already struggling from disease and lack of food, the Natives faced violent confrontations with the new settlers that had been lured by the possibility of instant wealth. Today many natives live on reservations. Although wealth is coming back to a few through the Indian casinos, most live in poverty. How did the Indian heritage in California help shape our present culture? Perhaps their harmony with the environment and their reverence for the preservation of our land has made us more conscious of protecting our natural resources. California today is one of the leaders in anti-pollution measures. In spite of our escalating population, there is a love of the outdoors and a desire to protect our parklands. These may be gifts we can trace back to the Indian culture. The Southwest Museum in Los Angeles has one of the most extensive collections of Indian artifacts. It is currently closed for re-modeling but much of the collection can be seen at the Autry National Center.

Mexican and Spanish Americans
Everywhere you look in California you see evidence of our Mexican and Spanish heritage in the city and street names, architecture, food, missions and festivals. Cinco de Mayo and the Day of the Dead are celebrated throughout California. Even the name Los Angeles is a Spanish name. Next to English, Spanish is the most common language spoken in California. Hispanic settlement of what we know as California began in 1769 with the establishment of the mission system. During this time, the first settlers were primarily of Spanish and indigenous Mexican descent and most lived close to the coast. The California economy was based on agriculture and livestock. As the economy grew, land became more valuable. In 1833, Mexican Governor Jose Figueroa secularized the mission landholdings and awarded land grants to powerful Californian families. This was the beginning of the huge, sprawling rancheros in California. Many of the families that owned this land had names you will recognize today – Vallejo, Pico, and Alvarado. We all know the La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Rancho La Brea was 4,439 acres of land covering what is now Wilshire‘s Miracle Mile, Hollywood and West Hollywood. The rancho was awarded to owner Nemisio Dominguez on the condition that the tar pits would be kept available to the citizens of the pueblo. The Indians used the asphalt to seal the seams of their canoes. Later, the citizens of Los Angeles used it to mend the flat roofs of their crude adobe dwellings, to make watertight containers and to caulk the hulls of ships. In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico and American military forces seized California. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 marked the end of Mexican sovereignty in California. As soon as the treaty was signed, the first major influx of immigrants arrived, fueled by the discovery of gold. Many Mexican Americans became workers in commercial agriculture, railroads, construction and food processing.


Northern California received the major thrust of the Anglo gold rush migration, while Southern California remained heavily Mexican. This ethnic contrast was one factor in the debate over the possibility of dividing California into two states. How has our Spanish and Mexican heritage helped to shape our culture beyond the obvious evidence of language, architecture, and food? Spanish culture is still building the Californian economy today. Much of the labor force that drives California‘s economy is Mexican. There is a vibrancy and color to the California culture today that is inherited from our Hispanic ancestry. When we speak of Hispanic cultures, California also has major populations of Cuban, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran and South American peoples.

Chinese Americans
We have mentioned that the discovery of gold in California was responsible for dramatic changes in both the Native and the Mexican cultures in different ways. The rush for gold also increased the number of Chinese immigrants to the west coast. Many emigrated to escape the wars, floods, famines, and droughts in China that made it difficult to earn a living. When they arrived in the gold fields, they received racial discrimination. Despite this hostility, Chinese continued to immigrate to California. When they were prevented from mining gold in the mining districts, they became fishermen, merchants, laborers, or laundrymen. Most Chinese immigrants arrived in California through the port of San Francisco. They developed a Chinese American community there, and made an effort to participate in the political and cultural life of the city. Chinese workers were encouraged to come to the United States as a labor source. Many early roads in California were built by Chinese immigrants. They provided essential labor for the development of the wine industry. Woolen mills were founded and Chinese American firms and laborers soon dominated the clothing trade. One of the most impressive construction achievements of Chinese Americans was the transcontinental railroad. Chinese workers built the railroad through the foothills and over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The work was difficult and the loss of life was heavy. In Southern California today we have cities where the majority of the populations are Chinese, such as Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park. The street and business signs are written in Chinese. What has the Chinese culture contributed to California? Today, there is a great diversity of Chinese speaking many dialects. They have brought a great energy to the work force as well as a respect for family. The Chinese are hard working business people who have influenced our commerce, fashion and food. Other Asian cultures with large populations in the Los Angeles area are the Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Filipino, Laotian, Pacific Islander, Thai and Vietnamese. The Japanese American museum is one of several worth a visit. There is also a new Chinese museum in downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.


There are many other cultures that may be in your classroom that can be explored. There are several cultures that exist under the headings of ―European‖, ―Middle Eastern‖ or ―African‖. ―Culture is everything. Culture is the way we dress, the way we carry our heads, the way we walk, the way we tie our ties -- it is not only the fact of writing books or building houses.‖ ~ Aime Cesair

1. Have your students define what customs and behaviors are shared by their culture. How are families structured? What languages are spoken? How is information shared? What role does religion play? 2. Research a native Indian tribe and follow their journey and settlement in California. Discuss the dangers they encountered. Define and describe things you would find in different habitats – food, water, shelter. 3. Study the history of one of our local missions such as San Gabriel or San Fernando. Research what land was once attached to the mission and what has happened to that land today. What were some of the characteristics of a successful mission? What activities took place at that mission? What farming? What types of medicinal herbs did they grow and use? Discuss how missions affected the development of California. If possible, take a trip to a mission. 4. Visit Olvera Street to experience how the community of Los Angeles began. Go to for more information. 5. Design a simple dance based on the movements of panning for gold. ―All objects, all phases of culture are alive. They have voices. They speak of their history and interrelatedness. And they are all talking at once! ~ Camille Paglia

California is a huge state and transportation is necessary for all of us. Our state has been influential in the development of different modes of transportation which have shaped history. We are going to focus on three – the railroad, the automobile and the aerospace industry.

The Railroad

California was virtually isolated on the west coast before the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The arrival of the railroad made easy immigration possible.


A group of men to become known as the ―Big Four‖ were instrumental in the development of the railroad between 1861 and 1900. Their names are well known in California – Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins. All came from upstate New York prior to being drawn West by the Gold Rush. Huntington and Hopkins were partners in a hardware company; Stanford operated a grocery business with his brothers; and Crocker was a dry goods merchant. Eventually the Big Four controlled a wide network of railroad enterprises which gave them enormous wealth and political power. Admired and detested, they left a legacy of railroad development which still influences transportation and politics in California. The railroad made it possible for even faster migration to California. When completed in 1869, it was expected to bring prosperity to California. Instead, it brought an economic depression. California's markets were flooded with cheap manufactured goods from the East Coast which made many of California's fledgling manufacturing industries noncompetitive. The railroad also brought large numbers of unemployed European immigrants to California from the East Coast. Before Angelenos fell in love with their automobiles, there was a network of rail lines and electric streetcars throughout Southern California called the Red Cars. By the time the last Red Car was retired from service in 1961, only rail hobbyists expressed much regret. But freeway gridlock has made it necessary for Los Angeles to find alternatives to the automobile, and the Metro Green, Red, Blue, and Gold lines now service much of Southern California.

The Automobile
Californians and their automobiles are inseparable, despite the pollution created by the habit. The car was a natural attraction for California, with its favorable climate, scenery, and abundant roads. Los Angeles, because of its size and wide area, was at the top of car culture with its many freeways and economic prosperity that allowed for car ownership. By 1960, approximately two-thirds of metropolitan Southern California supported car-related needs: highways, roads, driveways, freeways, parking lots, service stations, and car lots. The freeways of California were objects of wonder as well as concern. The Art Center in Pasadena has had a greater impact on automobile design than perhaps any other educational institution. It is estimated that more than half of the world‘s car designers are graduates of the Art Center. Today, traffic congestion continues to worsen. Environmentalists, high gas prices and population growth have focused attention on the development of alternative transit projects to get Californians out of their automobiles.


As far back as recorded history goes, people have been exploring the world around them. The quest for a new frontier has intrigued explorers – from the ancient Greeks to Christopher Columbus. Today, the new frontier is space.


Ancient astronomers observed points of light that appeared to move among the stars. They called these objects planets, meaning wanderers, and named them after Roman deities -Jupiter, king of the gods; Mars, the god of war; Mercury, messenger of the gods; Venus, the god of love and beauty, and Saturn, father of Jupiter and god of agriculture. Science flourished during the European Renaissance. The fundamentals of planetary motion were discovered, and the orbits of the planets around the Sun were calculated. In the 17th Century, astronomers pointed a new device called the telescope at the sky and made startling discoveries. California‘s Edwards Air Force Base (originally Muroc Army Air Field) located near the border of Los Angeles and Kern Counties, has been the site for historic moments in aeronautical history. In 1947, now legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager accelerated to a speed of Mach 1.06 and broke the sound barrier forever. The first landings of the Space Shuttle took place at Edwards, and it was the launch and landing site for the first nonstop, around-the-world flight by Dick Rutan and Jeanne Yeager aboard the Voyager in 1986. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was established by the California Institute of Technology in the 1930s. America's first satellite, Explorer 1, was created at JPL and they have continued to push exploration with the first robotic craft to the Moon and Mars. NASA‘s vision to explore space reached a milestone on July 20, 1969, when a transmission from the Moon's Sea of Tranquility reported "The Eagle has landed." Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‗Buzz‘ Aldrin were the first humans to walk on the Moon. Griffith Observatory sits on land that was once part of a Spanish settlement known as Rancho Los Felis. The Spanish Governor of California bequeathed it to Corporal Vincente Felis in the 1770s. The land stayed in the Felis family for over a century, until Griffith J. Griffith, a wealthy mining speculator, purchased what remained of the rancho in 1882. Griffith believed that an individual gained an enlightened perspective when looking at the skies. John Anson Ford quotes Griffith as saying "Man's sense of values ought to be revised. If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!" In 1912, Griffith offered $100,000 to the City of Los Angeles for an observatory to be built on top of Mount Hollywood to include an astronomical telescope open for viewing.

1. Visit your neighborhood fire station. Go to for information. 2. Take a field trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for hands-on experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to better understand space exploration. Visit for more information.


3. Visit Griffith Park to learn more about the railroads: Travel Town Museum, go to, or take a ride on the miniature Griffith Park & Southern California railroad, for information visit 4. The Griffith Park Observatory has completed a remodel and is now open. School groups will be able to make reservations for the 2007-2008 school year. Visit for information.

We spend our lives immersed in popular or ‗pop‘ culture, yet there is much disagreement on exactly what is popular culture. Television, magazines, newspapers, music, sports, and fashion are all part of pop culture. Pop culture trends result from the daily interactions, needs and desires that make up everyday life. Young people dominated culture trends of the 1960s, especially in California. The baby boom created millions of teenagers that influenced fashion, trends and politics. Magazines profiled California teens. California images were prominent on television and the big screen. Movies featuring Gidget and other young actors were prevalent, and the Beach Boys dominated on the radio. California was a land of free spirits and easy living in a sunny climate. The surfing culture flourished. Then, California surfers, looking to stay active out of season, found skateboards and by 1963, that fad had also spread across the country. The first McDonald‘s restaurant was opened by Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino in 1940. Ray Kroc visited the restaurant in 1953 and, realizing the potential of an assembly line for hamburgers, Kroc convinced the brothers to put him in charge of franchising. He eventually purchased the company and now McDonald‘s restaurants are found in 119 countries. One of California‘s most visible examples of pop culture is Disneyland. In the mid-1950s, Walt Disney capitalized on the mix of California dreaming and the lifestyle of baby boom families. His playground showed the magic of California, and his forays into television achieved unprecedented popularity. Krumping is a style of hip hop dance that originated in Los Angeles. The movie ―Rize‖ reveals this groundbreaking dance phenomenon. Created by Tommy Johnson (Tommy the Clown) in response to the 1992 riots, this dance style was used as an alternative to gangs. Pop Art, characterized by themes drawn from pop culture, was a visual artistic movement that began in the 1950s in England. It emphasized the ‗kitschy‘ elements of culture. Andy Warhol became the most famous American pop artist, painting commercial objects such as Campbell‘s soup cans and coca-cola bottles, and his portrayal of celebrities such as Liz Taylor, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Other groundbreaking artists include Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. 8

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision where it takes him.” ~ John F. Kennedy

The mild, dry climate, open land, and wide variety of natural scenery made California attractive to movie-makers. Dream creators began heading west after hearing about this wonderful place. Paramount, RKO, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros., bought property and established studios in the area around Los Angeles called Hollywood. Comedies, tragedies, westerns, villains, heroes, heroines, and other captured images replaced the citrus groves. Due to Hollywood‘s cultural identify as the historic center of movies and celebrities, the word is now synonymous for America‘s film and television industry. In 1923, work began in the Hollywood Hills on the development of America‘s first themed residential community to be known as ―Hollywoodland.‖ The Los Angeles Times announced it as ―one of the most attractive residential section on the City of Los Angeles.‖

A huge sign reading ―Hollywoodland‖ was erected as a temporary advertisement for the development. The original sign was build of sheet metal and telephone poles for a cost of $21,000. It was covered with 4,000 flashing lights that could be seen as far away as Long Beach in the night sky. Official maintenance of the original sign ended in 1939 and it rapidly deteriorated. The last four letters were removed in 1945, and after serious renovations in the 1970s, the Hollywood sign is now one the world‘s most widely known landmarks. By the 1930s the show-biz population included radio. Big bands were popular as were famous singers such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney. Radio shows had large followings all around the country. Families crowded around their radios to hear favorite shows. Television arrived in the 1950s. The first TV sets were all in black and white, not the color we know today. Networks CBS and NBC started here in Los Angeles. Television changed entertainment forever. It not only introduced unlimited viewing options but also commercials which affected buying habits across the country. Further establishing California‘s place as the entertainment capital of the world in 1955, Walt Disney created Disneyland, the world‘s first theme park. Disneyland became the top tourist destination in California.


The Hollywood Walk of Fame was created in 1958 and the first star was placed there in 1960 as a tribute to artists working in the entertainment industry. Honorees receive a star based on their career and lifetime achievements in motion pictures, live theatre, radio, television, and/or music, as well as their charitable and civic contributions. Hollywood is now home to the Academy Awards and many historic theatres there are used to premiere movie releases. California is still the entertainment capital of the world. The magic of Hollywood has always been associated with California and mainly with Southern California. If you are anywhere in the world and say you are from California, there is instant recognition because of the movies made here.

1. Have each child choose a landmark from a selection and use it as inspiration for an art piece. 2. Look at some of the styles of different pop artists and then have your students compose their own "pop art.‖ Culture is to know the best that has been said and thought in the world. ~ Matthew Arnold

History comes alive by studying fashion and architecture. Clothing and homes give insight into people‘s lives, their culture and the events of the time period. In the East during the 1800s, one could tell someone‘s age, marital status, and social level just by looking at the person. Fashion in both dress and home décor was often ornate, especially in the Victorian Age. In California, those social indicators became blurred. The Gold Rush changed the way clothing reflected an individual‘s social standing. In the rugged gold country, without an established service market, refined ladies found it necessary to do their own work while many menial occupations paid very well. As a fashion capital, California is in a class all its own. The West Coast has defined American fashion for over a century, from the hippie style of Haight-Ashbury to the surfers in Malibu to the Oscar gowns in Beverly Hills. California is the birthplace of the most influential item in contemporary clothing – the blue jean. Movies and television shows have also affected changes in fashion, such as Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Don Johnson in Miami Vice, and Jennifer Aniston‘s hairstyle on Friends. The arrival of MTV added a new dimension as well since the fashion and make-up made even insignificant bands look larger-than-life. 10

California has come into its own for serious fashion, and Los Angeles is second only to New York for runway fashion in the country.

California‘s climate and beautiful landscapes have inspired environmentalists to continue to lobby to protect our natural surroundings. Pollution threatens the quality of life as it contaminates the air and water. The ever-increasing population has strained the financial resources of the government while encroaching on our state‘s natural beauty. California is a leader in environmental protection. Recently, Governor Schwarzenegger signed landmark global warming legislation making California the first state in the country imposing caps on greenhouse gas emissions. Cheered by environmentalists, many business groups say the legislation will cause increases in consumer prices and force large manufactures to leave the state. State reports have predicted that California would suffer dire consequences as a result of global warming, including earlier melting of snow in the Sierras and threats to the state‘s water supply. It would also lead to changes in the agricultural growing season, jeopardizing the wine industry. Those of us who live in California are very lucky but we are also responsible for protecting our state. Air and water pollution and overdevelopment have to be controlled so that this golden splendor can continue. Low emission fuels and hybrid cars continue to grow in popularity as people become more aware of the threat to our future.

1. What can you do to help conserve the environment? Look at ways you can save paper, conserve electricity etc. 2. What does California mean to you? 3. Look for scenes of California and Los Angeles in your favorite TV shows and movies. 4. Take a field trip to a local live children‘s theatre performance.

The area of Northern California from Palo Alto to San Jose was originally known for its fruit orchards. With the establishment and growth of hi-tech companies, this area is now commonly known as Silicon Valley, referring to the material used to produce electronic components. Personal computers, video games and networking systems all developed in this region. California is the birthplace of many technological giants including Yahoo, Google, eBay, Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard. 11

“People can only live fully by helping others to life. When you give life to friends you truly live. Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions. And only by respecting natural life can humanity continue to exist.” ~ Daisaku Ikeda

There are many other cultures your class may wish to explore, such as the farming industry, the wine industry, the lumber industry, the oil industry - all of these and more are fields for study.

California‘s climate, landforms, vegetation and animal life offer something for everyone. There are heavy snows in the mountains, mild conditions along the 800 miles of coastline, arid conditions in the desert, and humidity in the valleys. The beautiful landscapes are very fertile, allowing us to produce many agricultural crops, such as cotton, rice, all grains, oranges, avocados, lemons, artichokes, strawberries, and lettuce. Early settlers were drawn by California‘s minerals—most notably when gold was discovered in 1849 — but also by the wealth of its forests, farmlands, and petroleum fields. The development of the natural resources brought a huge expansion in many kinds of manufacturing. This remarkable diversity of industry provides the bulk of the state's income. In the early 20th century California gained worldwide fame as the center of American filmmaking, and by the 1960s it had become the heart of the television industry as well. California's Silicon Valley is the hub of innovations in the nation's computer and consumer electronics industries. The appeal of California‘s varied riches has made it the most populous state in the Union. With this growth have come the ills of urbanization. Yet with all of these challenges California still remains a state that holds a fascination for all of us with the promise of an even better future. California's history of events, discoveries and myriad ethnic groups with their own individual cultures provide rich inspiration for visual and performing arts activities which can be showcased on the plaza on May 3rd. We look forward to seeing the work of your students at that time.

Compiled by Suzy Boyett and Lynda Jenner