Glendale this week celebrated its 115th birthday as an incorporated city, as exemplified by the birthday wishes on the Alex Theatre’s historic marquee. The city incorporated on Feb. 15, 1906, and was the 16th city to form within Los Angeles County. Since that time, it has grown and developed into one of the largest suburbs in the county, with an estimated population of 205,000 residents making it the county’s fourth-largest city and the 23rd-largest city in California. Additionally, with around 26,000 students, the Glendale Unified School District is the third-largest school district in L.A. County.
In need of a small outlet to unload your hope on the world as a largely interminable 2020 hurtles to an end?
The Alex Theatre has you covered. Or rather, it is inviting people to cover its front gate with their hopes, dreams and well wishes for 2021 — the start of which, many believe, signals the beginning of the end for the coronavirus pandemic that upended virtually all plans for this year. Passersby can take a paper tag from the bunch in front of the theater, scribble out their message and tie it alongside others on the metal gate — the Wishing Wall. People also may submit messages so that Glendale Arts staffers can post them on their behalf.
“The Alex has symbolized so many positive things for the community, and it’s done so for 95 years,” said Maria Sakahian, a managing director of Glendale Arts, which operates the theater. “Since we’re not able to open those gates and invite the public inside, we thought, ‘Why don’t we find a way for the physical structure to have that effect and nurture that feeling for the community, when people need it more than ever?’”
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The heat was on at the Alex Theatre on Saturday, when the venue’s nonprofit management company Glendale Arts surpassed its $95,000 fundraising goal in honor of its 95th birthday milestone, which was celebrated with a 12-hour program presented in a telethon format and livestreamed and telecast on multiple platforms.
At the close of the Alex95 event, $98,339 had been raised for the preservation of the city-owned Alex Theatre and the programs and services offered by Glendale Arts, with donations continuing to come in from supporters. The performing arts and entertainment center has reduced its staff since the mandated lockdown took effect in March, but it remains committed to its mission of bringing the community together through the arts and entertainment while continuing to maintain the historic building.
Alex95 hosts journalist Palmira Perez-Najarian, former NBC4 weathercaster Fritz Coleman, and comedians Alonzo Bodden, Mary Basmadjian, Matt Kirshen and Michael Rayner entertained viewers throughout the program, sharing the wonder and promise of the Theatre with their own special connections and memories.
Program highlights included a guided tour of the Alex, video greetings from performers and artists, and familiar faces from the community, including honorary committee members and area elected officials, including Congressman Adam Schiff, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, Glendale Mayor Vrej Agajanian and City Council members Ara Najarian, Paula Devine, Ardy Kassakhian and Daniel Brotman.
“We’re thrilled with the outpouring of support for Alex95, which reaffirms the community’s love for its iconic cultural and architectural landmark,” said Glendale Arts Managing Director Nina Crowe.
As one close friend coined it, a light went out on Sunday, July 26, when longtime Glendale resident Velvet Rhodes, the idiosyncratic founder of the Glendale International Film Festival, died in hospice care after a four-year battle with stage-4 cancer.
Rhodes, who was 70, is survived by a brother in Tennessee and a cousin in Arizona. She leaves with her friends and colleagues the memory of a strong-willed woman whose fashion ensemble for the day would often announce her arrival to an event, whose passion for performing arts and her festival were positively radioactive, and who, by numerous accounts, would not take “no” for an answer.
“I think really that’s the thing that stood out most about Velvet,” said Elissa Glickman, CEO of Glendale Arts, which operates the Alex Theatre. “At our first meeting, she pitched me an idea and concept that I wasn’t so keen on, but what her project could have brought to the community was so important that she made us believe that our vision could be her vision and it could translate into something really special to our community.”