The Crest Theatre first opened on Christmas Day, 1940, and though it has changed hands – and names – several times since then, the Art Deco façade sitting on Westwood Boulevard has always been a head-turner; located near the UCLA campus, the building had continued to catch Kristy Edmunds’s eye over the years. The Executive and Artistic Director for the Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) at UCLA had been able to gain access to the 500-seat space for the occasional performance (the venue was originally a theatre for live performance built for Frances Seymour Fonda before being converted to a newsreel cinema during WWII), but felt that its potential was still left untapped.
‘CAP is a very large commissioning and presenting organization, with lots of intersection with visual artists,’ said Edmonds as part of a discussion on patronage, specifically of the ephemeral and performing arts, hosted at the inaugural edition of Frieze Los Angeles. Sarah Arison of the National YoungArts Foundations, Artistic Director of L.A.’s Marciano Art Foundation Olivia Marciano, patron Susan Nimoy and Patton Hindle of Kickstarter rounded out the panel. Younger and emerging artists are often shut out of this system, Edmunds went on to explain. There needed to be another kind of platform for artists in the earlier stages of their careers.
By late 2018, she had found it, and the ideal site for such a task: CAP and UCLA’s School of Arts & Architecture acquired the Crest. ‘The Crest Theatre is affordable housing for ideas; it meets the artist where they are at, and where connecting with their audience matters [in the beginning stages],’ she explained. ‘From a curatorial perspective, seeing students performing – even in high school – you may not see them at a place like CAP for another 20 years.’
Nimoy – an actor, director, and philanthropist – contributed funding to make the sale possible. She has also been a near-life-long patron to the Theatre, having gone to screenings as a child in the Westwood neighborhood and later as a student at the school. ‘I’m a midwife in the arts world. I would like to help provide the opportunity for artists to flourish,’ she responded. She specified that her patronage often follows the programme and institution of an artistic director or curator, finding herself inspired by the potential of interdisciplinary spaces, such as the Hammer Museum, New York’s Thalia Theatre, and now, the Crest.
She looked to her left. ‘We need someone like Kristy to light the fire!’
Main image: Crest Theatre, Los Angeles, 2013. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: Chris Goldberg