By LUCY GUANUNA
Echo Park — It’s been 12 years since violinist Vijay Gupta became the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s youngest member. Since then Gupta has moved to Los Angeles from New York, started the Street Symphony, which performs for the homeless on Skid Row, and was honored this year with a $625,00 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.”
Today, Gupta, who is 31, lives in Echo Park with his wife. Between traveling from New York to Los Angeles, Gupta took some time out to chat with the Eastsider about how he’s settled into life in Echo Park and whether or not the former New Yorker now considers himself an Angeleno.
How long have you lived in Echo Park and what drew you to the neighborhood?
I’ve lived in Echo Park for 4 years. The decision to be in Echo Park was about being close to Downtown because so much of my work is with the Philharmonic in downtown [and to] actually also have a neighborhood and a community. That’s really what drew me to this part of town. You could barely tell that you’re less than a mile from Downtown L.A. which is not only cool, but it also has its perks.
How does living in a neighborhood like Echo Park help inspire your musical and humanitarian endeavors?
I’m always conscious of my role as a gentrifier. So as I started to do research about gentrification in Echo Park, I started to understand how gentrification and the erasure of communities is kind of central to the story of one of the books that has really shaped my life called “The Madonnas of Echo Park” by Brando Skyhorse. It tells this story about community and displacement and about the Chavez Ravine and Dodgers Stadium. and That sort of displacement is also what is happening in Skid Row today. So, in a sense, being in Echo Park and understanding how gentrification plays out in the lives and neighborhoods of people who have been there for a long time … kind of informs the work I do in Skid Row.
What do you like to do in Echo Park to blow off steam?
Really, just to walk around the lake. The backdrop to the lake is amazing. It’s weird to say but just the quality if life. I just love sitting in my house and watching the sunset. To just be there and see the mixture of city along [with] the old houses and old trees and yards — it’s kind of magical to be in that neighborhood.
Any notable notable businesses or organizations in Echo Park our readers should know about?
One place that i know and love is the 826LA on Sunset, an education center. I really admire who they are and admire their work. I also really love Stories Books and Cafe on Sunset Boulevard, I think it’s really an Echo Park institution.
You’ve lived in Los Angeles for over a decade, do you consider yourself an Angeleno?
I do. L.A. has definitely become home. But there is still a part of my soul that is a New Yorker transplant.
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