An Interview with Sonya Kolowrat
By Liz Leshin
Sonya Kolowrat joined the Conservancy this year, and jumped in feet first, participating in our Community Leadership Boot Camp and joining the Last Remaining Seats committee. Development Director Liz Leshin recently checked in with her.
LL: How did you learn about the L.A. Conservancy, and what compelled you to join?
SK: A few years ago, a friend and I were talking about Downtown LA and all the stunning buildings there, the theaters in particular, and she told me that her father-in-law (Herb Silverman) is a docent for the Conservancy-led tours. That was my initial introduction to the Conservancy.
I’ve also been exploring downtown a lot and recently started an Instagram account dedicated to Los Angeles Terrazzo (@losangelesterrazzo), and when I post about the amazing terrazzo I find, I try to research the building and area, and nearly every time, I am led to the Conservancy website. It was probably my obsession with the old theaters, and the possibility of exploring inside of them that led me to join the Conservancy
LL: You participated in the Conservancy’s Community Leadership Boot Camp this year; what did you get out of the experience?
SK: I LOVED my Boot Camp experience! I learned so much – it’s hard to even encapsulate. I learned about all the amazing resources and research tools available. I know the process of landmarking a building and what it takes to do that. I know what city agencies control what, and I know that the Vista Hermosa neighborhood has way too many uncapped oil wells. I made friends too! Most importantly, I learned about what I can do as a citizen of Los Angeles to make my voice heard and help advocate to raise awareness of historic spaces.
LL: Which neighborhood do you live in? And what do you think makes it distinct?
SK: I live in Eagle Rock. I love it for the community feel and I love the location – this unique little pocket between the rest of LA and Pasadena. It’s got two lovely main streets in Colorado Blvd and Eagle Rock Blvd that are filled with really special independent retail shops and restaurants that really seem to support each other. Of course, we have our literal Eagle Rock.
LL: You also became a member of the Last Remaining Seats committee. What attracted you to that, and what is your favorite part of LRS?
SK: Last Remaining Seats is such a special and magical series. I work in the music industry, but I LOVE film and old theaters – the glamour they hold, the golden age of cinema, and this is such a great merger of that.
I met Lia, the Conservancy’s volunteer coordinator at the in-person Boot Camp meeting, and when we started chatting about the volunteer opportunities I learned that I could volunteer on this committee, so I did! It was great timing, and I can’t wait for the next season. I’ll be at every screening, and part of the appeal for me was really just being able to be inside these lovely spaces. A film I suggested will hopefully be shown, and I’m really excited for the entire potential slate, TBA!
LL: What case would you make to others for joining and supporting the L.A. Conservancy?
SK: If you love your city, it’s important to take an active role in its upkeep. No matter the cause, one voice CAN make a difference. It can be something as small as writing a letter. Los Angeles is unique, magical, diverse and HUGE. There is a lot of work to be done, and it’s so important to protect these spaces and neighborhoods. The saying “if these walls could talk” really could define preservation in Los Angeles, and I feel like the Conservancy is really working hard to make sure that the future of LA also includes the past, and they can’t do it without us!
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