Imagine a time before Youtube. A time before Netflix. Imagine, if you dare, a time before movies. There was a different form of entertainment widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries, one that’s been almost forgotten by time…. well, not if Sara Velas has anything to do with it.
In 2001, Sara opened a non-profit dedicated to the nearly forgotten form of pre-cinema entertainment, The Panorama. The word “panorama” comes from the Greek words meaning “all” and “sight.” Think panoramic photo, the wide angle view of physical space. In its early form (long before the photographic version), the Panorama was an actual experience. The viewer would be completely encompassed by a 360 degree painting and/or sculpture relief that was meant to transport the observer to entirely new surroundings.
At the Velaslavasay Panorama, you can experience the magical, transformative medium in its many forms. If you’re curious about the name Velaslavasay, it’s actually a combination of family names and doesn’t mean anything, only sounds fancy.
The Velaslavasay Panorama is housed in the Union Theater, built in 1915 as a cinema theater, and located in the West Adams area nearby USC. The museum features a 360 degree painting / relief (panorama) area entitled, “Effulgence of the North.” It transports you to a full moon-lit night in North Pole, complete with atmospheric music and a bench for relaxing to really take in your surroundings.
The museum also has a charming outdoor garden area, a theater that hosts live music events and a few other forms of panoramic art thrown in. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $6. It’s open Friday - Sunday (not open Mondays :/ but that’s ok!).