The Laguna Alliance for the Arts’ candidate forum exposed what is wrong with the arts today in a city that relies on its past and the hearsay of elders that Laguna Beach is still artistically relevant.
This forum was about the relationship between the city and art institutions, not about art. Throwing the topic of nudity in art at participants just confirmed this disconnect from what is relevant. People are intimidated when put on the spot talking about the arts because of its intangibility. Asking how many arts organizations the candidates support and belong to made everyone cringe.
Does belonging to PETA prove that someone loves animals?
Just because organizations believe that they do great work and politicians feel they did their due diligence by supporting them, does not mean they best helped art and culture.
In my experience, arts organizations know to run a company, but understand the least about the function of arts, artists or the creative process. In this co-dependent relationship, institutions become the only curators of what is allowed, elevating non-artists to color our city.
Case in point, no one mentioned Laguna’s music scene, which has become more dominant in audience engagement than all the other arts without arts organizations and government. Why? Individuals are exponentially more innovative and effective in the arts. The driver is the passion of cultural leaders like Ivan Spiers, Clay Berryhill, Nick Hernandez, Beth Wood, Rick Conkey and Peter Blake that keep reinventing the wheel with little to no support. Similar, Laguna’s radio station’s KX 93.5 team DJs Tyler Russell and Jason Feddy built an independent support community for the arts by introducing new artists and keeping the conversations about local arts alive.
This event was a sad confirmation that the politicians are happy with the work that their institutions deliver, unbeknownst that they are eliminating the leftovers of our city’s artistic relics to complete irrelevance. Institutions are incapable of creating relevant or interesting art. Artists do.
Remember that 95% of working artists live around the poverty level. Most gigs offer the same amount since 1990. What holds this death-spiral in place is that artists love what they are doing so much that they would do it for free. There are 10 in line that would do the job for any amount offered.
Michaell Magrutsche, Laguna Beach
The writer is a multimedia artist and former Newport Beach arts commissioner.