Tempe, Ariz., lacks a museum, has few galleries, but boasts a beautiful arts center whose under use frustrates the City Council. The city recently hired an arts consultant to draft a cultural arts plan to find solutions. “A lot depends on public input,” said director of community services Shelley Hearn.
A vibrant arts community exists in Santa Clarita, home of the Cal Arts College and the College of the Canyons. “We have basic art venues but wanted something more encompassing, a master plan that takes us to the next level,” said spokeswoman Gail Morgan. “We have an arts commission but need a plan to pull it all together, to provide a blueprint for the arts in the Santa Clarity Valley,” she said.
Sonoma County may be a mecca for wine lovers, but it is also home to a diverse creative community. To bring that community to the table, county supervisors also hired consultants to formulate a creative arts action plan to establish arts leadership among 200 non-profit arts organizations, businesses and artists in its creative community, which spans 14 towns. “When the community brings in someone from the outside, they observe things that the community alone is too close to see,” said county arts director Kristen Madsen.
All three communities have turned to Cultural Planning Group of San Diego, hoping the consulting firm will deliver an unbiased road map to unite creative people and identify concepts for cultural change.
Now, too, has Laguna Beach, whose City Council on April 14 approved hiring Cultural Planning Group to assess the town’s arts and culture by surveying various constituencies that cater to artists and art presenters. Results are expected by March 2016.
The consulting firm’s overall goals for all its clients include fostering communication and collaboration between arts groups and artists, promoting cultural tourism and planning cultural facilities.
Managing partner David Plettner-Saunders declined comment via e-mail because the terms of the agreement are still being negotiated.
Arts and culture generated $49.1 million in economic impact and supported 1,351 jobs in Laguna Beach in 2010, according to an Americans for the Arts survey released in 2012. Other communities similar in size to Laguna Beach but divergent in their focus on cultural arts have taken notice: The arts mean business.
Though Laguna established its reputation as an arts colony in the early 20th century and at present bursts with public art, galleries and numerous performing arts organizations, the City Council and its Arts Commission decided they needed help preparing for the future by commissioning a new cultural arts plan.
Such a plan should include assessing housing for younger artists and funding of public art and art venues. Similar plans were drafted locally in 1995 and 2005.
During the hearing over the arts plan, Leah Vasquez, a former Arts Commission chair, voiced concerns about the availability of public art spaces for future artists and suggested using existing art festival spaces for off-season events.
Author Arnold Hano did not think he would be affected by future arts planning. He suggested that the the city is already being “smothered by art.” He questioned spending $75,000 for the plan and fears that the arts community might become too large a political force in the city. “I hope someone considers residents before having more festivals,” added his wife, Bonnie Hano.
Fletcher Barryman, president of Laguna Beach Republicans, questioned the value of a cultural arts plan. Laguna’s history and eclectic character give the town’s art scene unique appeal, he said. “Laguna on its own has been fine until now; leave the artists to the artists,” he said.