Survey Takes Laguna’s Art Temperature


Too many land or seascapes in Laguna Beach galleries? Not enough art event spaces? Too many part-time home owners edging out cultural concerns of full-time residents? How much does the average Laguna Beach household spend on cultural philanthropy or pursuits?

Artist Julio Labra at Rawsalt’s inaugural opening, an expansion of the Salt Fine Art gallery. Photo by Suzanne Walsh.
Artist Julio Labra at Rawsalt’s inaugural opening, an expansion of the Salt Fine Art gallery. Photo by Suzanne Walsh.

Those are some of the questions approved by a steering committee comprised of members of the city’s planning and arts commissions tasked with drafting a long-range cultural arts plan for Laguna Beach. The initial task involves overseeing a comprehensive questionnaire that becomes available online beginning Friday, July 31.

Prepared by Cultural Planning Group, a San Diego arts and culture consulting firm, the survey can be completed through Oct. 5 at, said city arts manager Sîan Poeschl.

Respondents will also have an opportunity to answer questions regarding their arts excursions into other Orange County communities and larger cities in the United States and beyond. At a recent meeting, Arts Commission members Pat Kollenda and Suzi Chauvel questioned, though, whether comparing Laguna Beach’s art scene to that of say, New York or Chicago, will yield meaningful results.

Last December, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Laguna Beach a $25,000 grant to develop a citywide cultural arts plan to further insure the city’s cultural and economic growth. A previous cultural master plan was last updated in 2005. The town’s first such master plan was executed in 1995.

Arts and culture generated $49.1 million in economic impact and generated 1,351 jobs in Laguna Beach, according to a 2010 survey by Americans for the Arts, an arts advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

A major issue remains the city’s lack of a flexible use cultural space. Prior to issuing the survey, committee members fine-tuned the survey wording about spaces for exhibitions, class rooms, performance spaces and commercial spaces relating to the arts.

“The Cultural Planning Group should assess all of our cultural resources to come up with a solution,” said steering committee member and council member Rob Zur Schmiede.

“Part of that priority is to establish spaces and programs for artists,” added sculptor Louis Longi at a recent meeting of the steering committee. Its members also include Chauvel, council member Kelly Boyd and planning commissioner Susan McClintock Whitin.

Sonoma County, for example, also hired the Cultural Planning Group, but with a different cultural issue to resolve. There, the consultants were hired to create a strategy to establish arts leadership among diverse non-profit arts organizations, businesses and artists.

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