Arts Commission Meeting Marked by Rare Harmony

Victoria Hamilton, executive director of San Diego's new arts and culture commission, held her first round table discussion with arts leaders Tuesday, and the mood was promisingly upbeat. The 51 dancers, musicians, theater and visual artists, and arts managers in attendance responded with rare maturity in offering their vision of the city's arts future. During the brainstorming session, dozens of practical suggestions were offered. Among them: A call for mandatory arts education courses for children, family-oriented arts activities, increased interaction between universities and the arts community, education for the city's business and political leaders about the arts, a facility for dance rehearsals and performances, and more cooperation within the arts community itself.

It was suggested that artists have a part in the planning stages of new buildings. It was also suggested that informational tours of the city's diverse arts scene, which would inform politicians and other opinion leaders and help artists become better-acquainted with their colleagues' work, be conducted.

"There were people there I didn't even know existed," said Ian Campbell, general manager of the San Diego Opera. "It was like, 'Oh, you do that?' "

Indeed, that was one of the purposes of the meeting. Hamilton, who used a professional workshop facilitator, mixed representatives of large and small, old and new arts groups into seven groups for brainstorming.

Among the groups represented was C.O.V.A., an alliance of visual artists; the Old Globe Theatre; the year-old San Diego International Children's Festival; the Jazz Unlimited Dance Troupe; United States International University, and San Diego State University and Diversionary Theatre Productions, a gay theater company.

"I was pleased with the turnout and the interest in working together," Hamilton said. So was virtually everyone else who attended.

"It's great! There was a positive attitude of arts organizations working together and also with the city," said Jennifer Spencer of C.O.V.A.

"It's a great first step of beginning to work together instead of a lot of us only going at the last minute to (City Hall) to react to something," said Lynn Schuette, director of Sushi performance and art gallery.

Fred Colby, of the San Diego Foundation for the Performing Arts, was reminded of the San Diego Unified Port District's recent scuttling of two proposed sculptures: "Maybe the port would have listened if we had brought this group down there."

It may be years before San Diego commissions its first public artwork, but the City of Carlsbad in North County is moving ahead with due speed.

The City Council rejected its arts commission's recommendation for a proposed sculpture by James Hubbell in 1985. Since then, Carlsbad Cultural Arts has sponsored a successful 1987 temporary sculpture exhibit and will hold another this fall.

Construction is about to begin on an ocean sculpture by Andrea Blum and a gateway design by James Hubbell. Last week a committee headed by juror Ron Onorato selected Los Angeles artist Lloyd Hamrol's environmental sculpture as the winner in a $75,000 contest to place art in Stagecoach Park.

About 500 people viewed models of the three finalists and put their comments in a book.

The panelists considered safety, maintenance and aesthetics factors in making their decision, committee member Donna Meilach said. Meilach said Hamrol's abstract stone sculpture was selected ultimately because of its design and because it "was an extension of" the ruins of the stagecoach stop that are on the park grounds.

Roberto Salas, the La Jolla artist whose contest-winning Victory Palm sculpture was recently rejected by the port commissioners, just completed a public commission for Alma College in Alma, Mich. Salas was chosen over 45 other artists from 20 states in the college competition.

The winning sculpture, titled "Leonardo's Column of Knowledge," was designed for the college library's main stairwell. It consists of a colorful spiral of books pertaining to art, science and technology suspended on eight steel cables.

Kent Kirby, chairman of the Alma College art department, said contest juror Jan van der Marck, curator of modern art at the Detroit Institute of Art, praised Salas' work for its suitability and originality.

"I'm delighted with it," Kirby said. "I think Van der Marck's remarks were true."

Kirby said that he anticipates controversy over the new sculpture, "in the same way that Leonardo once caused the intellectuals of his time to ponder and consider his work, to reflect on it. I have a feeling this work will do the similar thing on a college campus. It's going to provoke some undergraduates to think about it. Some will be for it. Some will be against it. It isn't going to stand there and collect dust. I think that is exciting."

Salas, who will be paid $5,000, which includes the cost of the sculpture, signed the piece Tuesday.

"I'm really pleased," Salas said, adding that the commission was a great morale boost during the Port District debacle. "I sort of kept my hopes up with this one. It was really a relief to know that I was coming up after the fiasco. It was a balance for the 'off-balance' in San Diego."

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