Realizing the Dream of Arts Park Is Largely a Matter of Money

Question: Will you launch a capital campaign as soon as the lease is signed?

Answer: Yes, but we're going to launch it quietly. In any fund-raising activity, particularly a major capital campaign, ideally, we want to raise, or have in hand, pledges for half of the amount before you do a big public announcement and public solicitation. Based on analysis of the market and initial interviews with our donors--who we talked to years ago, but now we need to talk to them again to see if anything has changed--we will determine how big an initial campaign to launch. A couple years ago, we figured phase 1 would be $25 million. We're going to have to decide whether that's too high or too low. I think it's probably somewhere in that ballpark.

Q. What will Arts Park consist of?

A. The centerpiece of the project is the Performing Arts Pavilion, which is currently designed as two theaters consisting of an 1,800-seat booking house for major productions and a 500-seat theater for plays and smaller community productions. That may change. The configuration of those two may change, but we're pretty much limited to the 2,300 seats.

The second piece is the Children's Center. That's designed to have all kinds of arts and cultural activities for children, a small stage where the children can perform, small rooms for musical training, arts and crafts, even a high-tech area where kids can use computers.

Third is Arts Park Center, which would house administrative offices for the project, but it would mainly be a gallery for artwork. It could be painting. It could be sculpture. And it would be designed to have opportunities both for local artists and for traveling well-known exhibitions. We also have artists' workshops for artists to come and perform their craft for a set period of time, maybe a month, maybe three months. We also have a satellite of the (Los Angeles County) Natural History Museum as a part of the plan, designed as a 20,000-square-foot facility for permanent and traveling exhibitions.

The final piece we have is what we call the media center. Although this is another 20,000-square-foot space, when we originally conceived the project, there was a demand for space where people could use video, film, whatever for community groups, local arts organizations. How much of a demand for that there still is with the proliferation of cable, I don't know. That's something we're going to have to re-examine.

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Q. How long will it take to build all that?

A. The Cultural Foundation started about 12 years ago and I think we're 20 years away from completing Arts Park. So, we're one-third of the way along the timeline. . . . We're actually looking at a 17-year project. I always say 20 years. Originally we were hoping for 10 or 12, but we said we better call it 17 to be on the safe side. Now I say 20 just to be on the safe side.

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Q. What will come first?

A. Let's say we build the Children's Center, the Natural History Museum, the Arts Park Center. That's phase 1, that and some of the parking, some of the other infrastructure. That will be the campaign. When that campaign is completed, whether it's three years, five years, seven years, then we'll get into phase 2.

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Q. When can we expect to see something go up in Arts Park?

A. I would think it's not unreasonable to think that in two years we'd have a full functioning Children's Center. But I think we need to show that even though it's a 20-year project, at least we got phase 1 under way. Our hope is that once we've got the sublease in hand, that even though a permanent facility for children may be two years away, that next summer we can put up a temporary shelter and have some programs going.

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Q. How has the Valley's business climate affected your ability to raise money?

A. I think what the Valley has lost in the past five years is what I would call the middle market. In a major campaign, the middle market would be contributions from $50,000 up to $1 million. Corporations which might have pledged $20,000, maybe $500,000, have left and they're not here. Lockheed is pretty much gone, Rocketdyne is smaller, Litton has been dramatically downsizing. Hughes is in the process of leaving. But that's a market that I'm not worried about. The really big givers, the million-dollar-plus givers, I think there's actually more of them. The smaller givers, whether it's anything from $1 to $50,000, they're the ones who are probably going to be the most impacted by this recession. So, it may be three or four years before they're in a position to give what they would have given five, seven years ago.

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Q. Is it possible you'll have to defer phase 1 because of the recession?

A. No. We will try to scale the campaign to what is reasonable, but we won't defer it. Phase 1, in our new thinking, is the Children's Center, the Arts Park Center, the Natural History Museum. Maybe we eliminate one of those. Maybe just to get something going, to make people feel there is progress, maybe it will only be the Children's Center in phase 1.

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Q. What kind of programming does the foundation have in mind for the Arts Park Pavilion?

A. It's a higher portion of the more popular events, performances. Unlike the Dorothy Chandler, where you wouldn't have Johnny Mathis coming in and doing a performance, we would have that. We might have one week the symphony and the next week we might have Johnny Mathis. We would have a little more variety, a little more mass appeal.

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Q. Is Arts Park supposed to bring culture to the Valley or serve the arts groups that already exist?

A. Right now there is tremendous talent in the Valley. There has been a misunderstanding. Maybe even some of our foundation people have said there's no culture in the Valley, that we're trying to bring culture in the Valley. What we're trying to do is bring cultural facilities to the Valley. The culture is here. There's just no place for it to bloom, to flower, to demonstrate.

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Q. Does the foundation hope to sponsor its own cultural groups?

A. The one thing we've always said we were trying to avoid was having our own in-house organization, whether it was a theater group or a symphony. I don't see us getting into that. I could see that once we have the facility, organizations, whether it's the West Valley Symphony or someone else, would have an incentive to develop. Then it's the survival of the fittest. I think there'll be competition and I think that ultimately, we'll have one top-level Valley orchestra which would have as its home the Arts Park Performing Arts Pavilion, but it would not be a Cultural Foundation symphony.

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Q. What is the appeal of Arts Park to those who do not belong to elite arts groups?

A. This is something for the Valley as a whole to rally 'round and say, "This is ours," and to be a source of pride in the Valley as a whole community. I'm an idealist, because I really believe in one people, one community. We have the most marvelous mix of people demographically, culturally. I'm not talking just about arts, music. I'm talking about food, lifestyles, values.

The park can be a key place where we get everybody together, increase respect, understanding, tolerance for everyone else in the community. I think people who see Arts Park as, "Ah, thank God, we're planning another theater where we can see the Valley Symphony or Valley Master Chorale, or whatever," that's great, but that's a very short-term and narrow view of what can be accomplished by Arts Park. I really have global hopes for Arts Park.

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