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Blending AIDS Awareness, Art for a Day : Costa Mesa Refuses to Issue Proclamation

TIMES STAFF WRITER

City officials have refused to officially proclaim Wednesday as A Day Without Art as part of a worldwide observance of the toll AIDS has taken, and arts officials across the county are upset.

Mayor Sandra L. Genis, a staunch opponent of all municipal arts funding, said Monday that economics were behind the refusal. Proclamations have cost the city $3,000 to $5,000 annually in materials and staff expenses, she said, and “I personally don’t think they are a good use of taxpayers’ money.” As mayor, Genis has sole power to issue or refuse proclamations.

Martin Benson, artistic director of the South Coast Repertory theater in Costa Mesa, said the refusal is “heinous” and “ironic” given that Costa Mesa--home to some of the county’s more prominent theaters and groups--likes to boost itself as “City of the Arts.”

“Not only did Costa Mesa yank all arts funding,” said Benson, referring to the city’s cessation of arts grants last year, “it can’t even issue a statement of support of those trying to make a statement about this plague. To me, that is heinous.”

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The cities of Newport Beach and Irvine and the county itself have issued Day Without Art proclamations at the request of a coalition of arts groups that will observe the day with a program at SCR on Wednesday (see accompanying story). Laguna Beach is expected to follow suit, according to Barbara McMurray, a spokeswoman for Opera Pacific, one of the groups involved. “I didn’t even have to make a follow-up call to Newport Beach,” McMurray said, “and we had the (proclamation) in our hands within a day or two. We aren’t out to create an adversarial relationship with Costa Mesa, but it seems like such a small thing for (Costa Mesa) to make some kind of a statement. What they’ve done is make a statement of their own.”

The mayor said she supports proclamations only for individuals or groups based in Costa Mesa or involved in projects that directly benefit the city and its residents.

Not all the groups involved in the Day Without Art observance are based in Costa Mesa, and any funds raised during the observance would benefit AIDS patients elsewhere as well as here.

Genis noted that she recently rejected proclamation requests from the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts of America. She said she will issue one to the Foster Grandparents and Senior Companion Program that provides companions to the developmentally disabled at the Fairview Developmental Center, which is in the city.

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She further noted that while she did not issue a proclamation, she did announce at the City Council’s last meeting that Wednesday would be A Day Without Art in Costa Mesa and that it would be part of World AIDS Day, which is sponsored by the United Nations.

Her announcement, she said, was televised in Costa Mesa over cable television, and “as long as we acknowledge the event and tell people about it, it serves the same purpose” as a proclamation.


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