Angels, amusement parks and ... the arts?

Times Staff Writer

Already known for its sports teams, convention center and world-famous amusement parks, Anaheim may be adding a little culture to the mix.

City Council members are enthusiastically supporting a call from music, theater and dance groups for assistance in building a performing arts center or district.

"It has been said that creativity is the currency of the future," said Councilman Harry Sidhu, one of three council members who backed the idea at Tuesday night's council meeting. "An arts center would be truly innovative and visionary. And it would be in keeping with the spirit of the great city of Anaheim."

The project is in the very early stages, but members of the Anaheim Ballet, Orange County Symphony, Chance Theater and Musical Theatre West have formed a task force to raise funds and study its feasibility.

"We're all over place," said Larry Rosenberg, co-director, with his wife, Sarma, of the Anaheim Ballet. "We perform at many different venues and we'd really like a home in Anaheim."

Mayor Curt Pringle and council members Lorri Galloway and Sidhu indicated they would like to help the groups. The council's initial support surprised some members of the arts community. One option being discussed is putting the arts center on city land, although no official proposals have been made.

"This is the first time in the history of Anaheim that the council has even been willing to entertain the concept," said Dorothy Rose, executive director of the Orange County Symphony. "Getting the project even this far has been a major challenge to the performing arts community in this town."

Some task force members envision one large facility, though not as grand as the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, which recently completed a $225-million expansion.

"The vision is that this will be a showpiece," Rose said. "We're not talking about renovating a building or having a make-do situation."

Other members of the arts community are calling for a cultural arts district, similar to those in Pittsburgh and Tucson, Ariz. Pringle said Tuesday he was not likely to favor such a district.

"I am more enamored with a concept of multiple venues, possibly in multiple places," he said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with having a venue in Anaheim Hills, another downtown and one in the Platinum Triangle."

During their presentation to the council, project backers cited studies that have shown the positive financial impact art districts can have on a community.

In Pittsburgh, tax revenues in the arts district from real estate and performances increased from $7.9 million to $19.1 million from 1986 to 1994, they said.

Galloway said a performing arts center in Anaheim was long overdue.

"If cities like La Mirada and Cerritos have performing arts theaters and we don't, you start to wonder why," she said.

City officials and council members said they saw the project moving forward as a public/private partnership.

Sidhu, who has helped raise funds for the Chance Theater, admits the project might be "overly ambitious."

"People are not as enthusiastic about supporting the arts in Anaheim as they are supporting their sports teams," he said.

"But we need to bring art alive in this town. It's a good start, and I'm glad we are trying to give the arts importance in our city."

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