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Laguna plan to identify possible artist work/live locations progresses

Laguna Beach made progress Monday toward further polishing its arts colony reputation.

The city moved a step closer to obtaining an inventory of possible living spaces for working artists when the Arts Commission unanimously supported seeking a consultant to identify possible work/live locations.

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Attracting and retaining artists in a city renowned for such a heritage was the first goal of Laguna's Cultural Arts Plan. The City Council approved the plan in March and three months later allotted funding for related studies.

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Meanwhile, the commissioners Monday also unanimously supported a poet laureate program, which would align with the Cultural Arts Plan's goal of providing accessible, informal, year-round art activities, according to city officials.

Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl said the artist work/live assessment would cost about $25,000. The council must first approve the contract.

The plan's overall intent is to boost Laguna's artsy image and reduce the fragmentation in a city known for its numerous art galleries, summer arts festivals and other events.

"The firm that does this is going to drill down into specifics and that is what we have to have," Commissioner Suzi Chauvel said. "I'm all for doing this, sooner rather than later."

Laguna currently has seven or eight individual designated artist work/live spaces, Poeschl said, adding that "a lot of artists have a home occupancy license where there is a dedicated space in their home."

The consultant will identify existing sites or buildings that could house artists, while exploring use of rental incentives.

Laguna Beach has an ordinance that addresses guidelines for artist work/live units. For instance, in most cases, at least half of the total square footage of the unit must be allocated to the working area, and certain art forms aren't appropriate for all parts of the city.

Welding would occur in an industrial zone, while creating screenplays or poems would fit with a commercial or residential zone, according to the ordinance.

As part of the vote, a subcommittee of Chauvel, Arts Commissioner Adam Schwerner and Planning Commissioner Susan Whitin will review and suggest any changes to the request and return to the Arts Commission on Nov. 28 with the specific wording.

For instance, one of the consultant's jobs will be coordinating meetings to gather public feedback, leading Schwerner to suggest that artists and other interested groups be alerted to the meetings through social media, email or the city's website.

"We don't want to go through the process and someone says, 'Hey, you didn't involve me,'" Schwerner said after the meeting.

If commissioners are satisfied with the subcommittee's work, Poeschl will present the draft to the City Council in January.

Regarding the poet laureate program, a subcommittee of commissioners Schwerner, Mike Stice and Karen Wood was named to edit the request for poets. They will return Nov. 28 for approval.

The poet laureate program aligns with the goal of raising awareness of literary arts to people who have limited access to poetry or opportunities for expressive writing, according to the city.

"It represents all the best things about culture and art in our community," said Wood, former executive director of the Laguna Playhouse.

Under suggested guidelines, the poet would lead at least six public classes or workshops and six public readings of original work or previous writings appropriate to the occasion and audience.

The poet would also be expected to coordinate one festival-style event at the Laguna Beach Library in April to celebrate National Poetry Month. The library currently hosts a Laguna poets group.

Laguna's Arts Commission has $10,000 available in its annual budget for the poet. The council must first approve the request.

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Bryce Alderton, bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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