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Our Laguna: Arts and taxes getting in ‘bed’ together

When Laguna’s Arts commissioners talk about Jack, they aren’t thinking cheeseburgers and curly fries.

“Jack” is the name of the sculpture newly installed in front of the bus depot on Broadway.

“I am thrilled to introduce this really important piece of art,” Commissioner Pat Kollenda said in her usual restrained fashion.

“Jack” is the creation of Tim Shockley, an exhibitor at the Festival of Arts. The bronze sculpture is part of the festival’s permanent collection and on loan to the city.

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The bus depot is one of three sites at which festival loans from the collection are exhibited to the public.

Mayor Elizabeth Pearson dedicated the sculpture.

“Once again the Arts Commission has pulled off another arts program,” Person said before introducing Shockley.

Shockley started by thanking the festival, the city and the commission.

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“I am sharing this space with some great artists,” he said. “This piece represents a style of mine, a lot of my art is about whimsy.”

The installation was made possible by the Business Improvement District (BID), a voluntary addition to bed taxes by the city’s hoteliers to foster artists, art organizations and art projects that bring tourists to Laguna Beach and the city, Kollenda said.

Bed taxes are revenue the city does not share with the state, unlike property or sales taxes.

The hotels agreed to tack on another 2%, an agreement that must be renewed annually for arts-related funding.

As Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman has said, “This is voluntary. The hotels could unplug it at any time.”

Half of the assessment funds, an estimated $800,000 in fiscal year 2008-09, is allocated to the Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau, which promotes destination tourism through an award-winning marketing campaign.

The other half of the BID assessment is divided up between local art institutions, Arts Commission programs and community art organizations that burnish the city’s reputation as an art colony and are deemed attractive to tourists.

In the 2009-10 fiscal year, $160,000 each was allocated to the Laguna College of Art & Design, the Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Art Museum and Arts Commission programs. Another $160,000 was split among local arts organizations.

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Among the commission projects funded by the BID are artist-designed benches, holiday banner and palette competitions, art exhibits at City Hall, publications, Concerts in the Park, a public art tour, public art restorations and temporary exhibits of rotating sculptures.

Also funded by the BID: Friday Flicks at the Forum. Starting today, the Arts Commission will present art-related films at the theater on the Festival of Arts Grounds.

“Yossou N’Dour, I Bring What I Love” is scheduled for today, followed by “Chihuly in the Hot Shop” Jan. 22; “Who Gets to Call it Art?” on Jan. 29. All screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call City Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl at (949) 497-0722.

The hoteliers founded the Laguna Beach Hospitality Assn. in 1986. A visitors center was opened on Broadway in 1993.

Two years later the group changed its name to the Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau.

Behind the scenes maneuvering by businessman Sam Goldstein, then-City Councilman Paul Freeman and bureau officials resulted in the BID proposal, which went into effect July 1, 2001.

“It was an almost two-year process,” said Karyn Philippsen, president of the bureau.

For which the council gives thanks: Transient Occupancy Tax, better known as Bed Tax, represent the second highest revenue source for the city category.

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Most of the Art Commission attended Jack’s dedication: Mary Ferguson, Susi Chavel, Gerard Stripling, Bill Atkins and Lisa Mansour. Former Commissioners Julita Jones, Nancy Beverage, Terry Smith, Mike Tauber and Poeschl. Judy Bijlani and Philippsen represented the Visitors Bureau. Festival representatives included Promotion and Publicity Director Sharbie Higuchi, PR and marketing coordinator Gioia Hagopian, Events Coordinator Susan Davies, Jack Archer — back after a long illness — and current board member Bob Moffett, and Tom Lamb.

Lamb is the festival’s authority on the late photographer Stillman Sawyer, who specialized in nature scenes and silver-gelatin black and white prints.

A sampling of Sawyer’s work and equipment was loaned by the festival to City Hall, where a reception was held following the dedication to celebrate the sculpture and the Sawyer exhibit on the First Thursday Art Walk of the new year.

Sawyer’s estate and curatorial funding was donated to the festival, in addition to a record $1 million he donated as seed money for permanent, year-round exhibit space.

The gift came to the festival after Sawyer’s death in 2007. He was 82.

“It is the largest financial gift the festival has ever received,” Lamb said.

Sawyer was an exhibitor at the festival for 10 years. During that time he also made gifts to the building fund.

“We are looking for outside space for a learning center,” Lamb said.

The Sawyer exhibit at City Hall includes equipment such as light boxes, film, cameras — and even pencils and a ruler — in addition to the photographs.

“These photographs are amazing,” Shockley said.

Among the guests at the reception: Glori Fickling, dressed for a safari, John Hoover, artist

Patricia Whiteside and Realtor Patricia Truman, along with those who attended the dedication of “Jack.”

Kudos to the California Parks and Recreation Society that presented the Community and Senior Centers on Third Street an Achievement Award for Facility Design — Community Centers/Facilities in cities with populations from 20,001 to 50,000.

This is the highest award category presented by the society, an organization of 525 local parks and recreation agencies throughout the state, according to City Manager Ken Frank.


BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 380-4321 or coastlinepilot@latimes.com.


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