Commission adds more than art to Laguna

The Laguna Beach Arts Commission has plans that will not only add to the city's reputation as an artists colony, but also to the city's revenue.

A report on the cultural and financial value of the arts to the community was presented by the commission at a joint meeting with the City Council Sept. 18.

"We talked a lot about the things we have been able to accomplish as an arts community," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson. "We are a tourist-based economy and we are an economy based quite a bit on what the arts provide to draw tourism to town.

"We've also become a lot more of a performing arts community, in addition to being a visual arts community," she continued. "We have our Arts Commissioners to thank for Music in the Park [Bluebird Park concerts] for 30 years. Now we have Sunset Serenades in Heisler Park, which is a wonderful way to spend an evening."

Commission programs in 2012 included 19 free concerts, six free Artist Open Studios and four public art installations.

The commission serves as an advisory board to the City Council, which has the final say on projects. Pat Kollenda chairs the seven-member commission, which includes Ken Auster, Nicolas Hernandez, Donna Olsen Ballard, Suzi Chauvel, Mary Ferguson and Lisa Mansour.

Funding for the Cultural Arts Department in the 2012-13 city budget totaled $1,656,700, of which $1.52 million was generated by the Business Improvement District through a 2% assessment on hotel room receipts.

That will help pay for four more public art installations in the next six months, as well as other commission projects.


Planning ahead

The commission would like to invest some money in a partnership with a professional company to produce a new Cultural Arts Plan. The first plan was undertaken by a committee of about 20 folks, chaired by Kollenda.

"I had learned that the city could not apply for grants without a cultural arts plan and a cultural arts manager," said former Commissioner Carol Reynolds. "Pat contacted people in the arts community and we sat in her living room and came up with the plan."

The plan was updated in 2005.

Commission goals would be identified in the plan, which would include sustainability, program and facility needs, Laguna's potential as an art community and facility assessment, feasibility and inventory.

The commission also strongly encouraged the city to participate in a national Arts and Economic Report to be conducted in 2015, a follow-up to the first report conducted in 2005. Commission funds have been allocated by the commission for the report.


Future art projects

Public art for the lifeguard headquarters at Main Beach will be a major addition to the city's inventory. Art or a contribution to the Art-in-Lieu Fund is required by the city code.

The commission suggested a request for qualifications process because of the prominence of the site and the number of artists that have already asked about the art component of the project.

A subcommittee has been working on some ideas, which had not been shared with the full commission by the date of the joint meeting, at which council members were invited to offer ideas they might have.

"There will be ample opportunities for the public and the council to have input on a project of this importance," Kollenda said.

The commission is also recommending the reconfiguration of the planter on Ocean Avenue and Beach Street. Suggestions included removal of benches and part of the planter, to be replaced by individual seating, a sculpture and a mural.

Art related to the Peace Pipe Pageant, once held in Laguna Canyon, has been suggested by the public for the pocket park on Frontage Road. The commission suggested the project might be an opportunity for a sculpture.

Also proposed was an Art Celebration Day on a Sunday in April or May in Heisler Park. The celebration would include docent-led tours of the public art displayed in the park, with the artists there to talk about their work and musical performances in the amphitheater.

"The joint meeting went extremely well," Kollenda said. "We shared ideas and vision, which were very positive."

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