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Commentary: Newport is becoming a city of the arts as well

Bravo, Mayor Keith Curry!

At Friday night’s annual Speak Up Newport Mayor’s Dinner, in his State of the City address, Mayor Curry proposed something that will invigorate our community and catapult the already great city of Newport Beach to a new level of innovation, creativity and prosperity.

Mayor Curry began by aptly chronicling Newport Beach as a financially strong and dynamic community with outstanding assets. The list is almost too long to recount — a beach, bay and schools beyond renown, the nationally recognized OASIS Senior Center, the Newport Coast Community Center and a vibrant Central Library with citywide satellite locations.

Our film festival, arts shows, Shakespeare by the Sea and Concerts in the Parks are highly lauded. And the city is poised to unveil the Newport Beach Civic Center, including a new City Hall, 17,000-square-foot expansion of the Central Library, parking structure and 16-acre park. This awesome complex will serve as a much-needed educational, social and environmental gathering place. All these facilities, events and organizations interact to establish a dynamic and spirited city with much to offer to residents and visitors alike.


Mayor Curry then submitted the enlightened and enterprising plan that we invest in our community in a bold, new way. He proposes we set aside a small percentage of already-in-place development fees to a special arts fund for permanent art installations. This fund will in no way raise or add to any city fees. What the fund will achieve is to establish Newport Beach as a community that respects the arts and invests in assets that ensure the creation of public value.

As Mayor Curry so succinctly put it, “All great cities have in common a commitment to public arts.” He quotes Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities,” who posits there is a five-tier pyramid of expectations for great cities — at a minimum they should be “Functional, Safe, Comfortable and Convivial.” Newport Beach satisfies all these criteria in a multitude of ways. Kageyama also submits a great city should be “Interesting.” Art and culture significantly contribute to the quality of life in a city and indeed, make it Interesting.

We are at a juncture to stand alongside neighboring arts communities like Laguna Beach, with its world-renowned arts and cultural resources, and Costa Mesa with its internationally recognized performing arts complex. Public art necessitates community commitment, for inspiration, manpower and ultimately, private contribution. But it is not realistic to expect private sources to fully fund all of the capital costs for new investments — this requires a public-private collaboration. By dedicating a city fund for the arts, Newport Beach commits to the cultural, social and fiscal enrichment of our city for generations to come.

ROBYN B. GRANT lives in Newport Beach.