Arts group wants more venues

DOWNTOWN — The nonprofit that runs the Alex Theatre has its eye on additional performance venues and gallery space, officials said Friday.

Glendale Arts, established in July 2008 to manage the theater and coordinate local art resources, held its first New Venue Task Force meeting Friday to begin the process of expanding the amount of art and performance venues in Glendale.

The meeting came just weeks after Glendale entered into lease negotiations with Los Angeles-based Museum of Neon Art for a city-owned building on Brand Boulevard across from Americana at Brand.

Glendale Arts Executive Director Barry McComb said the goal was to acquire at least one venue within the next two years. The focus will be on smaller performance venues that could accommodate productions that aren't big enough for the 1,500-seat Alex Theatre.

The task force grew out of residential input from community meetings prior to the nonprofit's formation, he said.

“The one thing that resonated through every discussion were there were not enough performance venues and opportunities for artists to show off their work,” McComb said.

The task force is a group of city officials and community members, including Development Services Director Philip Lanzafame, architect Aram Alajajian and the city's former Planning Director Elaine Wilkerson.

“It's the kind of thing that gives a lot of character to the community to have a lot of venues,” Wilkerson said.

Glendale Arts, which has struggled financially amid the languid economy, is now on more stable footing, McComb said, allowing for a possible expansion.

“We feel the time is right economically,” he said.

In recent months, the organization has cut operating costs after revenue slid with the economy.

In addition to the task force, Glendale Arts will be spearheading two other initiatives in the next year.

Each will have its own task force to explore the development of an outdoor concert series for next summer, and to plan a monthlong arts festival for next fall.

The initiatives join a cultural renaissance of sorts that has taken hold in Glendale with the expected addition of MONA.

“Why should I have to go to Burbank or Pasadena to see something?” Wilkerson said of the cultural push.

On Friday, task force members discussed potential venues and their uses, which ranged from film screenings and musical performances to a black box theater or gallery space.

McComb said it was unlikely the task force would be able to find a venue capable of hosting everything, but that flexibility was a key factor.

Members of the task force discussed creating a space that could serve as an “arts incubator,” where local arts organizations could share offices and rehearsal and performance space.

While all of the city will likely be mined for potential venues, task force members said it would make the most sense for the venue to be in the downtown area close to the Alex Theatre.

“We can leverage the branding we've already established,” Glendale Arts Associate Director Elissa Glickman said.

McComb emphasized the organization would move forward cautiously as they meet with property owners and examine potential locations.

“This is the first step in a very long road,” he said.

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