Glendale mulls its own plan to become a public art draw

Arts events have boosted the popularity and economic prowess of cities like Pasadena and Santa Monica, and Glendale wants a piece of the action.

For the first time in more than two decades, Glendale officials have begun mapping out a five-year arts and culture plan in order to shape the city into a regional draw.

“When someone says Santa Monica, they automatically think of that city as an arts and culture destination,” said Annette Vartanian, a program supervisor for the Library, Arts & Culture Department. “How do we grow Glendale’s identity as innovative and creative?”

The plan, which is in draft form, is the first step, she said at an Arts & Culture Commission meeting last week.

Making Glendale an arts and culture destination has been a goal among officials for years. In 2010, a marketing survey found that many people think of Glendale as boring and one way to improve that could be to enhance entertainment options.

The draft five-year plan proposes multiple ways to promote arts and culture, taking cues from neighborhood projects to larger scale events, such as ArtNight, an annual art walk in Pasadena, and Glow, a bi-annual all-night international arts festival in Santa Monica.

Glendale has already taken some steps to bolster its arts reputation, including establishing a creative corridor along San Fernando Road to lure creative businesses, putting temporary art in empty storefronts and establishing an Urban Art Fund made up of developer fees.

The fund had about $984,000 as of June 2012, but officials want to stretch that out for five to 10 years since new development can’t be counted on. The spike in recent art funding comes as the city’s downtown core is being developed.

“This money is not always going to be there,” Vartanian said.

All the more reason to create partnerships with the school district, churches, arts nonprofits and businesses in order to have street art, performing arts and other programs as outlined in the report, commissioners said.

“If we want to make sure art and culture is helping the economy of the community, that’s a must,” said Commissioner Arlette DerHovanessian, referring to support from businesses.

A few months ago when a creative lofts development opened in the Seeley’s building near the Brand Boulevard entryway to the city, the developer set up “pop up” art galleries at the site. Officials have heralded the idea and would like to see more businesses partner with arts organizations.

Commissioner Razmik Grigorian said beyond asking businesses to do their part, Glendale should ease zoning and permit requirements for arts-related businesses throughout the city. The creative corridor incorporates some of that, but since the city lost the main funding source — local redevelopment — less can be done.

Still, Grigorian said more could be done to provide incentives to artist colonies and other arts-centered developments.

“I think we should really go to that extent to encourage this,” he said.

The commission will review the plan again in January before it goes to the City Council.

-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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