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Santa Monica Artists: Artists Give Their Views on Arts Funding

Santa Monica artists had a chance to give their views about arts funding at a workshop held November 7 at the 18th Street Arts Center. The meeting was organized by the Cultural Services Department and was hosted by Jerry Yoshituri, an independent arts consultant.

Cultural Services has prepared a report, Creative Capital: Culture, Community, Vision, with recommendations for the City’s cultural development. Yoshituri told the artists at the 18th Street meeting that the plan is “one of the best public arts plans I’ve ever seen.”

One of the recommendations in the plan is the creation of an Artists Fellowship program that would support individual artists, rather than projects. Yoshituri talked about how such programs need to prove their value to the funding community. He asked the artists to think about arts programs and events in Santa Monica that had impact on them or other people – and if so, what larger public benefit had been gained from the way a person was affected by the art?

Artist Nadia Reed recalled that she read an article about the 18th Street Arts Center and was excited. A friend told her, “You have to live in this place,” and she eventually became a resident artist at 18th Street. “I teach, do public service and community art,” she said. “I have taught over 100,000 children on different levels. I would say that art itself is transformation. Self-esteem is a big- time thing. [Art] gives them a sense of their own beauty that no one can take away.”

The proposed Artist Fellowship program, as outlined by Yoshituri, would have three goals: to recognize and honor Santa Monica artists, to increase creation of innovative new work, and to provide Santa Monicans with access to artwork.

The fellowship plan, in its rough form, calls for grants to be given to artists in all disciplines (including visual art, performance, music, dance, literature, theatre, and film), with one or two grants per funding cycle to be given to those who “have had a lifetime of innovation in their field,” at $7,500 to $10,000. There would also be a few smaller grants ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, for newer artists.

The plan suggested that there be a rotating cycle of disciplines, with one year featuring grants to visual artists, the next year for performing arts, et cetera.

Artists would be able to submit their work for judgement online. The top contenders would then be interviewed face-to-face by a panel of judges.

After the plan was outlined, Yoshituru asked the artists for feedback on what they liked and disliked, and what recommendations they would make.

Artists expressed concern that the amount of money allotted to “lifetime artists” was more than the amount allotted to newcomers and that the reverse should be the case. There was debate as to how to define a veteran artist. Many thought that the overall amounts of money allotted should be larger, although larger grants might mean that fewer artists would receive them.

Artists favored the plan’s inclusiveness to all disciplines, its potential for introducing people to new art forms, and the additional exposure artists would receive through online galleries. City Councilmember Kevin McKeown approved of the plan’s simplicity, commenting: “It starts on a small scale, but will show results and expand.”

The plan, with artists’ recommendations, will be presented to the Arts Commission on December 17, after which it will go to the City Council for funding approval on January 22. Artists can attend these meetings and offer additional input.

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