Sunday, August 25, 2013

No SD County Art Council Just Seems Wrong: Politics Affecting the Arts in San Diego

I am tracking several other large initiatives for the SD arts community and we should see some amazing changes soon at the San Diego Art Institute and the Commission for Arts and Culture.

The hunt will be on soon for a new director for The San Diego Art Institute.  We are so pleased that Claire Slattery has been designated as the interim director. She was president of the board and so knows the inner workings of the Institute and what is will take for this wonderful resource to reach new heights. This is a huge opportunity for the right person who will know the benefit of collaboration with the entire arts community. Slattery was previously also on the board of the Combined Organization for the Arts and knows the value of the art associations of the entire country. This resource was little developed since it came under the authority of SDAI, but the potential is still there. We feel that the SDAI has been under utilized and would love to see so many more events and more variety in the exhibitions, a larger audience and more support from the community so that this premier venue in Balboa Park really serves our artists at the same time as it creates a strong arts identity for the region. That identity can serve the county as a whole in so many ways including showing the economic benefits of attracting skilled professionals to this area by showing them the creative excellence that exist here.

The position of director of the Commission for Arts and Culture for the City of San Diego will need to be refilled now that Mayor Filner is gone. The new mayor or acting mayor might want to choose from three new candidates that the commissioners put forward. Right now Dana Springs is holding down the fort as acting director, but maybe they will lure Denise Montgomery back as she resigned after two months in protest to Filner harassment charges. The future of the commission is the bigger issue. Some say it may be requested that this group becomes an independent non-profit organization and no longer is part of the government. That seems like a way to cut off the funding from the TOT (Tax on Tourist) to the arts. So it will take a strong and savvy director to keep the money flowing from the city.

Finally, we have to realize that the Commission for Arts and Culture is the only organization recognized by the county supervisors and thus the only one eligible for California Arts Councils funding. As Jim Gilliam, Director of Arts for the City of Encinitas reminds us, “San Diego had an Arts Agency long ago but it was disbanded when the downtown Commission for Arts and Culture was established. The problem with that structure: the city doesn’t serve the full county.” It seems obvious that we need a SD Country Arts Council formed to represent all of the constituents in the region. This has to be an independent organization, not a branch of any other organization and it need to address the issues of funding for arts in the county, arts education, audience building and a true arts identity which is all inclusive. Although San Diego Visual Arts represents over 2100 resources we don’t cover the performing arts and don’t see this as a role for any one organization. It has to be a joint effort, with buy in from the majority of our art professionals. There is not a golden egg waiting for us at the CAC, but we are the only county in California that does not have a county art council and that just seems wrong.

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