Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Terra Lawson-Remer in Conversation about the Arts: SD Election for County Supervisors District 3

Notes by Patricia Frischer

One of the missions of The San Diego Regional Coalition for Arts and Culture  (SDRACC) to educate our county elected leaders about the role that arts and culture plays in our lives. These are wide ranging and the conversations that SDRACC held with the candidates for the upcoming elections are a wonderful opportunity to not only inform but to get verbal confirmation of support that might be forthcoming.

The conversation with Terra Lawson-Remer for District 3 was on Oct 13, 2 pm. All the candidates were invited to participate.   Current District 3 Supervisor Kristen Gaspar’s campaign did not schedule a session despite multiple attempts by SDRACC to do so but they will continue to try before the election. Please note: conversations were also held for District 1 – Ben Hueso and Nora Vargas and District 2 – Joel Anderson, Steve Vaus.

The Key Priorities for Arts & Culture in San Diego County

A consortium of arts and culture leaders from throughout the County assessed arts and culture priorities with the County of San Diego and prepared this roster of discussion items, which was presented to all candidates who participated in the Virtual Coffee and Forum.  The intent was to educate and inform the candidates to lay the groundwork for advancing our discussions after the election.  All candidates interviewed express positive support for exploring opportunities outlined in the priorities and questions below.

The panelist with Terra Lawson-Remer (many of these are board members of SDRACC) were:
Steve Snyder, Fleet Science Center: SDRACC came into existence when the SD County Arts Council folded to help support funding for the city of San Diego. SDRACC is now county wide. 
Alan Ziter, Arts District Liberty Center: launching ArtWalk 2020 Liberty Station Arts District
Alex Goodman, New Village Arts: budget cut in half
Caroline Nordquist, Mingei Folk Art Museum: Just received a Care Grant
Andrew Utt, Lux Art: t Institute 54% now online outside of SD

Terra Lawson-Remer, candidate for Supervisor District 3: Her opening remarks contained these thoughts. People know that the arts are part of our quality of life, but they don’t realize how much the arts contribute to the economy. The arts are not a luxury. Investing in the arts has a massive affect. She would like to see a more vibrant grass roots artist community to go with the established great museums. She loves Liberty Station and attended Dewey when she was growing up. She likes that it brings a large community together and combines food, parks, shopping, and all the arts. Wants to know how do we do that more widely so it benefits everyone?

County Investment in the Arts
In these times of pandemic and protest, artists and creative industry workers truly are essential as  “second responders” – as catalysts and leaders for rebuilding communities and fostering healing and connection. Would you support countywide investments in nonprofit arts and culture organizations and the livelihoods of artists across our County—especially in unincorporated areas where the County has direct oversight? 

Terra Lawson-Remer: She is going to look to the arts community to tell her what will make a real difference.
She supports a SD County Arts Council (SD County Arts Commission, SD County Office of Cultural Affairs) which could be a vehicle to coordinate and cross pollinate the arts community with other county needs.
She wants to hear about really big ideas that are innovative.

Office of Equity and Racial Justice

In the FY21 budget, the County created a new Office of Equity and Racial Justice. As artists and creatives have been at the forefront of social movements to bring about change to dismantle systemic racism and structural inequities, would you support the appointment of artists and creative to that Office—and to boards and commissions where their perspectives would be valued? 

Terra Lawson-Remer: We need to fight racism and give opportunities and she would be open to appointment of artist in that office. But she states we need more than an office. How do we ensure that we are taking this initiative to every area by being creative looking more deeply? She is voting for Prop 16 but thinks there are challenges to how it is written. We need to do more.

Use the Arts to Advance County public health, housing, public safety, and the environment
The arts have the ability to inspire, uplift, and heal.  Would you support the arts as a solution to move forward other priorities the County has historically invested in: public health, housing, public safety, and the environment? 

Terra Lawson-Remer: She wants to make the arts accessible to everyone especially the young and isolated. She will be looking for big community art projects. She hopes there are public building that could have big art works. She would like to see an Inventory of buildings and needs to see how those unused places could be enlivened and available to all. There needs to be an environment created that can foster the arts.

A special area for Lawson-Remer is child care as the cost now has soared to that of a university tuition. Women need to be able to work and since they are the prime care givers still, this has effects gender issue. Affordable childhood development in day care is vital. How can we create programs where every daycare has ongoing exposure to arts opportunities?  Nordquist joined in to say that Museums in SD are almost all female and pandemic is affecting them. Utt commented that art in the school is not creative enough. How can we work with the county to embed the cultural program in the schools and not have to rely on small funding for only a small part of our young population?

Champion for the Arts
If you’re elected to represent the District, can we count on you to be a Champion for the Arts—to support measures like those we’ve discussed today, to support budgets that make real investment in arts countywide, to support more resources to our county’s artistic community and creative industries? 

Terra Lawson-Remer: We will need to get the economy back on track, make sure there is a vaccine and invest in public health, and get the kids back in school.  The arts are not a silo need but a part of the strategy to get going again.

Countywide Arts Council
As the second most populous county in California, San Diego does not have a countywide arts council—unlike Los Angeles and Orange.  As County Supervisor, would you support the County taking a more active role in policy making and in investing in arts and culture for our region?

Terra Lawson-Remer: Most of the county policies are stagnant and that includes the arts policy. No initiative has been taken. We can look at other counties arts programs which are affective and visionary and work from there. We have to invest in the arts. A County Arts Council could combine the needs between lots of agencies. Office of Cultural Affairs is over-due. The Arts are an important pillar of the community.  

Lawson-Remer asked where does the funding for the arts come from? Ziter answered that there is no real large corporate funding here now or even much foundation help, so it is individual donation and county funding we rely on.  The wealthy often still give in their cold weather home town. It is twice as hard to raise half as much here in San Diego. Terra Lawson-Remer said that we need those funders to invest here and the county needs to invest in the arts.

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