Voices In My Head
Reimagining the Arts in Long Beach…Again
Palacio Magazine believes it’s time to reimagine the arts in Long Beach…again. We are calling for an honest consideration of the formation of a city Cultural Arts Department and an accompanying Arts Commission where its members are chosen by the Mayor and approved by the Council.
A Little history.
I was part of a group of partners who advocated for an updated Cultural Master Plan. Work on the ten-year cultural plan framework called Create Long Beach began in October 2008 with the direction and support of a 75-member Steering Committee, which held several meetings to deliberate, including a half-day community forum in March 2009. That process was inspired by a town hall meeting at the Museum of Latin American Art in 2007 called ReImagining the Arts in Long Beach.
On March 2, 2010, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to integrate an update of the city’s cultural master plan, Create Long Beach, into the Long Beach 2030 Plan.
Afterwards, the Arts Council for Long Beach, in cooperation with the now defunct City of Long Beach Economic Development & Cultural Affairs Bureau and a long list of community partners, developed short and long-term implementation strategies that support and actualized the report’s six major goals. These strategies were submitted to the City of Long Beach to be incorporated into the Long Beach 2030 Plan on October 19, 2010.
If it had been fully implemented, we would be having a different conversation today.
Diversity and Inclusion
One of the most important goals in Create Long Beach revolved around creating an inclusive and diverse Arts Council and Arts constituency. The city is fond of promoting its image of a diverse city. In fact, Long Beach was just named the second most diverse city after Los Angeles. You will not find that diversity on the Board of Directors or staff of the Arts Council.
Mayor Robert Garcia, in a recent interview with Palacio Magazine, spoke about his goal to make city Board and Commissions better reflect the demographics of Long Beach. He was sincere when he said he wanted to ensure that many formally unheard city voices are finally included the body politic.
The Arts Council for Long Beach is not an official city Board or Commission. It is an independent 501c3 that receives public money but seemingly is not accountable to anyone other than its board. That point was recently reinforced when the board of directors decided that they did not have to follow the transparency rules of the Brown Act. The city attorney and their own counsel gave their support to the decision.
So, here we are. A private nonprofit receives public money and can be less than transparent, if it wishes, and is accountable to no one except their Board of Directors.
Well, sort of.
Every year, the Arts Council, like anyone who receives money from the city, must make its case before the City Council. Budget time 2015-2016 is coming soon and it will be time to ask some new questions.
Palacio Magazine is beginning a series of blog posts and articles that it hopes will ask questions about diversity, accountability and a definition of the future role of the Arts Council. We would like to revive some older conversations about the current independent nonprofit model.
July is the beginning of the budgetary process that must end by September 15. Palacio Magazine intends to use this time to encourage this discussion. We believe it is high time to have it.