Photos by Asia Morris.
Long Beach’s arts community gathered Thursday night at The Packard to celebrate the power and importance of all contributors to the city’s creative and cultural fabric, looking positively toward the coming year.
Board President Tasha Hunter gave a warm welcome and started off the program with a moment of silence in solidarity with those impacted by recent tragic events, including those struggling in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Irma and those impacted by the Las Vegas mass shooting.
Performances throughout the night from the Aerial Butterflies, LBCC Dance, DJ Dennis Owens, DJ Gloss and the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir wowed attendees and even brought some to tears. The State of the Arts 2017 honorees were given their awards during the event to enthusiastic applause from the audience.
“There’s no question that one of the really strong shifts for the arts council has been this idea and this passion to be inclusive of the entire arts spectrum and I think that Griselda, the board, the entire team has done such a great job ensuring that the arts represent everyone in Long Beach, and I’m really proud of that,” Mayor Robert Garcia said during his address.
Garcia iterated that the most significant arts initiative over the last year was passing and adopting the Percent for the Arts program, where now, moving forward, 1 percent of funding will be taken off the top of all public projects in Long Beach.
“We just launched it, we’re just now collecting the money, so we’re very anxious to see how much there’s going to be in it this first year,” Garcia said. “The real impact will be when we add the one percent to not just public projects, but to private projects. We can literally raise an unprecedented amount of money for our museums, for groups like the symphony, for our performance groups, for our galleries, if we ask all this great development happening to pitch in a little bit more for the arts.”
Garcia also spoke of how Pow! Wow! Long Beach has changed the public’s perception of street art, proudly noting how the city has gradually become an “outdoor museum” over the past three years thanks to the internationally-known mural festival. He spoke of the city’s decision to increase funding for the arts in its budget and commended Cal State Long Beach’s art program for graduating more artists every year than almost any other school in the nation.
In progress is a catalogue of the entirety of Long Beach’s public art works, including murals and utility boxes. Garcia asked attendees to imagine being able to look up a mural or other public piece of art by artist or the year it was created through what may become a database accessible through an app. The mayor also mentioned an amphitheatre to be built next to the Queen Mary followed by the crowd’s applause.
“I know we’re here tonight to celebrate all the great stuff about art and community, but I also hope that we take that love that we have for the arts and put it into energy into stopping the forces in Washington that are trying to roll back funding for the arts, protections for artists[...],” Garcia said.
Arts Council Executive Director Griselda Suarez listed the many accomplishments of the organization over the past year, including the recently completed Cambodia Town Mural Project, being able to invest over $60,000 from generous funders of the arts and the selection of the Arts Council to participate as one of only 15 SoCal organizations in the Veterans Initiative for the Arts. Suarez encouraged attendees to participate in the Downtown Long Beach Unfiltered photography contest this month.
Suarez also brought up her struggle over the past two years to overcome cancer, attributing her current good health to the healing power of the arts and thanking the arts community for their support during her struggle.
“Many of you met me at a very trying time when I started at the Arts Council, and I just want to say thank you for sticking with me, thank you for seeing me through the wonderful change and that I’m now healthy and I want to say that I’m proof that the arts heal, and that they bring wonderful energy and love into the body, and to the mind and into the spirits of all of us,” Suarez said.