Budget Hints At Creation Of Arts & Cultural Affairs Bureau

Tucked away in the several-hundred page 2009 Budget proposal, in the last sentence on a page that deals with funding to the Long Beach Arts Council, lies a hint that the city’s arts and culture community could be in for a major overhaul.  It reads:

“In the future, a new bureau of arts and cultural affairs may be formed to better coordinate the support from the city for general economic and cultural development through the City Manager’s office.”

In short, the city is looking into the possibility of creating a new bureau to incorporate the arts community into its economic development plans.  Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick is heading up the operation, and sees great things for the future.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about making Long Beach attractive to the creative class,” she says.  “The plan is to expand the scope of economic development to include arts and cultural affairs.”

Frick plans to use the new organization to make the arts community more visible, with strategies like using business district events to incorporate arts.  Of course, all of this is currently speculation.  The 2009 Budget will go into effect on October 1, at which point the project will begin to slowly move forward.  Frick says it will take months to organize.

Thus far, the project does not even have a name – though we’ve heard Arts Support Program or Cultural Affairs Bureau – but the arts community has taken notice.  The possible creation of a new arts bureau is an interesting move when the 2009 Budget calls for a 10% funding reduction for the existing Arts Council – that cut and other reductions represent $100,000.

“It’s a hit that we are prepared to take,” says Justin Hectus, President of the Council.  “The major challenge will be absorbing the entirety of it in administration, and not letting it affect our grantees.”

But even though his organization’s funding shrinks while the creation of another is looming on the horizon, Hectus is on board with the idea and will be involved in its development.  He plans to keep the Council and the new bureau “attached at the hip.”

“Coupling up will help us get more done and certainly help the public in creating a more direct line to the city,” he says.  “I believe that it follows similar models in Santa Monica and other cities that are well known for their arts.”

Was Santa Monica’s design picked at random?  Probably not.  Frick served as the head of the Santa Monica Planning Department for eleven years, overseeing an arts community that has developed into a thriving, cohesive unit.  The goal of the new bureau would be to develop a similar plan with the partnership between the public Arts Council and the non-profit bureau.  Hectus also points out that in acting as a 501 (c)(3) organization, the bureau would be able to do things that the Council cannot.  Namely, fundraising for the arts.

“We would still have the Arts Council,” Frick says reassuringly, calling the Council “the shepherd” of the city’s arts community.  “Our plan is not to dictate, but to incorporate.  This is what we think we need to do in order to make this a great city.”

Hectus agrees.

“We need to send a message about the city we want to become.”

By Ryan ZumMallen, Managing Editor

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