Joon the Goon works on his mural in Long Beach June 28, 2018. POW! WOW! Long Beach is week-long, city-wide event that takes place in the summer throughout Long Beach. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Art is as much the human need for expression as it is an economic driver, and Long Beach is considering investing more resources to bolster the city’s creative community.

This year will see the first dollars used from Mayor Robert Garcia’s trumpeted Percent for the Arts program for public art projects. Other support is coming from the city’s hotel occupancy taxes.

The city plans to fund new signage, museums, additional funds for the Arts Council for Long Beach, the POW! WOW! mural program and other arts projects in fiscal year 2019, which begins Oct. 1.

A presentation on the State of the Arts is also slated for Oct. 12.

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“The arts continue to grow and thrive in Long Beach and our budget reflects that,” said Mayor Robert Garcia.

Presented as one of the key highlights of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal, the following are the city’s proposed investments in the arts, as well as the Percent for the Arts Program.

Long Beach Museum of Art 

The city proposed an increase to its contribution to the Long Beach Museum of Art by $50,000 to bring next year’s total to $444,000.

In recent years, the museum was funded by the city from October 2015 to September 2017, with $319,000 per year, while this year it appropriated an additional $75,000 to cover expected increases in insurance costs for the city-owned art collection, according to city spokesman Kevin Lee.

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The collection, which was last appraised in 1999 and valued at $11 million, has been maintained by the Long Beach Museum of Art Foundation since 1985 through an Agreement to Manage Art Collection with the city, ensuring the foundation insures, stores, registers, documents and exhibits the artworks.

The current agreement was authorized by City Council in 1999 for $319,000 annually for 25 years (to expire in 2024), however, the council increased the city’s contribution in 2004 to $571,000 and again in 2005-2009 to $569,000. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the city from 2010 to 2015 decreased its annual contribution to $169,000.

On the city’s to-do list is an upcoming appraisal of the city-owned art collection, to be completed by Oct. 1, according to the budget proposal.

Founded in 1950 as a municipal art center for the city, the museum’s permanent collection includes more than 3,000 works covering over 300 years of American and European art.

Not included in the highlights is funding for the Museum of Latin American Art, which in the past the city has supported through its now-dissolved Redevelopment Agency and general support, according to Lee. MOLAA’s collection is private.

The mayor is currently proposing $150,000 in his recommendations to City Council to support MOLAA’s master planning efforts, Lee said.

Arts Council for Long Beach

Founded by the city as Long Beach’s local art support group in 1976 called the Public Corporation for the Arts, the currently named Arts Council for Long Beach became an official nonprofit in 1982.

The budget proposal includes increasing the city’s contribution to the arts council by $25,000. An additional amount of $50,000 as “one-time funding subject to a one-for-one match to assist with fundraising efforts” would bring the total FY19 support to $479,300, according to the proposal.

The one-time funding of $50,000 is meant to “incentivize private funding support to the ACLB and their efforts with local artists,” Lee said.

POW! WOW! Long Beach

The city has supported the mural festival for the past three years at $50,000 a year, with $50,000 in one-time funding proposed again for the 2019 iteration of the event.

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The festival brings in a slew of internationally and nationally-renowned artists, while also featuring local artists, to paint murals on various walls throughout the city, although most are central to the downtown area.

Usually lauded by locals and visitors alike, there have always been grumblings within the arts community that more Long Beach artists should be given the chance to participate, although incoming artists of varying nationalities arguably raise the bar and not only give viewers a look at their impressive art, but a glimpse into their particular culture.

In response, Lee said “the city recognizes the benefit of the work they [local artists] do, and that is why the city supports local artists through the Arts Council for Long Beach.”

The direct economic impact of visitor spending during POW! WOW! Long Beach this year was estimated at $800,000, according to Lee.

“When you consider the value in media coverage over the week of the event, which really draws attention to Long Beach from people all over the world, there is an advertising equivalency of $950,000,” he said. “This is not even mentioning the possible value, intrinsic and monetary, of the artwork.”

Wayfinding Signs and Public Art

If you can afford to build bold and “artistic” signs, you must be a bold and artistic city, seems to be the thinking behind the budget proposal to allot about $500,000 for Gateway Signage out of the $750,000 proposed for “Wayfinding Signs and Public Art.”

The city will spend $250,000 for art on public buildings, according to Lee.

“The gateway signs are an artistic addition to our major entrances to welcome people to Long Beach, and make a statement about our city,” said Lee. “They are intended to represent Long Beach as a diverse, inclusive, bold, artistic and innovative city.”

Lee noted the iconic “I amsterdam” sign, erected in Amsterdam in 2004 and one of the city’s most photographed sites—and marketing campaigns, as an example of what these gateway signs will look like.

Proposed rendering released in April 2017 of possible Gateway Signage of the Wayfinding Signage Program. Image courtesy of the City of Long Beach.

The Tidelands Fund, which comes mostly from oil revenue, will invest in wayfinding signage along the coast through $250,000 worth of one-time funding, while the Airport Fund will also make a one-time investment of $100,000 to build signage at the airport, according to the proposal.

The Wayfinding Signage Program itself was announced by the city in April of last year, with a need for establishing a comprehensive, citywide signage program identified in the FY 2016-2017 budget. Selbert Perkins Design was selected as the consultant after an RFP was issued in December 2015, according to the website.

The city has also proposed increasing its contribution to the Convention and Visitors Bureau by $250,000, bringing the total to nearly $5 million (with $300,000 coming from the Tidelands Operations Fund and the rest from the Special Advertising and Promotion Fund); one-time funding for a future Beach Streets event at $250,000; as well as position changes and additions to better support public affairs and demands for communications activities.

Percent for the Arts Program

Through this program, the city aims to fund public art projects with one percent of the cost of capital construction projects over $100,000 (if they’re paid for by eligible funds) going to the arts council.

In FY18, $155,537 was transferred to the arts council; 40 percent goes toward public art projects, 40 percent toward established local arts groups and 20 percent toward small grants, according to the budget.

“Since FY18 marked the first full year of eligible Percent for the Arts, no public art projects have taken shape yet,” Lee said.

For FY19, the budget estimates an additional $170,000 will be available from the Percent for the Arts program, which the arts council will distribute.

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The percent comes from capital projects qualified for the program including the citywide street sweeping signage replacement program, commercial sewage repair and upgrades, the sidewalk repair program, and various street improvements, according to Lee.

“The arts are an economic driver and every great city has a great arts scene,” Garcia said. “We are still growing but I’m optimistic about all the music and art in our city.”


Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].