March 1 -- With polls suggesting nearly half of Santa
Monicans earn some living in creative fields, the City Council Tuesday
applied the first broad strokes to an expanding creative canvass
and took steps to halt the exodus of a century-old community of
Entitled "Creative Capital," the long-range cultural
plan provides the first vision in ten years on how to market, enhance
and sustain a cultural community that not only brings art into the
daily lives of Santa Monicans, but promises future economic opportunity,
City officials said.
"I just want to concur that this report rocks," said
Council member Kevin McKeown.
McKeown -- who described as "astonishing” the finding
that 43 percent of Santa Monicans earn some of their income from
creative endeavors -- said he favors boosting funding for the arts,
especially to help the smaller, independent artists.
"I've long felt we have not put enough resources into the
arts," said McKeown, who has long called for more creative
spaces for local artists.
"It's really been about identifying the community's connection
to the arts and culture and making sure it can move forward,"
Jessica Cusick, the City’s Cultural Affairs manager said of
the plan before the meeting.
As she spoke, a feather boa around her neck, a string quintet from
Santa Monica High School played on the City Hall veranda during
a well-attended reception.
|Samohi string quintet (Photos
by Olin Ericksen)
The added flair was one of the many artistic touches that accompanied
the report's presentation, including a scroll presented to council
members at the meeting.
"It's both ambitious and also there are some immediate opportunities,"
said Cusick, who along with artists, writers and musicians turned
out to support the plan.
"Whether you are an individual artist trying to live here
or a firm trying to have your company here, this affects all sections
of the arts," she said.
After several years of outreach, including 14 public meetings and
workshops, and a random telephone survey, consultants found that
43 percent of all Santa Monicans worked in some capacity in the
creative arts, compared to 2 percent nationally.
Those Santa Monicans are among the 1 to 1.5 million residents in
Los Angeles County who earn money in creative fields, according
to a report released this week by the LA Economic Development Corporation.
After weighing additional demographic data and 2000 census figures,
consultants broke down the creative fields in which Santa Monicans
earn money as follows:
- 20 percent are writers,
- 20 percent work in graphic arts, most of them independent artists,
- 16 percent work in design, which includes fashion and interior
- 13 percent work in movies or television,
- 10 percent work in music, and
7 percent in dance.
The rest work in a number of creative fields.
The poll also found that 9 percent of the jobs in the city are
in the creative sector, including jobs at Sony Music, MTV and Yahoo!,
which are headquartered in Santa Monica.
"It may be writers, it may be designers, it may be visual
artists, but they are working somewhere, somehow in the arts,"
From expanding public and private partnerships and cultural festivals,
to marketing the local art scene to residents, the first steps of
the plan will focus on those goals that can be accomplished in the
near future, according to the report.
The plan also calls on the City and community to capitalize on
its local talent and provide affordable spaces for artists pushed
out of the city by escalating rents.
"One of the biggest issues threatening the arts in Santa Monica
is the high cost of real estate," Cusick said. "We've
lost a number of artist studios over the years.
“It's been very challenging for artists to find a space that
you can afford, so affordable artist live-work spaces are one of
the key recommendations of the plan," she said.
Helping independent artists is a wise economic move for the City,
which would reap the benefits, Cusick said.
"On some level, if our economics are substantially impacted
by the creative sector, the individual artists are like the research
and development (arm) of that sector," she said. "So not
only do they make Santa Monica a better place to live, but economically
speaking it's very important as well."
If the City is to help reverse the dramatic exodus of independent
artists, it will need to focus on new zoning guidelines as it updates
the land use element of the general plan, a process currently underway,
Rising real estate prices are not only driving out the fine artists,
they have shut down all but two of the 30 galleries that once made
Broadway and Colorado Avenue thriving gallery rows, said William
Turner, a local gallery owner.
Turner, who owns a gallery at Bergamot Station, a cluster of galleries
and art-related businesses next to the City Yards, warned that rising
rents could threaten the remaining art scene.
"We need to read the warning signs," said Turner, who
estimates the average rent at Bergamot is $1.50 a square foot, or
between $2,500 and $6,000 a month depending on the size of the space.
While Bergamot focuses on the visual arts, the City must help provide
venues to showcase all types of artists in Santa Monica, the report
The proposed Civic Center development could be a prime venue for
the arts, and the alley walls behind the Third Street Promenade
-- which could get a facelift under a plan being considered by Downtown
officials -- could serve as canvasses, according to the report.
Council members hailed the report as a groundbreaking achievement
and said they would work to follow through on the recommendations.
The council may have already taken the initial steps last year,
when it approved a measure that sets aside some 2 percent of development
fees for cultural services.
Council member Bobby Shriver suggested that the City partner with
some of the large corporations, such as Yahoo!, which may have resources
available to fund cultural endeavors.
Yahoo! Music Executive David Goldberg, a friend of Shriver's, told
the council that he felt his firm could be more supportive of local
artists, but "just hadn't been asked."
The plan’s recommendations will go before various civic bodies,
including the Arts Commission, and will be weighed as the City updates
the land use and circulation elements of the general plan, which
will shape development for years to come.
Capitalizing on local talent, encouraging growth and retaining
artists already here will be the most important brush strokes for
a City whose artistic community dates back more than 100 years,
"People have told us time and time again that they see the
cultural identity in the City being inextricably tied to what makes
Santa Monica special and unique," she said.