Fall 2014 Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys: Santa Monica City Council

Fall 2014 Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys: Santa Monica City Council

Candidate order: Whitney Scott Bain, Nick Boles, Phil Brock, Michael Feinstein, Frank Gruber, Sue Himmerlrich, Terence Later, John Mann, Kevin McKeown, Richard McKinnon, Zoe Muntaner, Pam O'Connor, Jerry Rubin, Jennifer Kennedy

As part of our work to foster greater civic dialogue and encourage greater voter turnout, Arts for LA presents these Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys to promote dialogue around issues facing our community.

Survey responses provided by each candidate are for voter information purposes only. Arts for LA does not endorse candidates seeking office. We are committed to fostering respectful, nonpartisan dialogue about issues relating to arts and culture. For more information, please read about our mission and values or our FAQ.

All eligible candidates were contacted to participate in the survey. If you would like to submit new or revise existing responses, please contact Arts for LA at advocate@artsforla.org or 213-225-7580.

The Actors Fund, KCET Artbound, California Alliance for Arts Education, LA2050, LA STAGE Alliance, Latino Arts Network, Otis College of Art and Design, and the Social & Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) served as Regional Partners by promoting Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys throughout Los Angeles County.

Voting for Santa Monica City Council will be held on Tuesday, November 4.

3 seats are available in this election. Only voters who reside in this district may vote for candidates in this election.

For more information on where to vote, visit the Los Angeles County Clerk/Registrar-Recorder’s Office website.

Question 1: What was the most meaningful arts and cultural experience you had growing up?

Experiencing the diveristy of the city's artists and their ability to create.

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I starred in a play when I was 12 years old at Miles Playhouse in what is today Santa Monica's Reed Park. The experience in a neighborhood park in the city I was born in gave me a great appreciation for theatre. While attending Santa Monica Schools classes in art & music appreciation were mandatory. In addition, field trips in school and weekend journeys with parents and friends taught me to love the diversity of culture that a big city could offer. The theatre experience became even more meaningful as I became a classroom teacher. Later I returned to acting and now represent actors. For the past 20 years I have been the President of the Studio Talent Group and am the immediate past President of the Talent Managers Association. I am also a member of SAG-AFTRA, AEA and the actor branch of the Television Academy. My experience as a twelve year old prepared me for my career(s) and my deep appreciation and advocacy for the arts.

Going to Israel when I was 13 for my Bar Mitzvah present, and seeing the old city of Jerusalem in December 1971 blew my mind - as it was so different than the "Leave it to Beaver" middle class suburb of St. Louis Park, Minnesota that I grew up in. That experience opened my mind to different cultures, architecture and ways of life, and as a result, I've traveled in more than 40 countries since then and counting, enjoying an appreciation of the diversity of cultures, peoples, places and nations of our planet.

My mother, Shirley Moskowitz, was an artist with a studio at home and consequently I grew up surrounded by art and artists, even though I grew up in suburban Philadelphia. "Doing art" seemed very normal; all through childhood my mother and a group of local artists met every Wednesday night in the workshop one of them had to work specifically on sculpture. Of course when we traveled, it was all about the art. For myself, most of my artistic expression has involved photography. I shot a lot of pictures in college, had my own darkroom, and almost went professional. Now, strictly amateur (and digital!), it's still a big part of my life.

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I grew up in a working class, single-parent household with little opportunity for arts or cultural exposure. This is one reason I champion arts and cultural programs for the entire community now, including through schools, local arts and cultural institutions, and events like Santa Monica’s GLOW that expose the arts to audiences who don’t ordinarily have access or interest. I am the leading arts advocate on the Santa Monica City Council, and served for over a decade as Council liaison to our Arts Commission.

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I’ve had too many to pinpoint just one, but I will highlight one memorable experience. I’ve been an avid photographer since I was young. During college, I spent much of my free time photographing cities and nature and developing photos in the campus darkroom. A few roommates knew about my passion for photography and entered two of my photographs in a campus photo contest without telling me. I won two awards and realized that my peers appreciated art as much as I did. I also learned that sharing art was an important, meaningful way to be involved in one's community.

Question 2: What do you believe the role of City Council should be in the development and support of the region's cultural infrastructure?

They should listen to the artist's wishes and work with them to cerate their dreams sharing with the public.

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Teddy Roosevelt called the Presidency the "bully pulpit" and I believe a City Council Person should use their voice for advocacy. I want more public/private partnerships in Santa Monica. These encompass all arts. From visual arts to fine art, museums, theatre, film & tv production, public art, murals and music throughout Santa Monica we must encourage artistic expression of all types. I sponsored Santa Monica's Make Music Day and brought out 27 groups and soloists in 5 venues for summer solstice afternoon that our Cultural Affairs staff wouldn't assist with even though I'm the Chair of the Recreation & Parks Commission. I'll change that when I'm on the City Council. I am now and will always be an arts advocate. I'm been deeply involved the the effort to preserve Bergamot Station Arts Center and am a member of the Civic Auditorium Working Group. I am presently trying to forge a school district/municipality joint use agreement for Santa Monica's Barnum Hall, Greek Theatre and the SM Civic. I want more public art on our boulevard center medians and I want to encourage local artists to create in our public spaces. A great example of that is "Beautify Earth". I am a strong advocate as they volunteer to paint public murals on the sides of often neglected buildings. The results for the neighborhoods are spectacular.

Build upon the City's 2007 Creative Capital Plan, which includes an Arts Alleys District in the downtown (a concept I helped pioneer when I chaired the Downtown Uses Task force while Mayor in 2001-2002); and seek funding to renovate the Civic Auditorium. Funding for the latter will likely depend upon a public bond, which I believe will need to be combined with park space acquisition, to combine enough constituencies to achieve the 2/3 necessary (unless the state legislature puts on the ballot and voters approve a change to 55% for capital projects.) See also #3 and #4 below.

Santa Monica has a rich history in the arts and I want to continue the City's programs to enhance art both as an important part of the public realm and as a viable career and profession. The city just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Promenade, and in doing so we were reminded what an important part public art played in its success. The city needs to continue to help create live/work spaces for artists, and support the galleries at Bergamot and elsewhere.

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Arts and culture provide the reflection and inspiration without which no community can truly thrive. My actions demonstrate my beliefs: I led in the creation and adoption of Santa Monica’s adopted policy document for arts and culture, “Creative Capital.” I have worked directly with organizations like the 18th Street Arts Center, and encouraged private sector participation in arts and cultural programs in our public schools. I have brokered compromise and progress on adapting our world-famous Bergamot Arts Center to the arrival of light rail and a larger, broader audience.

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It is vital for the City Council to be involved in the development and support of the region's cultural infrastructure. My vision for Santa Monica is to continue the rich, vibrant, world-class arts culture that Santa Monica is known for. Our museums, galleries, artisan shops, art studios, public school art and music education opportunities and unique public art landscape are valued community assets. I believe that Santa Monica must continue to ensure that art and cultural opportunities are accessible to our diverse community and the region.

Question 3: How would you champion modifications to, or expansion of, the city's current funding stream for local arts and culture?

Preserve the Bergamont Station and Santa Monica artist's colonies the way they are for without them, the artist's will have no other outlet as doentown L.A. and Silverlake are already overcrowded.

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We can seek an increase in our arts nexus fees for new development. We can look for more assistance from foundations and private individuals. Our city contains quite possibly one of the largest cultural and artistic concentrations of talented individuals in the world. yet, we seldom ask for their help in stirring up new programs, adding temporary art installations, neighborhood concerts and adding to our world class film industry base. The key is for the Arts Commission, Recreation & Parks and the City Council to renovate venues (a joint cultural arts bond issue for three facilities is a possibility) and use our existing facilities more fully. As a City Council Person I will fight for the arts. I know how important that exposure is for children, teens, adults and our senior citizens. We have discretionary funding which can be used to help fund the arts in Santa Monica.

I am advocating a massive public infrastructure project to bridge over the top of the 1-10 freeway in Santa Monica for at least 17 blocks - from Ocean to 4th, 11th St. to 17th St. and 20th St. to Cloverfield Bl. - and cover it primarily with parkland. With Santa Monica's Perfect for Art program in place for such capital projects(http://www.smgov.net/uploadedFiles/Portals/Culture/Public_Art_Program/SM%20Percent%20for%20Art%20Resolution.PDF), that means at approximately $500/sq foot to bridge over the freeway, the project will cost several hundred million dollars depending upon its ultimate scale, and therefore several million dollars for public art.

In 2007 the city adopted "Creative Capital," a big plan for sustaining and expanding the arts in Santa Monica. Central to CC was the fact that Santa Monica's residents and its economy are extraordinarily connected to creative and artistic endeavors; the plan makes the plausible statement that, "Santa Monica has perhaps the highest concentration of creative individuals in the U.S., in terms of both residents and employment." It's now been seven years since CC was adopted, and what I would first ask for is a review of achievement of its goals with an eye to achieving more of them.

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In this year’s City budget alone, I increased the grants to our arts and cultural organizations by a full 10%. I’m completely conversant in the usual argument that money for the arts is a wise economic investment, but also believe that providing encouragement and access to the arts and cultural activities creates a kind of community wealth that cannot be measured simply in dollars. I’m committed to continuing Santa Monica’s leadership role in supporting a wide range of arts and culture, celebrating our diverse and creative community.

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Santa Monica’s land use policies insist on financial contributions from developers to fund community benefits. Two of the five categories of community benefits are "Social, Cultural and Educational Facilities" as well as "Historic Preservation". Both categories of policies are designed to advance the prioritization of arts and culture investments, and support efforts to increase innovative community building and community identity through expansion of accessible arts and culture opportunities. I would champion expansion of the current funding stream by making sure that these community benefits are front and center in the development decision-making process.

Question 4: What three things would you do to deepen the city's investment in its creative economy (cultural tourism, indirect and direct jobs, nonprofit and for profit)?

1. Have more art festivals subsidised by companies like Microsoft or Red Bull as examples. 2. Special art events open to the public in conjunction with the Santa Monica pier. 3. Create more jobs by hiring local people who know Santa Monica and have grown up here to act as ambassadors to talk about the city and its history during art events.

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We can expand our Arts district zoning and set up an enterprise zone in our Memorial Park neighborhood for our creative economy. As we deepen our commitment to our renovated cultural arts facilities more visitors will take advantage of the increased amount of performances. With the renovation and addition of several movie theaters the opportunity for the American Film Market to expand their offerings and provide community benefits will increase. I have also talked about reviving the outdoor art shows that once existed in Palisades Park (but moving them to Bergamot), adding a KCRW outdoor music amphitheater to Bergamot and encouraging the addition of a branch of Cal Arts, UCLA architecture, Peter Sellers, an enlargement of City Garage Theatre and the permanent relocation of the Virginia Street Project to that campus will also help create a tremendous arts area. All of the above plus the tweaking of the Santa Monica Pier Summer Concert series will draw more cultural tourism to Santa Monica. We are now known as Silicon Beach...I also want us know as an outstanding arts city. Our creative economy is a pillar of the Santa Monica economy. As a Councilperson I will enhance and improve the economic impacts within Santa Monica. That impact will radiate throughout the region.

(1) Convert the landmarked Sears Building on Colorado Ave. west of 4th Street (across from the 4th/Colorado Expo rail stop) into a major cultural destination, along with bridging over the top of the freeway between Main St. and 4th next to Sears, to create an integrated public plaza/low scale cultural/commercial public-transit oriented regional center. (2) After Santa Monica takes control of Santa Monica airport and converts most of it into a public park, create an intergrated cultural campus on the southwestern side, expanding upon the Santa Monica Art Studios, Santa Monica College Arts Buidling, Ruskin Theatre and Barker Hanger.

I happen to be one of the few candidates not afraid to say that I believe it's good that tourists come to Santa Monica -- it shows that we have created a wonderful, vibrant place, and one key factor has been the arts. We have not built a new hotel in SM for almost 20 years, and while some are under construction, we need more at different price points, much like they have in European cities, and I consider this an investment in the arts, because artists and people interested in the arts and culture like to travel and they don't always have a lot of money. I'm on the working group trying to figure out how to save the SM Civic Auditorium and turn it into a arts and culture campus, and on City Council I hope to make that happen, too. As someone's whose mother was an artist, I'd like to develop programs to encourage businesses (incl. hotels) to buy art from local artists.

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Now that we have survived the Great Recession, I want to return to our adopted “Creative Capital” document and fully fund the programs we conceived. I am working actively on the “Listen Up” campaign with the American Federation of Musicians, and have joined them on delegations to local producers to keep music composition, scoring, and recording here at home, employing local musicians who in turn contribute their talents and knowledge as exemplars and teachers. I am committed to greatly increasing our City funding to non-profits who provide arts and cultural experiences and opportunities.

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I will work to 1) improve our city’s transportation circulation, 2) create affordable housing for artists as well as working families, and 3) enhance public amenities and infrastructure, because when our city is running smoothly, we can encourage small, locally-owned businesses to open and thrive, and we can invest in policies that help create new programs to support the creative industry including film production, live music, theater, farmers markets and festivals, and small co-working office opportunities for start-up creative tech businesses. I also want to help Santa Monica invest more in opportunities for historic cultural tourism so visitors can learn about the Santa Monica's historic treasures.

Results of Elections with Arts for LA Surveyed Candidates

Results of Elections with Arts for LA Surveyed Candidates

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 1:35pm

Photo: Pomona City HallThe Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office posted results of elections for which Arts for LA conducted candidate surveys.