John Heilman

City: West Hollywood
Position Seeking: City Council

Question 1: Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts) while growing up and its impact on you.

I grew up and went to public school in Cleveland, Ohio. I had the opportunity to participate in the school orchestra. I also participated in theater groups both in school and in the community. This experience exposed me to cultural activities which I wasn’t exposed to at home. As a result of my interest in theater, I organized a group of friends to attend a variety of performances which greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding of the arts. The most important impact of my involvement was the friendships and relationships I developed. I am still friends with many of the people I met through these activities. A number of these friends are highly successful creative people who felt isolated in high school but had found a “home” among other creative people in music, theater and dance. Two of my close friends from high school are published authors. One is a successful visual artist. Another has continued to perform as a singer and dancer in community theater. My experience taught me the importance of the arts in providing a safe place for people who might not feel welcomed in other parts of school or society. This was especially true for LGBT people when I was growing up. (And, by the way, I’m still growing up!)

Question 2: What do you believe the role of City Council should be in developing and supporting the region’s arts and cultural infrastructure?

The City Council should promote a wide variety of art and cultural experiences for the community. This can be done by funding art and cultural programs as well as by providing physical places for creative activities. As a Councilmember, I supported the development and implementation of our 1% for art program in new development. I also supported the formation of Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission which oversees our fine arts programs. Every year in the City, our staff and Commission provide funding for organizations which produce programming to serve our community. We also routinely partners with organizations to provide programming in our public spaces. Approximately five years ago we completed the construction of the West Hollywood Library and Council Chambers. This project provided us with additional space for art and cultural programming. We have used the spaces in the building to partner with Women in Film to highlight new movies which are of interest to our community. We have displayed visual art in our parks and median island along Santa Monica Boulevard. We also try to incorporate art and cultural activities into our annual celebration of LGBT pride. Recently, we acquired a local theater which will provide us with another opportunity to promote art and cultural activities in the City.

Question 3: What’s your vision for the city? What role, if any, does art and culture play in advancing that vision?

I love West Hollywood and I want to make sure it continues to be a successful and well-run City. My vision is one where the City is safe, the roads are paved, the streets and sidewalks are maintained, and the physical infrastructure is maintained or improved. But those expectations are expectations people typically have in any city. West Hollywood is different because we are known for taking care of people through social services, advancing human rights, especially LGBT rights, and promoting creativity. I want to make sure we continue to be a leader in providing a wide range of social services and affordable housing for people in need in the community. I want to make sure we continue to speak out and advance equality and human rights for everyone in our community including our seniors, our LGBT residents, our Russian-speaking immigrants, our immigrants from other parts of the world and our Iranian-American population. I want to make sure we continue to advocate for full equality for women and girls and that we are a voice for reproductive freedom for women. Acceptance and equality are often advanced through artistic means such as the inclusion of different segments of society in television and film. Arts and cultural activities are therefore important as a means of promoting equality, but they are also important because they provide opportunities for expression and for the community to come together to celebrate, to imagine and to dream.

Questions 4: A recent report by the Otis College of Design found that 1 in every 6 jobs in LA County supports the creative sector and economy in Los Angeles County. If elected, how will you aim to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy and the artistic community that it supports?

People are often unaware of the importance of the arts and creative sector of our economy. Obviously, Southern California is the home of the entertainment industry so it is important for us to facilitate filming and television production and the ancillary business which support them. West Hollywood is home to The Lot which houses the Oprah Winfrey Network so the creative sector of our economy is extremely important to our success as a City. We are also the home of the interior design business in Southern California so supporting and promoting this business sector is extremely important. We do that in West Hollywood by supporting the work of our Design District Business Improvement District. In addition to filming and design, West Hollywood is also home to a number of well-known nightclubs and music venues. We are currently looking at ways we can change our policies to encourage and incentivize more live music at venues in the City.