Reed Stillwell

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.

Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, community theater was everything to me. Roger’s County Community Playhouse produced four shows a year, and I was in nearly all of them. I was too young for “A Chorus Line” at age 13, but I did show up at auditions in my leotard and tap shoes, with a tape of “I Can Do That.” It was a safe zone for creative expression. It was a place where I watched people of all different types and backgrounds come together to make a little magic for the community. It’s where I learned what community really means. These were far from elaborate productions, yet they almost always had full houses. It was just something our community did together. We built sets, costumes, and props out of what we had, be they pieces of roof from a collapsed barn, someone’s grandma’s skirt, or a ton of cardboard left over from the elementary school food shipment. That cardboard was transformed into a “glorious” staircase banister for our production of The Sound of Music, which, I will never forget, lazily collapsed mid “So Long, Farewell.” RoCo Playhouse made me feel special, unique, and part of something where my contribution mattered. That was pretty important, since I was the only gay person I knew. I owe everything to the Arts, collapsing banisters and all.

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

I believe City Council should have an aggressive approach to fostering the arts in our community. The Council should act as a caring parent, ensuring that the arts are protected, that they have adequate space to grow and thrive, and that they receive the praise and recognition for the very positive effects they directly have on the community. It must be part of the overall vision and plan for our city, to incorporate and provide the means to support a strong cultural infrastructure. The very fabric of West Hollywood is woven in creativity. Without an environment that fosters and attracts that, we will be just another city that “used to.”

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

My vision is a a city that cohesively champions its Creative Class. My vision is a more secure city, with not only more patrol cars, but also a more familiar neighborly relationship between our local law enforcement and residents. I envision a city not only enjoying a thriving nightlife scene, but also making active decisions to make that scene more diverse and representative of all the letters represented in the LGBTQIA flag. I envision a city that doesn’t sleepwalk through the daytime with blind trust that our nightlife and hotel tax will provide enough economic stimulus for years to come, but one that reinvigorates during the day, remaining present by investing both financially and energetically in community cultural and green spaces, such as galleries with walls free to hang and promote local art, community theaters with doors kept open and productions kept alive by community support and city financial reinforcements, sprawling community gardens with micro orchards where we not only teach our kids to harvest a close relationship with our Planet but also to play a part in becoming a reliable free source of fresh food for our hungry and less fortunate. Lastly, my vision is a city no longer battling a growing homeless problem, but a true tribe that embraces each other as brothers and sisters and provides them with the plentiful means that we have AND without judgement a place to call home for every citizen, because everyone deserves one.

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?

I believe the success of growing a creative economy and a creative class to support it relies on a strong, overall shared vision by the city leaders, and the action to put the necessary means in motion. A great start would be alternative transportation options to alleviate traffic, where cyclists and pedestrians would feel safe getting around locally. We should bolster our education system to teach creative skills at an early age, not just obligatory art classes, but a variety of in-depth training options, paired with community projects, youth fellowships, and programs to take the necessary time to instill the importance of creativity in our kids. We need to support our local theaters, not just financially, but also by participating, whether thats in the audience or on the stage. Creative people are often driven by their hearts, not their wallets, and are attracted to like-minded hive. So, we can start taking a more aggressive and thoughtful approach to how we are going to care for our citizens who reside on our sidewalks. We can show a genuine interest in growing our artistic community by opening more gallery doors, hosting more art walks, and by celebrating some of the unbelievable street art we are lucky to have, before we just paint over it. If elected, I will do everything in my power to keep an honest focus on what is our most important, most valuable resource: Creativity.