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 was a shy and quiet child born and raised here in LA. I started singing in my church choir at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic church. It was my first encounter with the Divine! Music opened up my heart and emboldened my soul. I have an incredible passion for all art – but especially the performing arts because the beauty is momentary and fleeting. I now serve as Chairman of the Board of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles with 270 singers. I also sing second tenor! We have created a program called the Alive Music Project which takes an anti bullying message into the high schools with music as the vehicle. The program has now served over 50,000 high school students in LA County. Music takes the human spirit to heights that the spoken word cannot.
Question 2: What do you believe the role of City Council should be in developing and supporting the region’s arts and cultural infrastructure?
When I was first elected 16 years ago, I noticed that my City had very little funding dedicated to the arts. We created a 1% fee on all new development in the city that would be dedicated to arts funding. This resulted in the tripling of the arts budget in my community. With these funds, we have been able to fund a wide array of artistry through our Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission. We fund public visual art throughout the city with murals and sculpture. We fund dance programs, orchestra programs and choral programs in the City. We fund theatric presentations, poetry and dramatic readings. We have the largest Shepard Fairy mural in the world at West Hollywood Park. We are currently seeking proposals from the transgender community to fund their creative work. I believe that government has an obligation to subsidize and fund the arts.
Question 3: What’s your vision for the city? What role, if any, does art and culture play in advancing that vision?
The City of West Hollywood has the motto “The Creative City”. I believe the most successful way we can adhere to this slogan is by funding the arts. The arts have a way of communicating principles, values and morals of a community. We have created an arts department in our economic development division. Here are samples of what we did this past year: The Vagina Monologues, Summer Sounds Free Concert Series, Awaken: The Female Voice exhibit, Puppet Theater on Wheels, A Brief History of Drag, Weho Reads, Sunset Strip 1966, One City One Pride LGBTQ, Art on the Outside in city parks and medians and pop up arts galleries. For a small town of 36,000 people, we are fully invested in the arts!
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 was the councilmember that pushed our city to acquire the Coast Playhouse on Santa Monica Blvd. The center of our city has another 99 seat theater nearby called the Macha Theater. And Hamburger Mary’s has drag shows throughout the week. What was occurring in the center city was the start of a mini theater district. We are now restoring the Coast Playhouse to make it a civic 99 seat theater. Critics argued that spending $5 million to acquire the facility was foolish. What they fail to realize is that by creating an arts district in our center city, we will be increasing the number of nighttime visitors to our city who will spend money on dinners, drinks and retail while they visit. It is my dream to some day acquire the MTA lot and San Vicente and Santa Monica and create a 1500 seat civic theater in our community. Some day ! If we can get the county board of supervisors and MTA board to support us.