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Commission adds more than art to Laguna

September 27, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

The Laguna Beach Arts Commission has plans that will not only add to the city's reputation as an artists colony, but also to the city's revenue.

A report on the cultural and financial value of the arts to the community was presented by the commission at a joint meeting with the City Council Sept. 18.

"We talked a lot about the things we have been able to accomplish as an arts community," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson. "We are a tourist-based economy and we are an economy based quite a bit on what the arts provide to draw tourism to town.

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"We've also become a lot more of a performing arts community, in addition to being a visual arts community," she continued. "We have our Arts Commissioners to thank for Music in the Park [Bluebird Park concerts] for 30 years. Now we have Sunset Serenades in Heisler Park, which is a wonderful way to spend an evening."

Commission programs in 2012 included 19 free concerts, six free Artist Open Studios and four public art installations.

The commission serves as an advisory board to the City Council, which has the final say on projects. Pat Kollenda chairs the seven-member commission, which includes Ken Auster, Nicolas Hernandez, Donna Olsen Ballard, Suzi Chauvel, Mary Ferguson and Lisa Mansour.

Funding for the Cultural Arts Department in the 2012-13 city budget totaled $1,656,700, of which $1.52 million was generated by the Business Improvement District through a 2% assessment on hotel room receipts.

That will help pay for four more public art installations in the next six months, as well as other commission projects.

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Planning ahead

The commission would like to invest some money in a partnership with a professional company to produce a new Cultural Arts Plan. The first plan was undertaken by a committee of about 20 folks, chaired by Kollenda.

"I had learned that the city could not apply for grants without a cultural arts plan and a cultural arts manager," said former Commissioner Carol Reynolds. "Pat contacted people in the arts community and we sat in her living room and came up with the plan."

The plan was updated in 2005.

Commission goals would be identified in the plan, which would include sustainability, program and facility needs, Laguna's potential as an art community and facility assessment, feasibility and inventory.

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