Alameda artists and art lovers want the city to know that there's a thriving arts community in town — and that it could use more municipal support. They have a chance to do that next month when the City of Alameda's public art consultant reportst to City Council.
“There’s a perception that Alameda is isolationist, that there are no arts in Alameda — which just isn’t true,” said Tina “Bean” Blaine, executive director of , which hosted a meeting of art-minded residents and city representatives last Wednesday.
Frustration with the lack of formal support for the arts from the city came to the fore last year at an held by then-councilmember Frank Matarrese during his mayoral campaign. However, with an influx of new blood in the city’s Community Development Department, many have hope that things might shift.
Wednesday's meeting, a follow-up to a held in September, drew about 15 people, including representatives from arts organizations and the City’s Community Development Department and Planning Board, as well as artists and musicians, local press and a developer. Also present was Gail Goldman, the consultant the city has hired to review the city's current public art ordinance, survey the community and make new recommendations.
The meeting's stated purpose was to present the ideas, concerns and desires of the community to Goldman so that she could include them in her report, which will be presented to the city council next month. Attendees urged Alameda art lovers to attend the council meeting when that presentation is made.
But the recurring theme was somewhat broader: how to create a city that is vibrant, creative and supportive of its arts.
“We cannot rely solely on the City to do it,” one attendee said. “We need to make sure that all the artists in the city, and art supporters and art organizations, show up, and let the city know that this is a priority. This is important.”
Another agreed: “We need to build audiences and coalitions so that we are all working together to create this.”
A member of ’ volunteer staff said, “There is an enormous concentration of artists in this city — I bet they don’t even know it. We’ve got amazing architecture, artists and arts organizations. We need to have more publicity and visibility.”
Alameda arts can bring in visitors — and dollars — from surrounding communities, spakers said.
Rhythmix reports that at least 15,000 people from off the Island have attended their events in the last year. Frank Bette draws participants to events like the Plein Air Paint Out from all over the Bay Area, with viewers from around the globe viewing via the Web.
“We need to build this audience,” said Josh Cohen, musical director and conductor of the Castro Valley Chamber Orchestra and former board member of ProMusica Alameda.
Goldman asked if Alameda was a community that supported the arts.
“When it’s gone, then they’re upset,” Cohen replied. “But it is difficult to build solid core audiences. We just lost two great arts organizations in Alameda — ’ gallery space and the Alameda Civic Light Opera. We can’t keep losing the arts.”
Goldman, who has conducted 60 to 100 interviews for her report, said that there is a lack of cohesiveness to the arts community in Alameda.
“I found myself making introductions,” she said, referring to making connections between representatives of different local organizations who had not previously known each other. “I can see that there would be a value in the city providing leadership and acting as a liaison between groups, bringing everyone together as a whole.”
Many attendees agreed: “We can’t do this alone, as single individuals. We need to come together. We need support from the city, but we also need figure out practical ways to forge connections between each other.”
Attendees identified several big issues facing the arts in Alameda. One is generating and sustaining a viable fund for the arts — the City currently has about $40,000 collected from an ordinance that requires developers of large commercial projects to create public art or donate to the fund.
Others challenges include getting symbolic, organizational and financial support from the City; building visibility and support of the arts within Alameda; forging connections and coalitions between arts organizations, artists and art supporters; and building a strong and effective Arts Commission.
Goldman’s report will be presented to Alameda's City Council at a public meeting in December (date still to be determined). The agenda, which should include a copy of the report, will be available on the city’s website 10 days before the meeting.
Goldman said community members should read the agenda and the report and attend the City Council meeting.
"People can be informed, and can be there to be advocates for the arts in general, and specifically for the recommendations they believe in," she said.
Community members are invited to send any recommendations or ideas to Goldman. To do so, contact Eric Kos at firstname.lastname@example.org.