Friday, February 2, 2018

Seven Million Dollars for Art in Glendale

The meeting last night (February 1, 2018) at the Glendale Central Library to 'discuss' the proposed administration of  seven million dollars dedicated to Public Art in Glendale, California was attended by about eighty folks including 'dignitaries' representing City Council, the state senate and the library/ arts and culture commission.  

The City of Glendale has commissioned an arts development organization:  CARS (Community Art Resources) to develop a plan that will include all aspects of public art for the city. Their $100,000.00 fee covers the research and a few 'gatherings' were held last year. Primarily ON LINE comments have been collected from locals and others who have ideas regarding how the millions coming to the city will be administered and allocated to actually pay for arts programs and installations in Glendale.  

The bureaucracy of how to figure this out is typical, beginning with the 'rules' that govern city meetings.  Though CARS did have a few exclusive small discussions with interested artists and others last year that were conducted more as open forums and one 'meeting' that allowed interested residents to contribute ideas, last night's gathering, catered by CARS via Porto's..our local bakery.. was an 'official' City Meeting that does not allow for colloquy or an open forum with attendees and the officials conducting the meeting. 
Question cards were made available and after a somewhat lackluster presentation by CARS' representative Barbara Goldstein, the question cards were read by her and whatever the cards asked and her responses were very difficult to discern.  I thought it might have just been my hearing at the back of the auditorium, but in asking others if they had a difficult time understanding, I was told that they agreed that Ms Goldstein's speaking talents were marginal at best and she seemed to be mumbling a bit especially during the reading of the question cards. 

In a brief chat with Ms Goldstein prior to the Power Point presentation, which appeared to be essentially the same as what had been shown before, she strongly disagreed with my assertion that more open forums or town hall type meetings would be a way to have lively discussions to guide the next steps for Public Art in Glendale.  Ms. Goldstein's credentials are highly praised and we tend to bend to 'authority.'  What was never discussed in this meeting is how a panel of arts advocates who would be involved in the actual vetting of arts proposals would be chosen, nor what the qualifications for those individuals might be.  Cynically, the answer is "it's all politics." As the members of the Arts and Culture Commission are all political appointees, they supposedly represent the agendas of the City Council person who appointed them.  In meetings of the A and C Commission, the same 'rules' apply that there 'may' be a brief dialogue, but only at the behest of the official on the dias. Ditto for City Council.

On the up side.. with the recent unveiling of Scott Froschauer's twenty public art signs (His fee: $18,500.. a bargain!)..
we are on the way to seeing the collected fees from new construction being allocated in ways that supposedly may enhance the community.  As Ms Goldstein pointed out in one part of her presentation that I did understand, it's important that the work presented in public be important enough to make residents and visitors stop and have an opinion.  I could not agree more.  That is why I want to have open forums or even town hall gatherings to discuss this further before the final decisions are made by political representatives: the final judges.  

As effective as comments on a web page might be, there is nothing that can substitute for the voices of human beings being heard. Nothing like seeing the person who is willing to stand up for an idea.   Our new age "communications" of tweets and texts; even emails! are so impersonal that it's hard to take even the president's short messages seriously.  (Seeing him speak shows the real person, thank goodness.)

When the rights of the citizens are compromised by 'rules' ... in this case.. no open forum in a 'public' meeting.. this denies an exchange.. it limits communication and the general population, for whom this art is supposed to be beneficial, simply becomes the loser.  

My comments will have little effect.  We have major issues going on here in Glendale that are curtailed by what I've call 'government by caveat!'  What can we do if the 'rules' curtail fair discussion on the time honored floor of a Town Meeting.. or an Open Forum?  

The tail is wagging the dog and it just makes me sad that with all the rules that forbid forum and the formality that dampens debate and essentially no one willing to stand up and have a real discussion, then we are doomed to the caveats of those in 'Power.'  

My patience with the way things are going is coming to an end.  My ability to play politics to garner support is pretty much nil.  I've been advised to 'make nice.'  Asking difficult and contrary questions is hard to cloak in ceremonial handshakes and small talk.

Seven million dollars to be administered by politicians and probably not by artists.  A hundred thousand dollars paid to an organization, CARS, to figure out what a panel of actual Glendale artists could have done, probably as volunteers... and here we are with so much more red tape to cloud the real issue:  How to get a variety of traditional art, performance, installations, temporary works, THE GAS STATION..  to benefit the public..  programmed in a way that puts cash into the pockets of the least of ours.. the artists.. is a challenge that politicians will decide and as with our current national administration in the United States, the tastes and foibles of local politicos may eventually reign by caveat after the rest of us have run out of gas! 

Unless, of course, there may be one other person who may agree?

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