YOLO SUN OPINION :

Arts have apparently inherited another historical venue in Woodland, as State Theatre will eventually become combined with the Opera House to display various cultural and entertainment opportunities on both sides of downtown, as a result of a June 21 Woodland Redevelopment Agency allocation of about $1.9 million and later emergence of an acceptable arrangement to attempt raising at least another $0.5 to $0.8 million dollars to meet current cost estimates ($2.4 – $2.7 million) for properly restoring and renovating State Theatre.

Yolo County Arts Council (YoloArts) on the same agenda submitted a thoughtful and valuable proposal (elicited by city hall staff) for an Art in Public Places demonstration project(s), a “pilot program” to be united with a recent series of redevelopment fund allocations totally $4.75 million.

This proposal would have collected 1.5% of this redevelopment expenditure — about $70,000 — combining it with $25,000 of municipal funds for a portion of management costs, to set up: “A proper framework for soliciting / selecting qualified artists, establishing criteria, engaging the public [and] arts to create livable, sustainable neighborhoods and downtown areas[, by] provid[ing] an opportunity to install notable public art that could be a significant landmark for [Woodland] and its residents,” according to an associated staff report.

This YoloArts proposal, however, was quite rudely punted into virtual oblivion by Vice-mayor Skip Davies — with city council cooperation and acquiescence.

____  Kean Persuaded About Project Fundraising Effort  ____

Initial apprehensions regarding the vague nature of fundraising efforts intended by an unusually divided (3-2 majority) Woodland City Council, to be required to supplement this sudden dedication of redevelopment funds for preservation of State Theatre, have been substantially alleviated through a recent meeting between Davies and Opera House Director Jeff Kean, who now believes his foundation directors will support this project.

Not being advised of the actual details of Davies’ various plans prior to the June 21 city council meeting where the project funding level was decided, Kean quickly expressed concerns about the capability of the Opera House Foundation to successfully manage the extensions of effort needed to expeditiously garner $500,000 to $800,000 or more, to complete this project.

Kean has since been satisfied by Davies’ explanations of an independently organized effort: (a) which will primarily rely on an expansion of the present base of Opera House donors and benefactors, (b) which will obtain various contractor contributions / efficiencies, and (c) which will not in any manner adversely intrude upon or impact regular Opera House programs and endeavors.

Plans include a full restoration of the theatre marquee and ceiling.

Kean describes that he and Davies discussed a program of expanding benefactor participation, by a sponsoring of: its individual seats, the adjacent dance studios planned for its previously retail storefronts and even the performing arts center itself.

Although always to “be known as State Theatre,” explains Kean, as other venues have in such a manner recognized significant underwriters, “the theatre could be named,” in reference to its use as a performing arts center.

Kean relates the importance of having this new project become completed and accessible at the proper time of the year, September (2012, hopefully); so that various plans can be made and kept involving its initial season of use.

____ Not Just For Kids Anymore  ____

As a pertinent matter of public clarification, Kean wants it disseminated that newly renovated State Theatre will be a: “performing arts center.”

“I wish people would quit referring to it as a ‘children’s performing arts center, or as a performing arts center for youth,’” exclaims Kean.

“It will simply be a performing arts center,” housed at State Theatre, “with a flexible and multi-functional design.”

In basic, existing seating (in troubled condition) will be removed and the main portion of the theatre floor leveled to remove the incline toward the former screen (also to be removed).

The former balcony area will become a storage area and the former retail storefronts (now smaller, side-theaters) will become dance studios.

Various fabrications and installations will create efficiently flexible performance and spectator spaces within the main body of the theatre.

Kean anticipates additional civically oriented uses, as well as digitally adapted movies and even private (leased) uses such as weddings or conferences.

“We can also arrange it to have big dances and celebrations,” suggests Kean, as well as it availing conventionally theatrical and artistic formats.

Expected seating capacity is relatively small, at 200. However, such a scale of venue is often attractive and successful, as it often provides more intimacy and audience value than larger performance houses.

Also, extreme flexibilities within its various arrangements may create an otherwise impossible and unique diversity of use and experience.

____  Stunted City Policy Politely Reaffirmed  ____

“All development projects in the city are required to install some kind of public art as a means of embracing the sense of place within the Woodland community. The City’s current design standard provides little guidance or assistance for businesses in determining and securing quality and place making public art that benefits their properties and the community,” explains the associated staff report.

Having tardily concluded that civic value exists with public art in general, the city hasn’t yet been able to develop any facilitative structure to realize them.

A previous multi-year effort to forge city policy on this subject was unsuccessful, according to comments by Davies and Woodland City Council Member, Martie Dote, and is described in the staff report as confronting its end when the economy slumped and municipal priorities were shifted.

Thus, instant opportunity to fasten a temporary and limited “pilot program” onto state-budget induced, redevelopment agency expenditures seemed to present a very fortunate chance to partially overcome the failure of previous efforts, producing a timely and useful demonstration, a prototype addressing potential city-wide policy.

YoloArts, recognized as having requisite expertise in this area, currently helps to accomplish such (Art in Public Places) programs in Davis, West Sacramento and the unincorporated county.

“The City of Woodland in an effort to further art and art activies for the benefit of [its] residents is dedicated to expanding experiences with art in the public realm. Such art has enabled people in all societies to better understand their communities[,]” optimistically relates an explanatory document prepared by Danielle Thomas, Executive Director of Yolo Arts, to accompany this agenda item.

Thomas’ quite detailed document (proposal) describes that: “[relevant] projects will work to develop a vision for collaboration and economic progress through community-based partnerships that incorporate the arts and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) livability principles; highlights the diverse cultural characteristics of our communities and recommend art engagement concepts for the future.”

This document sets forth a thoughtful, multi-phase process for optimizing production of either one or two relevant art projects within the downtown area, by aggregating 1.5% (~$70,000) of redevelopment fund allocations awarded to various developmental proposals and combining it with $25,000 of municipal (management, implementation) money.

The city would have an art project(s), as well as an experienced template and demonstrated process with pertinent criteria to help orient potential adoption of a suitable municipal ordinance on this subject.

That’s a wise, pragmatic and economical approach toward accomplishing genuine civic (policymaking) progress within tough, recessionary economic times.

____  Davies Squelches YoloArts Proposal  ____

However, Vice-mayor Skip Davies swiftly announced his determination that such action demands additional staff and council study / understanding. He claimed application of such funding is not clear, clouded by previous problems enacting such policy.

Davies said that: “we do not have a solution to the whole policy, so I will not be supportive.”

Also, Davies declared that recipients of redevelopment funds shouldn’t be so burdened — saying something of the effect that these development projects — pivotally assisted through this spending of public money — need absolutely — all of that money — and cannot be bothered by accepting a small tithing toward public art which importantly enhances the civic setting of everyone’s (common) affairs.

Davies also questioned whether — improper — “leverage” — was being applied to these projects, by their being the focus of this YoloArts program.

Council member Dote briefly spoke about previously unsuccessful attempts to enact a suitable ordinance, and expressed some confusion regarding aggregating funds in a way different from past actions, which tie art requirements to specific projects.

“I can’t see putting a public art project up for somebody hooking up to sewer and water,” said a disoriented Dote; since, the whole idea of aggregating these funds would be to overcome that precise obstacle.

Dote wondered where these projects would be installed, although that was clear from the staff report and Thomas’ proposal document.

The city manager advised Dote that one potential use of aggregated funding would be to install public art in conjunction with an enhanced farmer’s market (a project receiving $350,000 of agency money).

The council provided no solid form of contention against Davies’ determination to squelch this proposal.

Perhaps, such an adverse reaction is related to previous failures to enact suitable public policy.

Initially, Mayor Art Pimentel stated an interest in revisiting this matter in two weeks (July 5), to at least provide some chance for its approval, since this program depends upon agreed stipulations within the relevant funding documents now being prepared related to redevelopment fund allocation.

In addition, Pimentel in passing objected in part, saying that private funds should play some role in such proposals.

This YoloArts proposal is rendered inconsequential, it’s killed, by the eventual city council decision to delay further consideration until September.

Davies insisted, however, that city staff and council have ample time to review and study this subject, “to sort this thing out.”

His basic position, though, utterly extinguishes this proposal.

Of course, an important part of the value of this timely proposal was its use as a guide for such staff / city council analysis, council consensus and the eventual adoption of a city-wide ordinance.

Plus, downtown Woodland would gain some good public art.

Vividly demonstrated on this occasion is an inability / unwillingness by remaining city council members to robustly contend with Davies on the merits of various key matters; quite ironic, because of related dissention with perceived underfunding of the State Theatre – Opera House project.

Clearly, this YoloArts proposal was: (a) in the right place, (b) at the right time, (c) with the right approach, (d) questing to pull Woodland out its deep ditch of unsuccessful policymaking on this topic, which currently frustrates its own implementation.

Instead, Davies thoughtlessly hurled away this valuable proposal, with some help from Dote and Pimentel.

Why?

Perhaps, because Jeff Morgan (recipient of $2 million for three separate projects) was not really in favor of such action / result; although, such clarity and accountability is sorely lacking within our basic civic process, as well as our relevant arts policy.

Why didn’t our city council members properly articulate an instant resolution of this issue in the obvious civic interest?

Davies shouldn’t have prevailed.

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