Local Arts And Culture Leaders Share Their Wish List For New Mayor
September 26, 2012 1 p.m.
David Malmuth, local developer.
Dalouge Smith, president and CEO of San Diego Youth Symphony.
CAVANAUGH: We've talked to San Diego business leaders and environmentalists about the issues they're hoping a new mayor will address. Today we turn to representatives of the city's arts community. The arts are part of the city's economic engine as well as adding to the richness of city life. When San Diego ushers in a new mayor and administration, what are our arts leaders hoping will change at City Hall? We want to keep the discussion as nonpartisan as possible. My guests, Dalouge Smith is president and CEO of the youth symphony. David Malmuth is a local developer and proponent of the idea district in the east village. Let me ask both of you, what is the city doing right with arts and culture?
MALMUTH: A lot of things. . The fact that we're having this conversation is a good indication of the visibility that arts has in the community right now. And if you look around, there's enormous amounts of vibrancy. There was a fantastic art San Diego contemporary art fair at the early part of this month, there's a film festival going on, and a fashion week happening. And October has this rich array of artistic activities. So I think there's a lot of good things going.
CAVANAUGH: And Dalouge?
SMITH: I would want to give credit to the city's leadership in arts and culture. We've got national recognition for the work they've done, and the way that they help the city invest in the arts and culture fabric of our community at all levels, from the neighborhood level to the festival, to the cultural institutions in Balboa Park and around the city. So we've got a great body of people to come together, and in fact because of the strength of the commission for arts and culture, we have a community that talks to each other, and talks to each, shares ideas, programming projects, and we see that over and over and over.
CAVANAUGH: Now the flip side. What is lacking in terms of support for this for the city support for arts and culture?
SMITH: Well, I know that for everybody that talks about the government, the question around funding is always critical. And San Diego, we have historically strived to achieve a penny for the arts through the arts and culture commission, and in fact there's work underway currently as a consequence of discussions at the last budget round to restore the penny for the arts, that we've actually dropped to half a penny.
CAVANAUGH: Is that from the total tax?
SMITH: That is correct. And council member Zapf has been working closely with the commission for arts and culture, and in early October, we look forward to seeing a proposal go to the first council committee.
CAVANAUGH: And David, what is the city lacking in terms of its support for the arts?
MALMUTH: Well, are the money is clearly a part of it. Upon but I think what we have is an opportunity with a new mayor to have a passionate advocate for the importance of arts to the fabric of the community. And my hope is that the new mayor grabs that opportunity to articulate why investing in arts, cultivating arts, creating a place that's rich in artistic expression is a brand that San Diego should be cultivating.
CAVANAUGH: Give us an example if you can about a specific project you think might need more city leadership.
Well, an example from the city of Philadelphia. Four years, they essentially wiped out their commission for arts and culture. And the new mayor said we need to raise the profile of arts in come this this community and creativity generally. So he designated a chief creative officer. And what was unique about it, it wasn't just representing the not for profit arts. It also included advertising and design, and the for-profit creative community. And there was tremendous leverage that occurred because of that. And now if you think about what Philadelphia has achieved over the last number of year, and partly it's because of the schedules of the chief creative officer, it now has this fantastic design festival. And it's brought vibrancy and life to a number of constitutions that had become sort of morbund.
CAVANAUGH: Do you see anything here in San Diego that you can point to and say if we could get our city leadership, City Hall behind this thing a little bit more, it would really help everybody in the arts community?
SMITH: Well, there are so many great things going on. I think David's project, the idea district is an important evolution in the way that a city approaches creativity. And I think the Philadelphia example is a good one because it's about bridging the nonprofit and the for-profit creative sector, it's about creating places where young entrepreneurs or artists can work, or they can work side by side. And the way that the city has important impact on that is how it actually does its planning. And there's a whole array of planning that the city could undertake that's not singularly about the arts and not singularly about development, it's not singularly about zoning rules. It's about the creative possibilities that can be achieved when you make the space and you do the recruitment for young people.
CAVANAUGH: I'm going to have to ask you to give us a thumb nail about what the idea district is.
MALMUTH: It stands for Innovation, Design, Education, and Arts. It's a five acre upper district east village neighborhood that we believe has the opportunity to grow thirteen thousand plus high-paying jobs over the next ten years. We believe that this could not only enrich the life of downtown but could have a really profound effect on creating the kind of urban cluster that is a magnet for young, highly educated talent.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, when you hear from other people in the arts community, what do you hear most often that they tell you about their interactions with City Hall?
SMITH: You know, I hear great things. We of course all arts organizations, all nonprofit arts organizations have had to really tighten their belts. And as we see the city's only financial health get stronger, the conversation almost always first goes to the dollars. Will but even above and beyond that, the kind of collaborative prohibits, the fall for the arts project that's underway, beginning this coming month, that's a collaboration of museums and performing arts groups, providing free tickets for kids, discounts for families. That's the kind of prosecute that coalesces our community and brings attention to our community. We're working with ConViz on that, and it expands the picture and the profile of San Diego beyond the beach and the mountains.
CAVANAUGH: What about the City of San Diego's support for public art? I know in many cities, there are public art structures and sculptures and so forth that sort of define the city. They're used as meeting ground, they're areas of relaxation and creativity, and yet when San Diego embarks on a public art project, there is usually a problem
SMITH: Yeah, clearly.
MALMUTH: There are good examples of public art, and there are examples of missed opportunities. Looking toward the future, my hope is that we have a mayor who can articulate a vision like Richard Daley did in Chicago when he selected art pieces for millennium park. He understood that trying to reach consensus was probably not realistic. Public art by its nature is controversial. Of he selected brilliant artists, he said we're going to find the money. Let's not kid ourselves. Doing these pieces is expensive. But he was able to get the public and private sectors working together. And what's produced there is an amazing economic engine and a place that's a source of pride for the whole community.
CAVANAUGH: Do you think that art is fully appreciated, David?
MALMUTH: No, I don't. I think we're not there yet. Now, we're impatient. We would like to accelerate this pace. But we also have to accept that we're kind of a young city, sort of a gangly teenager of a city. We would like to accelerate this discussion, and our hope is that our efforts are going to move it in the right way. But we're impatient.
CAVANAUGH: And what about you? Where do you think the city could step in and take art more seriously?
SMITH: I think there's a great opportunity for the new mayor to use the arts of San Diego as part of the calling card of the city. It's been done modestly, but it hasn't been done as robustly as it could be. And the new mayor will be courting, courting new company, courting people to visit our city, and courting new partnerships with trading partners out the region, so it's important. I've had people from other youth symphonies come from other parts of the country who say we have had a chance to go to Texas, and we chose to come to San Diego because of the symphony. And all of these experiences here are part of the cultural fabric of who San Diego is.
MALMUTH: We can imagine a future where people come to San Diego for the arts and culture, and by the way, they go to the beaches and love the weather as well.
CAVANAUGH: In San Diego public schools, I know that the City of San Diego doesn't have a lot to say about what goes on in the public schools, but arts has taken a major hit over the last few years. Have you taught about what the city might be able to do to reach out and provide arts education for kids in neighborhoods?
SMITH: Well, we know that the arts and culture community, the organizations are doing a lot to provide for students during school hours and in after school hours, and yet we also know and understand that the capacity for those organizations to reach every student is not there. And it will never be there. We're talking about 110,000 students. It's a huge project. I believe that an important role that our mayor can play is in advocating, advocating in Sacramento, advocating in Washington DC, partnering with other mayors from other large cities that are facing the same issues. Everybody recognizes that the twenty-first century is about creativity. Every business article you read about future workforces, about creative workforce, it's about twenty-first century skills. But we actually don't have good federal or state policy to train for twenty-first century skills. And the mayor could really take an important lead in that.
MALMUTH: That's a great insight. And deluge's program in Chula Vista is changing lives. There's no shortage of inspiring examples. But we have policy barriers because we have a school system that's not training kids for twenty-first century jobs. I would love it if our mayor is seen as a leader in trying to create a different consciousness for the potential arts integration in schools to be a huge way that we can move our economy forward. And I would love it if city is seen as the center of that innovation. We got this grant recently to explore arts integration into STEM programs.
SMITH: And I want to add at UC San Diego through their new programs at extension, through the K-sixteen academic extensions programs, they have been converging STEAM, the STEAM community in San Diego. We are having a conversation that's well ahead of other cities in this country on the question of arts, arts integration, its connection to science, because we actually have such great science and technology communities, science and technology universities, and arts and culture universities and programs. The mayor can help coalesce that.
CAVANAUGH: All this passion and enthusiasm you're bringing to this conversation, I'm wondering in the conversations and debates that you're hearing about San Diego's in San Diego's mayor's race, there's so much talk about pension and infrastructure and downtown building projects, do you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for someone to say something about the arts?
MALMUTH: Well, there is discussion about the arts. And it's not either or. And one of the points we're trying to make with initiatives like the idea district is that it can be a huge plus to talk about arts and the power of applied arts which is design, as an economic engine and as way, way to start San Diego's right-brained capabilities. We're really good at the left-brained analytical science stuff, world-class.
CAVANAUGH: Have you heard what you want to hear in any of these debates? Is there enough conversation about the arts going on in this campaign?
SMITH: I think that the conversation that incorporates all that we're talking about is a conversation about the kind of city we want to be, the future of what San Diego is. And it's so easy to get stuck in the immediate of the moment, but lose site, and that's what I'd like to see the mayoral candidates talk about and envision. Where are we going to take San Diego?
MALMUTH: 2015 is a perfect example to manifest that.
CAVANAUGH: The celebration of the centennial in Balboa Park.
CAVANAUGH: I have to end it there.