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San Diego’s New Arts Director Discusses Future Of Arts Funding

An undated photo of The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.
Craig Schwartz
An undated photo of The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.
San Diego’s New Arts Director Discusses Future Of Arts Funding
San Diego’s New Arts Director Discusses Future Of Arts Funding GUEST: Jonathon Glus, executive director, San Diego's Commission for Arts and Culture

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and I'm Jade Hindmon. San Diego has a new person to lead the city's Commission for arts and culture. Jonathan gloss is now the executive director who says he wants to make public art more public by making it accessible to everyone. I spoke with him about his priorities spending cuts and his vision Jonathan thanks for joining us today. My pleasure. All right. For those who are not familiar with the role the arts commission plays. Talk about how it works with local arts organizations to fund arts and culture programs in the city. So this is a longstanding very important component of the city organization or the city structure. So the Arts Commission was created a number of decades ago by the city of San Diego to provide funding technical assistance and leadership in the area of arts and culture. Today very importantly the Commission provides nearly 14 million dollars a year in contracts to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations throughout the city. And so how has your previous experience prepared you for this position. So most recently I was in the city of Sacramento. I was the Director of Culture and Creative Economy there and that space was very interesting in that it was designed to bridge traditional arts and culture and creative businesses or creative industry. So we were working to create a very big umbrella for culture and creativity at large. So history heritage preservation art and culture individual artists for profit businesses like film all that big tent of creativity whether it's for profit or non-profit which was a pretty innovative way of approaching the work. What really excited me about coming to San Diego though was really the long standing tradition of the city of San Diego in particular of investing so highly in arts and culture. And so what are your top priorities. Obviously getting to know the arts commission really getting my hands around what are the values and goals are. Of the city itself and most specifically. The mayor's goals over the next two years before he leaves office. And then. Understanding the. Nuances of. The community here. As you know every community is very different. And I'm very eager to get out into the neighborhoods and really get a sense. Of. What Sandy Agins believe are. His arts and culture to them. And let's talk about some of the challenges you know as you know the city is facing a budget deficit. Mayor Kevin Faulconer has asked all departments to propose three percent spending cuts. What will you do to protect arts funding. We are working very hard to make sure that the arts funding itself is not touched during these cuts. So we are already very thin in administration and staff but. We're very focused on. Finding cuts there and are there ways that you can sort of soften the blow. Should there be future cuts are you prepared if there are. So one of the things that has been really heartening in my three weeks here is the team inside City Hall and the Arts Commission really looks work collaboratively to figure out how we can get the biggest bang for your buck as it were. But I think a lot of my job going forward is also partnerships alliances and leveraging existing resources outside of city hall so we can advance the work but not necessarily owning the work entirely. The commission has been criticized for the way it doles out funding to nonprofits. Critics say the formula that it uses is outdated and that it favors larger wealthier arts organizations as opposed to smaller more diverse ones. Are you planning to make changes to the way the commission determines which groups get funding and how much they get. I'm very much in English listening phase right now or listening mode. You're referring to the algorithm which was put in place in the 1990s. So it's a very old model when I use the term old. I mean it's been in place for many years. So over the next few months it's really just understanding the history of the way that this is work. I think moving forward one of the important things is going to be reviewing goals and priorities are refining goals and priorities so that we're sure that the algorithm as it's called really reflects the goals and priorities of the city today. So one of the things that you know people say is that public art isn't all that public sometimes. Are you looking at ways to make it more accessible to everyone. Always always. Just before I arrived. Actually the city rolled out a new site that gives access to the civic art collection that really the reason why that was done is to make sure that people had access to all of the collection even if it is online. Most cities are not in a place where they've actually invested at that level. So that was a huge step forward. But in addition to your to your question directly we always have to make sure that we're using the public money in the highest best way and we have to make sure that it is as public as possible. This is an ongoing debate in every city and every state in the country. It's really up to us just to always be dogged about that. And so currently you know some of the city's most expensive art pieces aren't that accessible. How could you make them more accessible to people tours more media coverage changing hours. There's a variety of ways that we could. Of course there's always going to be some limitations as security has changed on public property cetera with some sites especially sites that have been in place for quite a while. There are going to be limitations. But again we're going to do as best as we can to continue to make them as successful as possible. And so since you're new in this position what have you been hearing from arts and culture groups. They are very enthusiastic about the future of the community. It's clear that the city is so rapidly changing and in a very positive way in that they want to continue to work even more collaboratively as a community in particular in regards to the commission. I think we're in a place where there's a lot of opportunity for even more leadership and even more partnerships. That's going to take a little bit of time to to really identify what those will look like. But there has been great great enthusiasm. I have to see my my colleagues in the cultural community have been nothing but warm and gracious and inviting. I've been speaking with Jonathan Gless executive director of the city of San Diego's commission for arts and culture. Jonathan Best of luck to you in your new position and thanks for joining us. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Despite looming budget cuts, San Diego's new arts director says he's committed to protecting the city's arts funding.

"We are working hard to make sure the art funding itself is not touched during these cuts. We’re already very thin in administration and staff but we’re very focused on finding the cuts there," said Jonathon Glus, who took over last month as the executive director of the city of San Diego's Commission for Arts and Culture.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has asked all city departments to proposed 3 percent spending cuts to offset projected deficits and arts funding has previously been a target.


The commission is responsible for doling out funding to arts and culture nonprofits. The commission awarded $11 million dollars in contracts to arts organizations in fiscal year 2019, according to the mayor's office.

The commission has recently been giving a second look to the formula it uses to allocate funds.

Glus discusses his priorities as the new head of the city's Arts and Culture Commission, Monday on Midday Edition.