Cultural Affairs Town Hall Hears Artists Asking for Space by Miriam Estavanez

The Culver City artistic community is experiencing  growing pains. At a “town hall” style meeting of the Cultural Affairs Commission last Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Culver City Cultural Affairs Commission invited the public to participate in the Annual Cultural Affairs Town Hall to contribute and listen to ideas for current and future Cultural Affairs programming, and many who spoke were not focused on programming. Representatives from many of the major art and cultural organizations expressed their concerns about the lack of adequate and affordable retail space to permanently house their venues. Arts are booming; space is limited.Many of the groups are outgrowing their building spaces, or are currently looking for permanent homes to allow their art to expand.

The issue was so prevalent that at the conclusion of the public comment, Chairperson Marla Koosed candidly suggested to the rest of the commission “Do you think next year we should invite some real estate developers?”

Justinian Jampol, director of the Wende Museum, stated to the commission: “We are one of the fastest growing museums on the west coast. It started in the garage of my parents, and now has more than 100,000 artifacts.”

With such fast growth, Jampol informed the council that he was in search of a larger, permanent venue for the plethora of artifacts under his care. “Already we are talking to many organizations, and  hopefully we will find a long-term home.”

Jampol was not alone in his search for a permanent space in Culver City.
“The creation of a new place is an extremely challenging proposition,” said Jeannine Stehlin, from the Circus Theatricals Foundation. “Our offices are here in Culver City. Our plays and professional actor- training classes are in other prominent Los Angeles venues.” said Stehlin, adding that it was the goal of the organization to permanently settle its activities in Culver City in 2010.

Her concerns were echoed by representatives of the Contra-Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Group, who noted that they were working with the city to utilize unused retail space and turn them into subsidized buildings to be used by local artists.

The Culver City Public Theatre was also looking at possible solutions for it’s space issues. As an outdoor theater, they use Carlson Park as performance space and are forced to do their plays during the summer to reduce the possibilities of weather cancelations. “One of the future goals we talked about [was] performing in the other months, and just looking to a space to that we could perform in.” said Heidi Dotson, representing the organization.

The organization that seemed to have the greatest need for a new home was the Jazz Bakery.
“The Jazz Bakery is the victim of Culver City’s great success at redevelopment.” said Mark Walter, representing the famed musical venue. Walter stated that the city’s ability to attract high-end stores and restaurants had raised the rents at the Helms Bakery building, to the point where the non-profit organization was forced to vacate.

Walter urged the council to not forget about the small non-profit artist groups as it continues its redevelopment and expansion projects.

“Many cities have chased us and would like for us to come and restart our programs in their cities, as we did in Culver City, 17 years ago.” said Walter. “We want to be a part of [Culver City].”

The Actors' Gang

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