Dear Editor – Arts Are Essentials

Dear City Council, Cultural Affairs Commission, City Manager and staff,

The Summer Concert Series has been an immensely popular program, serving Culver City residents and attracting thousands of visitors from all over the region successfully for 17 years. The concerts have great cultural as well as monetary value. The concerts bring in needed tax revenue during the Series and beyond; as visitors first attracted by the concerts return to Culver City and its businesses. This is precisely why the Series has been funded by Redevelopment money for so many years.

We know that the loss of Redevelopment has serious financial consequences for Culver City, which will necessitate significant changes to our budget. Our Summer Concert Series should remain a priority. I propose that we can minimize the city’s financial contribution, while still maintaining this vital programming, by lowering costs and leveraging funds from outside sources.

I urge you to take the following steps:

– reduce the series from eight weeks to five weeks (the month of August) to reduce costs

– work with local businesses to increase sponsorships: the 2010 Series raised $16,000 in in-kind donations, and around $7,500 in cash donations; we can and must grow those sponsorships, now that the Series is in danger of disappearing

– allow residents and visitors to donate directly to the series (via a Kickstarter campaign or similar mechanism)

I sent out an appeal to Culver City Downtown Neighborhood Association members last week to save the Series, and in less than 24 hours, received over $1,000 in pledges. I am confident that with a wide-ranging, visible, long-term campaign, we can raise much more from the Culver City community, and from supporters throughout the region.

Going forward, the Culver City Cultural Affairs Foundation should take a on a more active and visible role in the community – similar to the Culver City Education Foundation. City Manager John Nachbar, who is the CEO of the Foundation, has agreed to look into its structure and capabilities. The non-profit Foundation should be enabled to solicit and receive individual donations in addition to the grant money it already pursues. With publicity, outreach, and fundraisers, the Culver City Cultural Affairs Foundation has the potential to attract resident and business support for the arts in Culver City, as it faces the loss of Redevelopment funding.

Beyond the Series, we need to engage in a community dialogue and long-term planning so that the elimination of Redevelopment funding does not mean the end of all cultural programming in our city. We have a thriving arts-based economy in Culver City; through our theatres, galleries, Sony and Culver Studios, the creative spaces in the Hayden tract, and the multitude of Culver City residents who work in the arts. The arts are our bread and butter, not the cherry on top, and they must remain priorities for our city.

Meghan Sahli-Wells

The Actors' Gang

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