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Reshaping LA: The Role of Arts & Culture in Community Revitalization

Remarks by Mayor Bill Bogaard
Community Forum
June 18, 2004



I am delighted to be here and honored to have this opportunity to participate in such an important arts forum. It’s a valuable opportunity, and I thank the CORO Foundation for its role in organizing this event. What I’m going to address in the next few minutes are three questions: 1) Do arts and culture have a positive economic impact?; 2) How can a city create a powerful arts and culture dimension that provides those benefits?; and 3) Does government have to foot the bill?

Let me start by offering a summary of what I think are the benefits from arts and culture activities. To start, obviously, entertainment and edification. We all say the arts are wonderful because we enjoy them and because we feel uplifted and gain a broader perspective on life. Then, education and learning. The emphasis here is on young people and the role that arts education plays in broadening learning skills for students.

Next, community building. The integration of differences in the community—ethnic and economic differences. Pasadena is a community with huge economic and ethnic diversity, and I believe the arts can bring the community together. We have, as another speaker mentioned, several ethnic celebrations each year: a Latino Fest, African American History Month, and others that help one segment of the community learn about the others.

Next, economic vitality and business development. Obviously, the hospitality industry benefits: hotels, restaurants, even retail stores prosper from arts and culture activities. More broadly—and this has economic impacts—if a community offers a quality of life that includes arts and culture, it’s easier to recruit the kind of employees, the managers, the business leaders that are needed to have a dynamic economy. It’s easier to attract young, brilliant people who are forming new companies based on technology to come and start their companies there.

Further, job creation and tax revenues are important benefits from arts and culture. Since the emphasis in this discussion is on the economic side, let me share with you a recently completed study that was done covering 90 cities around the country, including the City of Pasadena. It was done by Americans for the Arts, a national organization that is in the business of analyzing the economic impact of arts and culture, which is about 10 years old.

The conclusion of this study, completed about 18 months ago, was that the arts in Pasadena generate $100 million in local economic activity.

Arts organizations—non-profit organizations—spend over $50 million for what they do—for staff, purchasing of supplies, renting of halls or maintaining facilities and so on, and nearly $50 million is spent by the audiences of our arts and culture activities. The study shows that a domestic arts patron, someone who lives in Pasadena, spends about $40 in addition to the ticket price in connection with attending an event—this is an average—and persons visiting the City spend over $75 each above the ticket price for various services and support.

The number of jobs created in Pasadena through arts and culture exceeds 3,200. Pasadena is a regional center with a large tax base. We have nearly 100,000 jobs, and over 3% of those jobs are directly related to arts and culture. According to the study, those jobs deliver something in the range of $80 million in household income to local residents, and deliver $12 million in local and state government revenue.

In light of this economic significance, the logical question is how can communities seeking such benefits promote arts and culture activities. Let me offer the following suggestions, based on my experience and to some extent the discussion today.

First, the subject of arts and culture should be defined broadly. We all know the traditional arts organizations—for example, the Pasadena Symphony, Pasadena Pops. We know the museums—the Pacific Asia, Norton Simon. We know the performance venues—the Pasadena Playhouse, the Civic Auditorium. Their role in the City’s arts and culture offerings is admirable.

But the definition of arts resources should also include schools—Caltech and Art Center College of Design, Pasadena City College, as examples—which offer many opportunities for arts and culture. PCC has a visiting artist every year and makes that artist available to the community as well as to its own students. It should also include historic structures, diverse neighborhoods, historic places like the Rose Bowl and the Colorado Street Bridge. Public art itself—created and installed when major projects come in—also represents an important art resource along with urban design and streetscape, parks and pedestrian walkways.

When the Paseo Colorado—a new urban village near City Hall—was designed about five years ago to replace the Plaza Pasadena, an unsuccessful mall that had deteriorated over 20 years, one of the primary community interests was to re-establish a street level view corridor between the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on the south and the Central Public Library on the north—an integral element of the Pasadena Civic Center which is based upon the so-called Bennett Plan developed in the early 1920’s. The public space—and the excitement—that was created in the project through this City requirement has been powerful in enhancing our Civic Center.

Secondly, after defining arts and culture—thinking about it broadly enough—my suggestion is that a plan be developed, a cultural plan, a strategy for the community. At the present time, Pasadena is engaged in a cultural planning process which we call “Cultural Nexus”. It has involved several community meetings and numerous workshops on different topics that are relevant to promoting arts and culture. The product of our Cultural Nexus study will feed into a new element of our General Plan—a cultural element—so that in addition to Land Use and Noise and Open Space and Mobility, Pasadena’s General Plan will have a cultural element which will offering a broad strategy for the community to follow in the years ahead.

Thirdly, to increase the impact of arts and culture, communities should work together, should collaborate. Partnerships are fundamental to successful launching or expanding an arts environment, partnerships with non-profit organizations, with foundations in seeking of grants, tying in with existing programs are all ways to have a major impact.

A few years ago, a six-institution arts collaborative was established that offered a free event, I think two evenings—Friday and Saturday nights—so that the Norton Simon, Pacific Asia, Art Center, Caltech, the Huntington, and others were open with free admission. The City provided a tram service that took interested people from one to another. This collaboration has continued each year and grown, so this year the event, which opens in September, includes 13 organizations and extends over several months.

Further, arts and culture can be expanded based on developer contributions. These are sometimes controversial because developers don’t like to bear any extra cost. But in Pasadena, we have a 1% for the arts requirement based on the construction cost associated with new developments, and we sometimes impose other kinds of exactions or burdens on a development project that are consistent with our cultural plan.

Another thought. Churches should be recognized as part of the city’s cultural fabric. A few moments ago, one panelist noted the cultural experience when he attends a service that includes gospel music, and I agree with him, I’m with him 100%, that can be an enriching, artistic experience.

Finally, I want to address the question, do cities have to foot the bill for arts and culture. Those who know how much Pasadena spends for the arts directly out of the general fund would say, certainly not.

I’m proud of what we do in terms of financial commitment to the arts—we have the 1% for the arts and a modest grant program—the amount given to any single event or artist or art organization rarely exceeds $10,000. We have a small arts staff, headed by an Executive Director for the Arts, an executive assistant and an administrator, who lead the City’s effort in building support and interest and collaborations for arts activity. The City benefits importantly from its Arts Commission, which is staffed by capable community volunteers.

In pursuing resources to support the arts, cities must be opportunistic. They must offer leadership and facilitate the activities of others. Let me mention a few examples from my city.

Some years ago, as a wave of redevelopment activity was taking place in the early 1980’s, public resistance grew against the demolition of historic structures and a heavy influx of chain-store commercial activities. There was a little building sitting in Old Pasadena—an armory, I think, formerly used by a reservist unit—and support built for saving it by making it available to one of our established arts organizations. Now called the Armory Center for the Arts, it pays $1 per year and provides a wide range of cultural experiences for the City. These include student programs and delivering courses to our public schools so that the Armory’s payments for the use of the building includes a lot of quality programs that promote arts and arts education.
We recently issued a loan guarantee to the Pasadena Playhouse, almost $1 million. The Playhouse had committed to increasing ticket prices by $1.00 per ticket, and demonstrated its track record of ticket sales over several years. They wanted to eliminate existing debt so they could pursue a successful capital campaign, and the City Council agreed to help. Hopefully, I can correctly say a couple of years from now that it did not involve any actual outlay of public funds, but it is a big help.

A couple of years ago, we accelerated the implementation of a Park Master Plan because we had an opportunity, and we wanted to act opportunistically. The Levitt Pavilion, a New York-based family foundation, decided that their goal in life was to help cities establish outdoor music centers which would be free and offer concerts during the summer. We had an old bandshell, not very well used and in bad condition, in a park that was also not in very good condition.

But we had a master plan for the park, and with the momentum that came from the foundation grant—a commitment not only to help with the improvement of the bandshell, but with funding for free concerts for the next five years—the City pulled itself together to implement the master plan for Memorial Park. We now have a totally upgraded park, a totally upgraded bandshell, and 50 wonderful free concerts each summer.

When a new director came to the Pasadena Pops about four years ago—this is Rachael Worby—she had a goal of beginning each summer with offering a free concert as a way of drawing in the community for the paid season. The City went to bat to help. Recently we had the fourth annual “Music Under the Stars” on the steps of City Hall. It’s grown to be a popular event.

There are other ways in which cities, I think, can be opportunistic, can be facilitators, can offer leadership and support. Obviously, this includes ongoing moral support, jawboning in support of organizations. In the last four or five years, I’ve attended more arts and culture celebrations than I can count, and I love it because it is an opportunity for me as Mayor to say to the organizations, to the leadership and those who are working hard and contributing generously, and to the community, that promoting the arts is important, we love you! We think arts and culture contributes to entertainment and edification, as well as to the bottom line.

So I hope that what I’ve done in these remarks is to capture some of the wisdom that has been expressed today, share a little bit about how Pasadena has made efforts in support of arts and culture, and hope that it’s a good way to wrap up today’s program.

Thank you very much.  

Posted: 6/18/2004 08:50:00 AM