Seaside lags on arts district, but leaders insist art is on front burner.
Thursday, July 23, 1998
As recently as 1995, Seaside was abuzz with excitement over the idea of creating an arts district. An advisory board was to be created to facilitate the process, city entrances and facades were to be beautified, and everybody, from the mayor to local artists, was excited about the re-creation of the city''s image. Today, the plan is still on the drawing board, not much seems to have changed, and the idea of an advisory board to oversee the process seems to have just slipped off into the sunset and vanished.
"Even though everyone said they were behind it, nothing ever got done," says Sandra Gray, chairwoman of the Seaside Arts Commission, "so we gave up on the idea...it became hard to keep the momentum going." She explains that the process was simply more complex than had been anticipated.
Gray is confident that the formation of an arts district will take place in the future, however. And while she waits for that day to arrive, she is doing what she can to move the city closer to its goal.
First of all, there is the five-year plan, which she is presently trying to get approved, mapping out "a number of artistic goals that encompass visual, performing arts and music."
Then, there is the Arts in Public Places Program, put before the city council in January. "We needed to have some sort of arts program in place. That''s why this plan was created," says Gray, who believes it is first necessary to have a solid city art policy in place before a project as large as an arts district can be tackled.
According to Gray, the objectives of the Arts in Public Places Program are to enhance the physical image of Seaside, promote local artists and diversity, and set up some concrete procedures for the acquisition, upkeep and disposal of art pieces after they have outlived their purpose.
Another plan is the One Voice Mural Project, involving 91 economically disadvantaged and at-risk youths from the ages of 14 to 21. The mural project is part of the federally funded Summer Youth Employment Training Program and is sponsored by the Monterey County Office for Employment Training and the Monterey County Private Industry Council.
The One Voice Mural Project is paying young people to work with professional artists at 13 sites around the county from Castroville to Seaside and Carmel. At each site two artists work with as many as eight young people to create a historical mural. All the participants also travel around the county and view historical sites depicted in the murals. It is hoped that through educating youths about the county''s rich history and diversity, they will be encouraged to participate actively and positively within the community.
"We have hired some incredible muralists from around the county," says Joseph Werner, executive director of the Monterey County Youth Program. "We are also working with Hartnell [College] to design an innovative curriculum focusing on aspects of history and art techniques. We hope to replicate the program on a yearly basis."
Not only upcoming projects have people excited. Some individuals such as Joe Pacheco, Seaside''s recreation coordinator, are quite content with those already in place. "This is a very biased view," he admits laughing, "but events like the Sunday Blues Series attract people from Santa Cruz and Central California. They know about these shows. That''s pretty good."
Other events for which Seaside is already well-known are the Jazz Art Show and the free performance of musicians from the Carmel Bach Festival. "They''ve enhanced the city''s reputation and brought about a feeling of pride," declares Pacheco. The city is also enjoying a sizable success with the newer International Festival, Cinco de Mayo celebration which attracts 4,000-6,000 participants, and the Black History Performance, which sold out this year, receiving rave reviews.
Even though Seaside is far from achieving its goal of developing an arts district, Gray says she considers the present arts scene "pretty exciting" and sees the city''s constant activity, and programs such as Arts in Public Places as a step in the right direction. She also expresses recognition that arts in Seaside will have to undergo a certain amount of growth before an arts district can ever be realized. "I think before the city just didn''t want to get into something it couldn''t handle," she says.
Seaside Mayor Don Jordan agrees. "I am a big supporter of the arts," he says, adding, "we got a little ahead of ourselves before. I want to develop that [the art district], but first I want to deal with public art pieces and architectural themes. The Arts in Public Places Program is a way of having artists themselves bring in support for the arts. You''re going to see some really great things in the future as we redefine the image of Seaside."