Friday, June 13, 2008

San Franciso Bay Area Arts Town Hall

This past Monday I attended the SFBA Arts Town Hall meeting with Marion Colemen. It was at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a beautiful building and area in the heart of arts in San Francisco. SFMOMA was right across the street and the grounds are filled with fantastic water art, gardens, grass to relax on and fascinating high rise buildings.

I took a bunch of notes during the plenary session, the topic being "The Arts in the Bay Area--the Future is Now" with a rather distinguished panel of presenters.

Michael Morgan, the music director and conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony had some fascinating comments which are apropos to any art. He raised questions about the need for us to decide who we are and where are we likely to fit? What impact do you want to have? Of course, young people want to impact the world, as an older person, I will settle for impacting my neighborhood. The need to collaborate rather than competing between various arts providers was also discussed. He made the statement that if you are not doing something for the next generation of artists, you are failing. One of the negatives from our area was that he is not seeing the connections with other groups and artists.

Favianna Rodgrguez, an printmaker and social entrepreneur, a Chicana, spoke a lot about art by women of color. She also spoke a great deal about immigrant art. She felt that technology is an artist's tool. Strengths in the Bay area of at multi-culturalism (some schools have over 50 languages spoken in them) and the redeveloping for people who are there. She felts that we are not fully taking advantage of technology, that artists are not collaborating with community organizations, that we need to reach out more to artists under 35, we need to work for long term impact and that we need financially viable models.

Moy Eng, the program director of the performing arts program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation spoke about the need to support cultural appreciation. She also felt that groups really need to collaborating when chasing the money. One big challenge she discussed was the fact the the new generations feel everything is, music and movies off the Internet, etc. As artists trying to make money, she raised the question of how do we deal with this.

Alan Brown, who studies audiences and patterns of cultural participation was really interesting. He states that we need to understand how cultural participation is changed. He also felt we need to understand how people express themselves creatively. He felt we need to reach beyond in order to grow, to reach out, and to collectively reach out for a central purpose int eh arts. He indicated that people's taste is changing much more rapidly due to the Internet and that, with technology, come fragmentation. For instance, he said that there are few places for people to come together to discuss art they have seen, be it a play, concert, poetry reading, art show, dance, etc. Where is there a place to b ring people together right after an event to process as a group? He said we are lacking the social aspect of an experience. He also indicated that we need more opportunities to have critical discussions about the arts.

He raised the question of how are people changed by experiencing art? What is the impact of a single artistic moment on an individual. He indicated that he is developing ways of actually measuring such reactions. Other questions he brought up were What is your value agenda? What is your program trying to improve. All very interesting to think about.

Luis Cancel, Director of cultural affairs with the San Francisco Arts Commission also dropped some big information on us. He said one of the biggest problems artists face in the Bay Area is finding affordable space to create work (not live-work). He also indicated that 50,000 people in San Francisco have liquid assets of over $2 million (this does not include property) and that 296,000 people in the Bay Area have over $2 million in liquid assets. We need to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit to engage those with the money. Curiosity excites the new money people. He also pointed out that CA state government is dead last in all of the US, including protectorates and territories, in supporting the arts.

A blog has been set up for further discussion and can be reached at There is a great recap from someone who paid more attention than I did and also covers all the breakout sessions and other events happening. It is a very interesting look at arts in the future.

In the after noon, I took a one hour workshop on percussion and learned from Zeke Nealy a few basic Haitian/Afro drumming rhythms...I have always wanted to learn to play a conga or bongo drum and am now on a quest to find an appropriate teacher!

1 comment: said...

Thank you, Liz. This was very interesting and thought provoking. Good luck with your drumming! Rosemary