What is a California Cultural District?
How Santa Ana Got Involved
On February 7th, Rick Stein, the Executive Director of Arts OC, our county's arts council contacted Ryan Smolar of Downtown Inc. and John Spiak of the CSUF Grand Central Art Center (GCAC) urging Santa Ana to write a letter of interest for the state's new Cultural District program.
Smolar and Spiak relayed the invitation to Jorge Garcia, who represents the City of Santa Ana's Arts & Culture commission as the Senior Management Assistant at the City of Santa Ana. The City had already been tracking the cultural district program and was reviewing the materials sent out by the state.
Garcia brought the idea of pursuing the cultural district to city staff leadership and to the Santa Ana Arts & Cultural Commission for a Work Study Session at their February public meeting.
On March 1st, Garcia announced to Smolar and Spiak that the City and Arts Commission would like to move forward with a letter of interest to the state from Downtown Inc. as the lead organization and key partners including CSUF Grand Central Art Center and the City of Santa Ana with the intent to add more partners to the process as it unfolded.
We were able to meet on March 7th to further discuss the letter of interest that needed to be created quickly. We invited additional arts, education and cultural institutional partners to join the conversation and discussed the possibility of a town hall, which we instead submitted as part of our plan if the state decided to move forward with the designation.
By March 27th, Smolar finished compiling the letter of interest for a Santa Ana Cultural District based on the framework of the Santa Ana Arts & Culture Masterplan, City of Santa Ana 5-Year Strategic Plan and the feedback received from hundreds of artists, arts organizations and arts educators at the Arts Roundtable events hosted across the City.
Spiak and Garcia suggested minor changes to the document and we submitted it along with letters of support from Santa Ana Unified School District, Bowers Museum, an art gallery owner and a Santa Ana-based artist who also runs a local non-profit.
A Santa Ana Cultural District as part of the Bigger Picture
The Letter of Interest for Santa Ana's Cultural District is based on the goals and objectives of key community plans that guide the economic, education, quality of life and arts and cultural development of our city:
Objective 5: Leverage private investment that results in tax base expansion and job creation citywide.
Goal 5: Community Health, Livability, Engagement & Sustainability
Objective 5: Promote a strong arts and culture infrastructure
Santa Ana's Letter of Interest
Developing a Cultural Inventory
Visit by the State of California
On June 2nd, representatives from the California Arts Commission met with over 35 diverse local artists and arts and culture leaders to discuss the possibility of Santa Ana's Cultural District. A few attendees expressed concern about a cultural district initiative, requesting that local artists and residents be prioritized in any funding or planning around the district. Organizations servicing thousands of Santa Ana residents with access to arts and culture spoke in favor of the designation including:
*Note, if you want your name removed from the list above for any reason or feel you were left of this list, please contact us so we can correct any error.
Update (6/9/17): After the June 2nd tour and receiving feedback from the State of California, the City of Santa Ana has decided to become the "lead applicant" for the Cultural District with the City's Arts & Culture Masterplan Steering Committee involved in the development and implementation of the District and the City of Santa Ana Arts & Culture Commission installed as an Advisory Board to the program. The City will hold monthly public meetings to maintain community voice throughout the process. All partners agreed that these adjustments best reflect our shared goals of inclusion, equity, partnership and working with the entire community.
What happens next?
The State of California will announce the final list of California Cultural Districts in mid-July. If accepted, the process to move forward described in the letter of interest is as follows:
We have already identified $5,000 funding to host a Town Hall to cultivate energy and plans for the Cultural District from our Arts Roundtable sponsorship. CSUF GCAC can provide their venue which
results in a cost savings and the City of Santa Ana can help with distributing invitations to a broad audience and hearing new ideas.
We will seek funding from the Arts Commission and other sources to write a guide to the Cultural District, estimated at costing $25,000 including printing and distribution costs.
We will perform connectivity audits of our district to see how active transportation and public realm improvements (including public art) could enhance our district. With grants, this could equate to millions of dollars in spending to increase connectivity across our district including physical and programmatic enhancements.
We will work to unify all free events provided by cultural district members to be "co-sponsored" by the Cultural District. This will help us share audiences who need the services we are providing free across the district including free festivals, shows and community gatherings. We estimate there is over $500,000-$1M in free events being produced in the district.
We will also seek a way to sustain a Cultural District awareness campaign via social media, a booth at free events and to present information in both English and Spanish. We wiill seek sponsors from the business sector to help fund this program at $12,000 per year.
This discussion has tested ideas and forced some clarity on how our arts community can continue to swirl together regardless of the outcome of this particular process.
One thing is clear: through the efforts of many, the arts and culture of Santa Ana is "the corazón of arts and culture in Orange County," as Sara Guerrero put it. Or simply, "the deepest concentration of arts and culture in Orange County," as Rick Stein expounded. Or that "arts are the healing salve for so many in our community who have nothing else" as Cheryl Eberly explained. Or that "this designation would change what youth think is possible for them" as City of Santa Ana Youth Commissioner Belen Carillo shared and Victor de los Santos echoed.
Before departing, the state arts comission seemed to agree, leaving us with these parting thoughts, "Passion...you definitely have passion. I wish some arts communities had the love and passion you all share. It's quite evident."
Story by Ryan Smolar