The Newport Beach Arts Commission unanimously approved recommending to City Council a three-year funding and staffing plan to create a long-term self-sufficient arts program in the city.
“While this is not a perfect solution, it is a compromise,” Arts Commissioner Caroline Logan said at the meeting last week. “I feel this is a good way to move forward… We can give it our very, very best shot.”
If approved by City Council, the plan will likely provide the funds needed not only to support existing programs, but expand programming, according to Library Services Director Tim Hetherton.
“The city has clearly created a desire for a robust culture and arts program,” Hetherton writes in the staff report.
After reviewing the draft plan last month, City Council directed the Arts Commission to identify goals, objectives and a long-term vision for arts in the city.
In order to accomplish this goal the Commission believes that there are a number of fundamental changes that need to be implemented to create a successful privately funded arts program.
Council requested that the Arts Commission begin to develop public-private partnerships to reduce the reliance on the general fund for arts programs.
“We wanted to discuss with the commission proposals that the commission, and arts in general in Newport Beach, would become more self-sufficient without having to rely on general funds,” said Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs. “We wanted to make you (the commission) more independent from the city and the city’s general fund.”
According to city policy I-9, the general fund provides $55,000 per year for the support of culture and arts.
“This is the “public” side of the equation,” staff explains in the report.
The master plan aims to create public/private partnerships and has identified three sources: Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation, Visit Newport Beach, and development agreement capital funds.
In May of 2015, the Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation distributed their remaining assets of $175,000 to the Newport Beach Art Foundation. The foundation turned the funds over to the city to be specifically used for performing arts with a preference to the Balboa Village area of town. None of these funds have been used yet, according to city staff.
The city and Visit Newport Beach have an agreement that states that Visit NB will contribute $150,000 per year to the city for programs or activities (public art, cultural and promotional activities, beautification projects, etc.) that benefit the public.
Policy I-13 authorizes the deposit of two percent of the unallocated public benefit fees received by the city from development agreements into the Public Art and Cultural Facilities Fund.
There was some discussion over whether or not the funds from the developer fees would be allowed to support the rotating sculpture garden exhibit, since the policy states that funds will be used “for the acquisition and maintenance of permanent art structures and installations in public places.” But officials decided that since the park is permanent, those funds could be used, Jacobs noted.
The plan also aims to focus on increasing fundraising efforts.
The Newport Beach Arts Foundation, a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, “has been supportive of the Arts in Newport Beach for many years, but has not reached its potential for fundraising,” the staff report notes.
Staff is recommending that the foundation “grow into a full-fledged fundraising arm” for the commission, using the model created by the Library Foundation.
To help, the master plan also calls for hiring an arts manager that would be paid through funds provided through Visit Newport Beach for a period of up to three years.
The manager would advise the foundation board, work with the community to implement the vision of the master plan, and fundraise. Staff anticipates that the position should pay for itself by the end of the third year.
Several public speakers noted that there needs to be a clear directive and guidelines for the future.
“We need a cultural vision that sets us apart from (other nearby cities),” said Michaell Magrutsche.
There needs to be a commitment from the city that art is important, he said.
Other commenters noted the need for a clear and effective structure for private fundraising, concern for reliance on the two percent of developer fees, and supported the idea of hiring an arts manager.
Arts promote and drive people to the city, noted resident Leslie Miller, they are a channel for economic development.
“It’s incumbent on the commission and the foundation to drive the demand,” Arts Commission Vice Chair Lynn Selich said.
It changes depending on the who is elected to city council and what the community wants, Selich noted. It’s a challenge, but this is a good start, she added.
“This is going to continue to be a moving target,” Selich said, “but it’s a process.”