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Artist Access Program development remains paused

Monday, April 2, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Recently the city paused a program for artist venue space in response to complaints about how it would balance the residential groups’ cultural identities and the programming that would take place in the individual cultural centers.

Since 2011, the city has sponsored an artist-in-residence program. Originally the Latino Arts Residency Program, the initiative was eventually expanded to the Dougherty Arts Center. The most recent incarnation allows artists to utilize the aforementioned cultural centers as well as the Asian American Resource Center and the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center.

Despite this momentary pause in the initiative, Laura Esparza, manager of museums and cultural programs for the Parks and Recreation Department, told the Parks and Recreation Board on March 27 that the city is conducting a community engagement process to help relaunch the program, and she specifically requested help from the board.

The community engagement process, which began in January of this year, is now selecting members of certain commissions and boards to participate, and Esparza came to the Parks and Recreation Board to ask for a candidate.

“We hope to launch this at the end of this fiscal year with your help,” she explained to the commission.

The community engagement process is slated to extend for another six weeks and the Parks and Recreation Department hopes to reopen the application process in June.

With eight arts institutions due to close within the next two years because they lost their leases, giving local artists access to these facilities “is important right now because we are in a crisis,” she said.

In reference to the debate that sparked the interruption of the program early this year, Board Chair Jane Rivera asked, “Is there an intention in any way of reducing the (participation) of minority artists in different cultural centers?”

While there is no intention to reduce the participation of minorities in the program, Esparza did explain that there is an open application process for the program. However, according to her, more than 50 percent of applications were filled out by persons of color. “Most people requested spaces that corresponded with their cultures,” she said. But not everyone.

Vice Chair Richard DePalma noted that “I know personally if I was an artist, I would be excluded from the Dougherty Arts Center.” He explained that since the issue of cultural consistency between the centers and the performers inhabiting them is a continuing point of contention, “I think it’s an appropriate step to flush those issues out.”

Board Member Francoise Luca was unanimously voted to be the Parks Board representative in the community engagement process.

Photo by John Flynn.

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