The NEW new art city

Long ago in a galaxy far away, some people in that cool old building on Poli and California streets, decided it would be a good idea to give the city of Ventura an identity.  At the time, (pre-911, pre-economic disaster) cultural tourism was a fairly new concept and people governing the city were beginning to realize how dominant a force the arts were here.  Two plus two equaled California’s New Art City and a marketing plan/identity was born.

Not coincidentally, this came at a time of redevelopment downtown– the Laurel Theater (Rubicon Theatre Company), Ventura Music Festival, the Artists Union Gallery and the Century 10 movie theater, materialized during this period.  At the same time, historic preservation was being embraced as a crucial element of downtown Ventura’s cultural, and was folded into the cultural tourism plan.

All these years later, we have some amazing accomplishments to show for this change in direction: most notably: Bell Arts Factory/Vita Art Center, Working Artists Ventura (WAV), Ventura Film Society and the ongoing county museum expansion (which will partially unveiled on July 3).  Add to that a couple handfuls of art galleries and studios, festivals and a local music scene that if properly fertilized could yield big dollars and national recognition for Ventura, and it becomes difficult to understand why there  is so much empty commercial space downtown.

Clearly it’s time to reassess and reimagine.  We should be proud, we’ve accomplished much, but if we are to survive this economy and a changing market, we need to wise-up.

Recent changes within city government reflect both the need to reshape our vision and the willingness on the part of city officials to adapt. Eric Wallner, formerly the Cultural Affairs Manager for Ventura, is necessarily molting in order to respond, to this somewhat urgent need for a new phase. Wallner, along with others, will be turning his focus to the creation of jobs that will help sustain us culturally and economically. This means finding ways to court businesses that employ creatives and others.

This will undoubtedly be a big part of the discussion at the second annual economic summit “Partnering for Prosperity” to be held Saturday, June 12 at 8 p.m. Anyone interested in taking this city to the next level, artistically, culturally and economically, should consider attending.

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