Miwa Matreyek in 'Myth and Infrastructure' (photo by Scott Groller).

Miwa Matreyek in 'Myth and Infrastructure' (photo by Scott Groller).

With a major grant from ArtPlace, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is leading the effort to create the Broadway Cultural Quarter (BCQ), an initiative to revitalize Downtown LA by developing a Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) to attract and retain arts and educational nonprofits and for-profit creative enterprises.

The BCQ will be anchored by (1) the Broadway Arts Center (BAC), a mixed-use development featuring affordable artists’ housing; a blackbox theater; an art gallery; and creative enterprise space being developed by a limited liability corporation (BCQ, LLC) recently created by Artspace and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC); and (2) a Downtown campus for the California Institute of Arts (CalArts).  The Broadway Cultural Quarter will be the result of an overarching visionary design by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis Architects.

ArtPlace recently spoke to Olga Garay-English, Executive Director of DCA, about the 2013 ArtPlace Creative Placemaking Summit and DCA’s BCQ project.

ArtPlace:  Where does this movement go next?  

Olga Garay-English:  Creative Placemaking projects typically utilize strategies to advance transit-oriented development, public safety, job creation, elimination of blight, etc.  Different municipalities support community development through a variety of means, including economic development departments, redevelopment agencies, community development block grant funds, etc.  Agencies approach community development from different angles and often utilize different metrics, although goals may be the same.

My feeling is that when various ArtPlace projects come to fruition, it will become clear on a national level that giving arts organizations and artists their proper place in these projects is a key to success and that the term “Creative Placemaking” will be more fully integrated across municipalities and disparate agencies. Further, as the ArtPlace Vibrancy Indicators begin to quantify success and become more widely used, I can see many of these items becoming standard metrics.

As noted during the session with Joe Cortright from Impresa, Inc. entitled “Measuring Vibrancy and Diversity in Creative Placemaking,” many of America’s top 12 ArtPlaces were developed over 20 or 30-year periods and were not necessarily planned as centers of vibrancy and the arts.  My thought is that the strategic approach applied by ArtPlace grantees – utilizing intelligent partnerships with a clear mission – can enable new artistic communities to develop with a more deliberate focus and therefore shorter timeframe.

ArtPlace:  What ideas did you gain or lessons did you learn that you plan to apply to your initiative?

Olga Garay-English:  The defining take-away is that Creative Placemaking is now part of the national dialogue concerning community development and the arts.  It is interesting to see how so many diverse projects across the country are designed to achieve similar advancements in their communities.

In terms of specifics, I learned from my colleague Kerry Adams Hapner, Executive Director of the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, about San Jose’s “Creative Industries Incentive Fund,” which is a small grant program implemented in partnership with the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI).  The program is designed for commercial creative businesses or entrepreneurs to support projects that contribute to cultural vibrancy.  Traditionally, local arts agencies, such as LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs, have supported the nonprofit arts and culture sector through competitive grant programs.  We are looking for ways to engage the creative sector more directly and invited Kerry to speak to our Creative Convergence Project co-chairs and Cora Mirikitani, President and CEO of CCI, to explore how LA could launch a mini-grants program that would make sense in our community.  The San Jose model was a great starting point and we will be incorporating some of the lessons learned from their work while fine tuning our initiative to be sensitive to local conditions and reflect our goal of directing resources to both improve area conditions and allow diverse Angelenos entry into the creative industries.

What was reaffirmed in the Miami discussions, both in breakout sessions, and through networking with other arts leaders present, is that a multi-sector approach is needed to achieve placemaking goals.

ArtPlace:  What did you share about your initiative that was surprising to you or to other participants?

Olga Garay-English:  Coinciding with our work on the BCQ, DCA also launched the Creative Convergence Project (CCP) in 2012.  At the Summit, we discussed how DCA is integrating this initiative into the BCQ planning work.

We recognized that for LA, creativity and innovation are serious business.   We felt it was imperative to better understand LA’s creative economy — which according to the annual Otis College Report on the Creative Economy is the fourth largest employment cluster in Los Angeles — to identify present and future challenges and to make it increasingly accessible to a more diverse group of Angelenos.  We realized that if we could bring a number of vital sectors together, we could create the synergy needed to fortify our creative sector – now and into the future.

The CCP (formerly the Creative Economy Convergence Task Force) brings together five critical sectors: (1) Academia/Public Policy; (2) Nonprofit Arts and For-profit Entertainment (including unions); (3) Government; (4) Philanthropy; and (5) the Private Creative Sector.  The CCP consists of leaders in each of these fields and includes four college Presidents, Vice Presidents or Chief Operating Officers (CalArts, Emerson College, Otis College, SCI-Arc); film executives (Sony Entertainment, Universal, 20th Century Fox); major arts organizations and union leaders (Hammer Museum, SAG-AFTRA); prominent philanthropies (Irvine Foundation, Getty Trust, Herb Alpert Foundation); and a cadre of creative entrepreneurs.

These sectors can be found in most cities or counties throughout the country, however, these sectors have not always worked in tandem.  We see an important role for each sector and rallying these groups to help implement the BCQ was well received.

ArtPlace:  What new opportunities for your initiative did you identify from conversations with other creative placemakers?

Olga Garay-English:  The Summit was a great opportunity to examine how different types of activities make for a successful Creative Placemaking project.  Often, public and private strategies for improving quality of life in urban environments focus principally on capital construction and physical infrastructure, while neglecting vitally needed sustainable programming.  Speaking with several ArtPlace grantees, including performing arts organizations and artists, reinforced the vitality of the marriage between capital construction projects and human-capital based projects.

For example, while DCA has been actively promoting the creation of the Broadway Cultural Quarter, we are concurrently co-producing RADAR L.A., an international festival of contemporary theater, with partners including the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), LA’s Center Theater Group, the Public Theater in New York City, and Theater Communications Group.  These two initiatives work together.  RADAR L.A. 2013 (our second edition of what has become a bi-annual event) is being designed to complement the planning and development of the BCQ by creating immediate cultural activity in under-utilized or vacant theaters, storefronts, and site-specific locations in the BCQ project area.  In addition, much of the work to be presented will bring to the forefront the voices of diverse and disenfranchised groups in LA who are often left out of the community development process.

We believe that providing these bursts of relatively immediate programmatic activity during the development process will serve to retain and increase interest in the BCQ over the multi-year development period.  In addition, while projects such as the BCQ are being developed, there remains a new, significant group of urban residents and visitors to the area that are hungry for artistic engagement.  RADAR L.A. will fill an immediate need to create pedestrian and cultural activity in LA’s urban core, while serving as part of the community engagement process during the current BCQ pre-development and design stage.

Miwa Matreyek in 'Myth and Infrastructure' (photo by Scott Groller).

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