In recent years, the arts community has made huge strides in Long Beach with the introduction of more gallery space, music festivals, events such as POW! WOW! and an overall presence throughout the city, according to Griselda Suárez, executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach.
Griselda Suárez, Executive Director, Arts Council for Long Beach (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
“As an arts community, we are at a very exciting place. We are at a place where a lot of us are collaborating. We have built an amazing relationship with the city,” Suárez said. “We’re really at a place where we can begin to show the strength we have in the arts and in the creative economy we have here in Long Beach.”
In December, the arts scored a huge win with the Long Beach City Council’s approval of the Percent for the Arts program, which added a fee on new public capital improvement projects in the city to be allocated to the arts. Suárez explained that the arts council is currently working with the city manager’s office to create the Long Beach Percent for the Arts Committee, which would look at future public arts programs. The committee goes into effect with the new fiscal year, with the search for members and an open call for recruitment preparing to begin.
Since the passage of Percent for the Arts, Suárez said the arts council has been working closely with the mayor and other city departments on ways to further strengthen the relationship between the city and arts community. She explained that more cultural planning is needed to reach the city’s full potential.
“We’re looking at a model that includes the arts council, a commission for public art and a cultural affairs department or staff in the city that are related to the arts administration. All of it working together can impact different levels of art,” Suárez said. “We’re talking about audience building. We’re talking about investment in art projects in the city, cultural planning that involves engaging different aspects of art – everything from the artists to arts education to professional development.”
In addition to continued and growing collaboration with the city, the arts council is beginning more conversations with local arts venues, such as the Museum of Latin American Art and the Long Beach Museum of Art, according to Suárez. She explained that a primary focus is investing more money into marketing and promoting arts venues and looking at new strategies to inform residents and visitors of the arts culture already present in the city.
At the county level, Suárez explained that Los Angeles County’s 4th District, which includes Long Beach, receives the least amount of funding for the arts but that the arts council is working to build a relationship with County Supervisor Janice Hahn.
Aside from bringing in revenue for the city, the arts community provides about 550 jobs to the local area, putting money in residents’ pockets to be spent in the city, further stimulating the local economy, according to Suárez.
“We want a dynamic, vibrant, creative, culturally rich city,” Suárez said. “The arts are important because they really transform our space. They activate not only empty lots but our children’s and residents’ minds. It can turn a neighborhood into an engaged neighborhood.”