VI. The Climax: Wave barf bags. Who will be San Diego’s cultural hero(ine)? Chris Lavin gave us this little fantasy:
I would imagine a world in which arts organizations could speak with one voice and better sell their service to the wider community. When the city fathers – and the father of all city fathers was here briefly tonight – weigh whether to make a $300-million public investment in a stadium for the eight or so annual home Charger football games, I do wish the debate would occur in an atmosphere of clear and steady understanding of the tens of thousands of San Diegans who have dedicated so much of their lives to music, painting, dance, theater – the arts that enrich lives, improving San Diegans and life in San Diego – 365 days of the year.
Imagining, however, is not enough. San Diego’s arts lovers need to take things into their own hands (maybe with some coordination from a gutsy Performing Arts League). In an interview, Mark Chaisson told me that the League’s own survey shows that every group creates its own identity and its own market, but the city has no sense of “the arts community.”
Even a cultural capital like New York had trouble with arts visibility, until Broadway singers and dancers and other artists took to performing in the streets a few years ago.
Arts lovers can demand (in person) adequate coverage of the arts by appearing at the offices of the local press (all newspapers, television, radio). They can look for an angel – or join forces themselves – to launch a monthly print and online publication with real arts reporting.
Because the U-T has the most substantial coverage of the arts, it has unreasonable power in the arts community and among audiences. Lavin says the paper has increased its arts coverage by 30 percent, but arts gets space on (at best) four days; socially and morally-challenged sports gets a daily section. This belies Lavin’s description of publisher David Copley as “one of the leading local supporters of the visual and performing arts.”
San Diego can muster an army of volunteers to appear at every meeting where a new stadium is being discussed. Make loud and embarrassing noises. Carry a barf bag and wave it every time you hear the word “stadium.” (Arts managers should not try this if they want to keep their jobs.)
Susan Mallory, the chair of the Chamber of Commerce’s Arts, Business and Culture Committee, says that the group is strengthening ties to the business community with increased arts writing for Chamber publications, more representation of arts at Chamber meetings. Nice – but show us the money; get us a new concert hall, not a new (barf bag waving) “stadium.”
When people in the arts – managers, donors, and patrons – abandon the soul-stealing, salute-the-status-quo attitude that plagues the civic life of this military town, a leader will emerge.
Just checked Art and Sol again. Nothing has changed. Hell, maybe I’ll just stay home and watch “Ugly Betty” and “Battlestar Galactica.”