Forum to paint future picture of the arts

Roundtable forum: "Building the Arts through

The Gilroy Arts and Culture Commission is having its week in the
sun.
After 18 months of weekly meetings which included daylong
sessions and countless hours of planning, the Commission presented
its first, newly-minted Strategic Plan for the arts at Monday’s
City Council meeting.
The Gilroy Arts and Culture Commission is having its week in the sun.

After 18 months of weekly meetings which included daylong sessions and countless hours of planning, the Commission presented its first, newly-minted Strategic Plan for the arts at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Its first annual roundtable forum, “Building the Arts through Community” will be held today with an expected attendance of 150 to 175 community leaders and representatives, said chairwoman Karen La Corte.

“It’s all happening on the same week. It’s big,” said commissioner Carol Peters. “Our small body of commissioners was a body of swarming bees and we wouldn’t leave anyone alone until they said yes.”

The Commission, along with arts groups and business leaders, will talk art, meet old friends and form partnerships from 2 to 5 p.m. today at Lizarran Tapas Restaurant on 7400 Monterey Street in Downtown Gilroy.

Kent Child, Gavilan Community College Board trustee, confirmed his attendance when Peters personally invited him. He said the numbers surprised him and thinks a personal invite from the commissioners may have had something to do with the large attendance.

“Usually for things like that, in the past, you had a dozen people attend,” he said. “I got three different invites from staff members. When the city representatives are involved with this kind of outreach, it’s a good sign. A broader net is getting cast out.”

Child said art forums are usually organized by different groups within the arts world and not the wider public.

The Commission will once again present their Strategic Plan, which sets the guidelines for the arts in Gilroy through 2020, at the forum. The Public Art Committee, which is in charge of identifying public art and working with the city to get it approved; and the Gilroy Arts Alliance, a blanket organization for all the arts groups and genres will also make presentations.

The rest of the forum will be devoted to public comments.

“It will be a brainstorming session,” said La Corte, whose term expires this year. “The Arts and Culture Commission is advisory to City Council and this roundtable will help us in defining what the community wants. The main part is to get the community together and let their voice be heard.”

The forum is just one of the goals in the Strategic Plan, said Peters, which is part of a new effort to annually update the goals and existing policies in Gilroy. The commission’s approach, thanks to the Plan, will be more dynamic, inclusive and hands-on, said Peters.

“Input. That will be our emphasis as part of reaching our goals. We want people to own it and we want them to be part of it. We want downtown to be an arts destination. We have a big art community and we need to get everybody on the same page,” she said.

La Corte has one explanation for the large attendance: everyone is interested in the arts in one way or another.

“Even if you don’t think you’re an artsy person, everyone has art in their life,” she said. “Even if you go to your daughter’s art recital or you listen to the radio.”

Child, who worked in Gavilan College from 1968 to 2002 as an art professor and dean of liberal arts and sciences, said the economic downturn may have increased residents’ participation in the arts.

“My perception is that during difficult times – and you can look at historical precedents – during the Great Depression, the arts really flourished because people start looking for ways to tolerate it,” said Child. “Art is soul nurturing.”

Stephanie Woehrman, who became the Gilroy Arts Alliance administrator Oct. 18, said her organization will be presenting their vision to the city and the community.

“We’re letting the city know why we believe art is important,” she said, adding art can be crucial for children growing up. “Art and music kept me out of a lot of trouble.”

Woehrman said she hoped some goal-setting will occur during the forum.

Business people and arts groups are the perfect storm for a new project.

“There are so many people that are so alive and energetic, and people who can make it happen,” said Peters, adding the forum is not a fundraiser. Funding will have to come (later). This forum is more about information, networking and establishing a bond so everyone is connected.”

La Corte also mentioned the Commission has just printed a historical reference guide for public art policy that can be checked out at the temporary Gilroy Library at 7652 Monterey St.

“It’s a huge binder and it keeps in one place all the arts policies,” she said. “It starts with the original arts and culture plans from 1997 and it incorporates all the arts policies and guidelines for the City of Gilroy.”

La Corte says she feels bittersweet about leaving the Commission at the end of her term this year.

“It’s been a passion. Between finishing the Strategic Plan and preparing the historical reference guide … (the commissioners) worked so hard and the Strategic Plan it took 18 months to write.”

But she feels hopeful the Commission’s efforts will continue to render fruit.

“I’m leaving the Commission with a wonderful road map in the Strategic Plan,” she said. “Maybe someday Gilroy will be an arts destination.”

Water and light snacks will be served at the forum. Lizarran will offer food and drinks at 20 percent off until 7 p.m.

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