NEW VALLEY 207
Art for Our Sake

 

New Valley is brought to you by Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo: the next stage.

We respect and protect our region's natural beauty and precious resources through responsible community planning and development. We are Del Webb: the nation's leading developer of resort-lifestyle communities, and home to more than 11,000 active adults in Northern California.

Partial funding for New Valley is provided by the Union Pacific Foundation -- contributing to the communities of the Central Valley since 1959. The Union Pacific Foundation is proud to support Public Television.

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Sacramento Region Blueprint Project: choices for our future at sacregionblueprint.org.

New Valley is also made possible in part by the Great Valley Center.

New Valley is funded in part by the Sacramento Cultural Arts Program of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission with support from the City and County of Sacramento.

 

Many regard the arts as a luxury, something to be enjoyed when times are good, but a relatively painless sacrifice when the economy sours.

But as new research reveals, the arts are in fact one of our most powerful economic engines, and an essential component to a strong education.

In this half hour, we'll see how big cities and small towns throughout the Valley are putting the arts to work -- to raise revenue, test scores, and ultimately our quality of life.

This is New Valley: Art for Our Sake.

 

Fresno is in many ways the quintessential Valley city, known for its booming population, dependence on agriculture, and some serious environmental concerns -- not creativity, or innovation.

But thanks to a new generation of artists, politicians, and entrepreneurs what Fresno is experiencing today can fairly be called a Renaissance.

For half a century, OK Produce has been a cornerstone of Fresno's ag-driven economy. But when Brady Matoian joined the family business after college, he found that history had become a hindrance.

Brady Matoian, Assistant General Manager, OK Produce: "The company needed a kick of some sort -- something new; what was going to happen for the next generation?"

For Brady, that "kick" was converting the OK warehouse to solar power. He sold his father on the economic benefits -- but for Brady, it was all about the environment...

Brady Matoian: "The air quality is horrible. You can't see them today, but there's a mountain range right there that looks like Salt Lake City."

Not many companies in Fresno have followed in OK Produce's footsteps -- and those mountains are still hidden by smog. But Brady is sure that will change...in a generation.

Brady Matoian: "There's a number of us that are all about the 25 to 40-year range that are taking over these companies, that are trying to figure out: how do you adapt and change for the future?"

Reza Assemi, Artist/In-fill Developer: "I have traveled quite a bit...spent a good amount of time traveling the states, hiking the national parks. I got to see quite a bit of Europe."

But for Reza Assemi, there's no place like home. When he returned to Fresno, he found a burgeoning arts community -- but no spaces where artists could live and work. So Reza traded in his paintbrush for a sledgehammer...

Reza Assemi: "The first thing we did was come in, gut the entire building out back to the brick walls, the concrete floors and the trusses, and from there redesigned four artist live/workspaces where they can live, work and also show public."

Now three years later, his Pearl Building is so successful that the city offered Reza an even bigger canvas to work on: the old Vagabond Motel in downtown Fresno -- soon to be converted into 38 new artists' lofts.

Reza Assemi: "It seems that the opportunities and potential for Fresno to be recognized in the arts is sort of almost beyond, I think, what we can imagine right now..."

At 26, Henry Perea is the youngest member of the Fresno City Council. After working for statewide and national campaigns, Henry saw a need for change in his own backyard.

Henry T. Perea, Fresno City Councilmember: "Fresno is just like any other city when we look at economic development. We try and give land away, we are constantly trying to provide infrastructure, give tax incentives. I mean we are doing what every other city in America is doing."

Meanwhile, homegrown assets and talents were being overlooked…

Henry Perea: "All too often we have very young bright talented people leave the Central Valley because they believe it doesn't offer the urban amenities that they're looking for in a community."

But when Henry heard about Brady's solar plant...and Reza's lofts...he saw the makings of a movement -- a movement first laid out in a book called The Rise of the Creative Class.

Henry Perea: "I saw the Creative Cities movement as a perfect opportunity to begin real discussion and real policy change to help reverse a lot of the brain drain that we see here in the Valley."

It's a national movement that hinges on the belief that the most vibrant and successful cities are ones that attract young, creative professionals rather than corporate headquarters.

Henry Perea: "Dr. Florida says the keys to economic development are the 3 T's: technology, talent, and tolerance."

These are the qualities that promote creativity in a community -- and a recent study by the California Arts Council shows that creativity, in turn, promotes prosperity.

Juan Carrillo, Interim Executive Director, California Arts Council: "The economic impact of the arts in the rural communities of this state exceeds over $100 million. When you combine that with smaller cities -- the Stocktons, and the Bakersfields, and the Reddings, and the Chicos -- that number jumps to a billion dollars."

And that's just the non-profit sector. According to the CAC, one of every eight businesses in California is also engaged in the arts.

Juan Carrillo: "I'm glad to hear that Fresno has taken on the idea of a creative community, and that there's a conversation that will happen between the business community and the arts community."

On April 1, 2004, that conversation blossomed into a convention, as Fresno hosted its first creative summit. Carol Coletta, one of the founders of the Creative Cities movement, flew in from Tennessee to provide the keynote address.

Carol Colletta: "Quality of place has never been more important. Great places are magnets for great people. If you are going to move ideas around Fresno quickly, you have to have places for people to gather."

And Reza's Pearl Building has become just such a place. Jarah Euston even gave up the excitement of the Big Apple to come live here…in the town she thought she'd left for good.

Jarah Euston, Editor, Fresnofamous.com: "Being on the east coast and talking to people about this town, I was always kind of ashamed and played down where I was from. But when I came back, I found that it had turned into a place I hardly recognized."

Jarah now edits Fresnofamous.com, an online resource for art, music, and culture around town. She hopes efforts like hers will help Fresno finally realize its full potential.

Jarah Euston: "It's really time now for Fresno to make or break itself. If it's going to support these kind of ventures, 's time to do so. Otherwise, they're going to lose their young creative talent."

But if Brady, Reza, and Henry are any indication, Fresno's best and brightest are happy right where they are.

Henry Perea: "You're here tonight because you're part of a movement. There's a new movement happening and it's called Creativity…"


For Lauraine Bacon, a walk through her small town of Colfax brings bittersweet memories of the art gallery she once owned.

Lauraine Bacon, The Rainbow Gallery: "So this is where my sign used to be. Now we just need to take down the bracket and all evidence of me being here will be gone."

Just beneath a good-natured sense of humor you'll find disappointment, because for Lauraine there was a lot more at stake here then money.

Lauraine Bacon: "I went through a lot of sadness and grief when I had to close. I didn't start the gallery because, 'Oh great I'm going to make a whole bunch of money.' It was definitely done out of passion. To be able to see the light go off in somebody's eye when they get it…"

But unfortunately, not enough people got it for Lauraine to keep the doors open. City Manager Bob Perrault is sympathetic, but recognizes the hurdles that Lauraine's business faced.

Bob Perrault, Colfax City Manager: "I think that the situation that Lauraine faced was that she was a very small gallery in a difficult location and, I think, appealed to a somewhat limited market. And when you're in a town of this size -- 2000 people -- that's some of the hurdles she had to overcome."

Even artists like Joan Chlarson, whose art once graced the walls of Lauraine's gallery, agree.

Joan Chlarson, Artist: "She had a real upscale gallery. Maybe a little too upscale for Colfax at that time."

With her business gone, Lauraine may also be forced to cancel her yearly arts stroll, an event that strengthened the town's sense of community, while putting cash in local registers.

Lauraine Bacon: "I had people look me in the eye and say, 'Colfax is a cute town! I'm going to come back here and shop.' I mean, that's like the perfect testimonial. I think that it would be beneficial for the business owners of Colfax to not think of themselves as an island, but more working together. How can we collectively get more people to come to this town?"

That's an issue many Valley towns are grappling with. Three hundred miles to the south in the small Central Valley town of Lindsay turned to the arts for their salvation.

Bill Drennan, Lindsey Former City Manager: "It helps represent your community…"

Here, arts stands as a monument to public pride

Mike Butler, Mike Butler's Garage: "I'm very proud of this little town…"

But it's bigger than that, because without art there might not be a Lindsay today. And it all started right here with Josie Figueroa; she painted "The Discovery"…the mural that helped save an entire town.

Josie Figueroa, Artist: "This was dedicated to the people of Lindsay, and it was really our hope of opening up a brand new idea, a rebuilding, a resurgence of ourselves as a town."

A resurgence was needed, because on Christmas Eve 1990 fate struck the citrus town a catastrophic blow

TV News Reporter (KFSN-TV): "Three nights of freezing temperatures have shaken even the sturdiest citrus trees."

Bill Drennan: "Probably the lowest was when we had the freeze of 1990."

Crops were destroyed, the town's businesses folded, and Lindsay's unemployment rose to nearly 60 percent.

Bill Drennan: "And I mean, that's, that's unheard of. Nobody has that kind of unemployment."

Josie Figeuroa: "It was actually pretty sad, when you think of all the businesses that we used to have here."

To get a fresh start, the town decided to literally bury its past.

Bill Drennan: "We decided to conduct a public funeral."

…to forget past troubles and move on with their lives.

Bill Drennan: "The day we did that was very gloomy and cloudy and rainy, and once that casket went into the ground and the eulogies were completed, the sun came out and it was just like a fairytale. And since then it's been almost as good."

But it was their next step that helped launch the comeback. Lindsey decided to commission nearly 20 murals -- public art designed to lift local spirits and attract new businesses. Today a vibrant town square is just part of the proof that Lindsay is literally back in business.

Bill Drennan: "People are beginning to take pride in their community, and once you have pride you can build from there."

But without the support from enlightened business owners like Mike Butler, Lindsay might today be nothing but bare walls and boarded shops.

Mike Butler: "I don't mind investing part of what I earn from these people to give them something to enjoy. It's very worthwhile! There's more to life then just money."

But the money did have meaning for the town…and this artist.

Josie Figueroa: "It helped me do murals in other places, in homes and businesses, so it's nice. It's a good showcase."

Twenty years ago, it would have been unbelievable, but in Lindsey, art now springs from the most unlikely places.

Mike Butler: "Oh Lindsay, Lindsay, the place of my birth. Your property values are not your true worth. A lot has happened here really bad. You've lived through misfortune; twas really sad. The fog rolls in, it chills to the bone, but our hearts are warm in this place we call home."

But it's not just Lindsey that has found success through the arts. Like a ripple effect, art has been spreading throughout Tulare County, to places like Exeter, Tulare, and Visalia. But will the ripples ever make it to towns like Colfax? The city amanger is optimistic.

Bob Perrault: "It's just a matter of timing. And I think as the community becomes more and more exposed to the value of that art, that it will happen naturally."

Lauraine Bacon: "I'm, you know, one person that played a role of helping to raise the awareness of using the arts to help the economy of a town. And you know, there will be other people after me. You know, I'm not done with Colfax…"


From music…to puppetry…to performing a play, Sacramento's Tahoe Elementary is a whirlwind of artistic activity.

But it hasn't always been that way. Schools throughout California watched the arts virtually vanish from the classroom beginning in 1978 with the passage of Proposition 13. Nancy Carr of the State Department of Education says the landmark property tax cap meant less money for the schools.

Nancy Carr, Consultant, State Dept. of Education: "As districts coped with the lack of funds, they eliminated programs in the arts, science, P.E., and various areas. But arts seemed to be the most strongly hit."

Laurie Schell is the executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Education. The statewide grassroots organization was formed in the 1970s to advocate for arts in school. She says they just weren't taken seriously.

Laurie Schell, Executive Director, California Alliance for Arts Education: "The arts were seen as an appendage that could be easily cut, eliminated. I guess there wasn't the value there that was placed on other subject areas."

In addition to smaller budgets, stricter academic requirements and testing placed a greater emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic. Then national research turned the tide by showing the arts enhance academic learning.

Nancy Carr: "And found that, for example, if you were taking theatre it helped you understand story context, characterization - so there was a transference to reading. That if you were in instrumental music that you increased that you increased your SAT scores and your reading ability."

These revelations have led to significant policy changes. Teachers are required to get some training in the visual and performing arts as part of their credential. The State Board of Education adopted content standards for the arts, and the UC and CSU systems require one year of visual or performing arts for admission. In 1998, the state Department of Education began a 6 million dollar a year grant program. But those are the only state dollars earmarked for arts education.

So to keep creativity in the classroom, schools have gotten creative. Tahoe Elementary enlisted the help of Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum…

Katie Curry, Principal, Tahoe Elementary School: "And they actually rebuilt the entire room. They tore it down to bare bones, repainted, reconfigured everything, and built this beautiful arts lab for us."

And according to Principal Curry, that arts lab came just in the nick of time.

Katie Curry: "What I saw was that some of the excitement for the kids -- and the teachers! -- was waning because it's hard to do direct instruction every moment of every day in a year."

Curry believes the arts lab helped improve the tests scores of this low-achieving inner city school. But the kids say the real benefits can't be graded.

Young boy: "When you go to art, you can take out your stress. It helps you not to be stressed."

Young girl: "I'm learning that you should try your best when using art stuff, because even if you make a mess, it doesn't matter as long as you try your best."

While Tahoe created an arts lab, Dingle Elementary in Woodland used grant money to bolster its staff by hiring an arts coordinator to help teachers in their classroom.

Rena Ferrero, Principal, Dingle Elementary School: "Their days are so full that to do what a coordinator does is really over and above what would happen during the regular instructional day."

Local artist Marlene Hillborn coordinates a special curriculum that supplements core subjects with actual artistic techniques.

Marlene Hillborn, Arts Coordinator: "We learn about not just how to draw something, but how to look at it. We try to give them some real depth in art education rather than just cut-and-paste arts and crafts."

Debra Gonella, Parent: "I think all of them show a sense of depth in terms of how they're putting the colors together."

For parents like Debra Gonella an education without arts is only half an education.

Debra Gonella: "There's no sense of spark, a sense of creativity, a sense of exploration about what's possible and what's not possible."

Cath Posehn wishes her older child could have received the same arts education that her youngest now receives.

Cath Posehn, Parent: "And a lot of that is because of special programs like this, of what we're done at Dingle that really made a concerted effort to look for the funds. Because the district isn't able to offer us a lot of extra funds for this."

It's been more than a quarter century since the passage of Proposition 13, but schools are still struggling to find a place for the arts in their budgets. However, there is a growing awareness of their importance. A national ad campaign was launched in 2003 to make parents and caregivers more aware the importance of arts in a child's development.

We often hear that our children are the future. But only through the arts will that future be a creative one.


Music struck a chord with Michael Neumann early on…

Michael Neumann, Director, Sacramento Youth Symphony: "I was born and raised in South Africa. My parents took me to concerts when I was very young and I just sort of took a liking to it."

Hooked on music, Michael knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

Michael Neumann: "When I was 15 years old, I knew my goal was to go to college, get a bachelor's degree in violin and a master's degree in conducting, and then hopefully find a job. And that is all exactly how it went. I love it. I'm invigorated by it. I'm inspired by it."

After working in the Bay Area and Alabama, Michael came to the Sacramento region in 1979 to work with the Sacramento Symphony -- and Youth Symphony -- and has inspired students ever since. The youth symphony is considered top notch, drawing the "cream of the crop" from all over northern California.

The symphony has garnered numerous awards, and has embarked on several successful tours abroad -- including a trip to Europe, where they picked up a first-place trophy at the International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna. And after twenty-five years with the youth symphony Michael's passion for teaching is still as strong as his love for music.

Michael Neumann: "Young people are open-minded. They're not born with prejudices, whether it's politics, or religion, or what kind of music they like. They're open, and they start to grow up, and we can nurture them in positive ways."

That nurturing, Michael hopes, will turn his young students into adults who will appreciate and support the Sacramento arts scene. Michael knows only too well what happens when arts organizations don't get the support they need. The demise of the Sacramento Symphony in 1993 was heartbreaking, but not surprising.

Michael Neumann: "Sacramento is not known to have a wealth of people who are totally into the arts. There is a small, I believe, a percentage of the general population that supports the arts, but it's not huge. It's not like the Sacramento Kings."

That hasn't slowed the construction of large arts facilities in the valley such as the Gallo Center now in progress in Modesto. But Rich Rojo of the Mondavi Center in Davis cautions that full houses are the exception, not the rule.

Richard Rojo, Director of Marketing and Communications, Mondavi Center: "I think a lot of people assume that everything at Mondavi Center is sold out because they hear about Yo-yo Ma, and Alvin Ailey, and the really big names that come through here, but probably only about half of our events here are sold out and the rest of them we have to market. We do heavy advertising and mailing and e-mail campaigns and things."

Mammoth performance halls aren't a good fit for small local arts groups, and small venues are in short supply. Kathy Les from Sierra 2 in Sacramento says their small theater space is booked far in advance.

Kathy Les, Executive Director, Sierra 2 Center: "We run just about every weekend something in the theater, so we're completely booked up for 2004, and probably pretty much the same for 2005 already. We've already had our scheduling meeting for 2005."

Some wonder if the bay area can support such a booming art scene why can't the Sacramento region do the same?

Michael Neumann: "They have corporations and headquarters there that supply vast sums of money to the organizations there, so it is a different ballgame. And maybe trying to compete or trying to match what they're doing over there would be fruitless."

But there are strong signs that Sacramento is finally stepping out of the shadow of San Francisco…and coming into its own.

Richard Rojo: "I feel like there's a little cultural renaissance going on in Sacramento, if you look at the Crocker Art Museum expansion, the Music Circus just built it's wonderful new facility… The B Street Theatre is doing renovations. So there's actually a lot going on right now."

But after twenty-five years performing and promoting the arts in Sacramento, Michael knows that long-term plans will fail without long-term support. That's why he works so hard to pass on his passion to his students.

Michael Neumann: "There are many people who have never attended a live symphony concert, or a live ballet, or a live opera. To invest in young people and educating them in what it's all about, they would probably then teach their young people to do it and so it would generally expand little by little."

Michael's perseverance seems to be paying off.

Cameron Willis, Music Student: "My family, they're always telling me, don't give up music, because that's what happened to my dad. He played piano when he was young, and then when he went off to medical school he stopped in college and stuff. He stopped and now he just got back into it and he regrets that, so I don't want to be like that when I grow up, so I'm just going to keep continuing with it."

Michael Neumann: "We all have gifts to impart on this world what ever that might be. In this case we do it through music, but it's to leave a legacy of wonderful things, and that's the big picture for me.


Across the valley educators, civic leaders, and ordinary citizens are finding new economic reasons and creative ways to keep the arts alive. But those efforts could founder if state support continues to whither away. Can the funding tide be turned? That may depend on whether we show our support for the arts at the ticket counter…. and the voting booth.

Energy is the focus of our next New Valley. What have we learned from past power shortages? And what new technologies will best provide for our future needs? Join us next time on New Valley


To order a copy of this program for $14.95 plus shipping and handling, call (888) 814-3923. Or visit us online at www.newvalley.org.

 

New Valley is brought to you by Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo: the next stage.

We respect and protect our region's natural beauty and precious resources through responsible community planning and development. We are Del Webb: the nation's leading developer of resort-lifestyle communities, and home to more than 11,000 active adults in Northern California.

Partial funding for New Valley is provided by the Union Pacific Foundation -- contributing to the communities of the Central Valley since 1959. The Union Pacific Foundation is proud to support Public Television.

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Sacramento Region Blueprint Project: choices for our future at sacregionblueprint.org.

New Valley is also made possible in part by the Great Valley Center.

New Valley is funded in part by the Sacramento Cultural Arts Program of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission with support from the City and County of Sacramento.