http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/06/28/consultant-arts-community-developing-updated-cultural-plan-for-pleasanton


Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 28, 2013

Consultant, arts community developing updated cultural plan for Pleasanton

Survey shows residents want more of an arts scene

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

A public workshop on updating Pleasanton's Cultural Plan was held Monday evening in a classroom at the Firehouse Arts Center, with about a dozen arts supporters participating in a brainstorming session.

David Plettner-Saunders and Jerry Allen, partners with Cultural Planning Group, reported on results of their survey of approximately 500 residents and the conclusions they have drawn.

"We are asking, 'Did we get it right?'" said Plettner-Saunders. "Once we find out, we will develop a fully fleshed out plan."

The city hired Cultural Planning Group late last year for $77,480 to develop an update of the 1998 Cultural Plan that resulted in the creation of the Firehouse Arts Center. The updated plan is to summarize trends and priorities, assess resources, review demographics and provide strategies for cultural planning, along with a 15-member ad hoc steering committee.

Those surveyed said they are supporters of the arts and would like more opportunities in Pleasanton -- more galleries, arts and live music events, and more activities for youths.

They would also like existing venues, such as the Amador Theater, the library and the museum, to be improved, and they would like "enhanced quality and sophistication" in Pleasanton arts.

Residents also voiced a desire for a larger arts venue to enliven downtown.

"This says to me that people want communal events, community sharing," Plettner-Saunders said.

A question on children showed that 46% participate in arts in school and 45% outside. For sports, it's 46% in school, and 66% outside.

"I'm an arts education person," Allen said. "Education must interface with the arts community."

They have met with school district officials as part of their study.

"Where do cinemas fall?" asked Victoria Emmons, a former board member of the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Foundation.

"People do want to see more movies in town," Plettner-Saunders said, but added this does not necessarily mean bringing a theater to town.

The last Pleasanton movie theater was the Galaxy in the Rosewood Pavilion shopping center; it closed in 2002 after showing independent films for about six months after the Regal Cinemas Hacienda Crossings opened in Dublin.

"There really aren't any hangout spots," said Jill Vellinger, president of the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council, explaining that gathering places on Main Street can "lend themselves to slam poetry" and similar events.

Cultural Planning Group recommends enhancing the arts and cultural programming in the city. The Amador Theater could be used more fully although it needs some improvements, Plettner-Saunders said.

"We get frequent requests to use the Amador Theater and the Firehouse Theater, there's absolutely a demand," said Community Services Manager Michele Crose. "The community is dying to get into both facilities."

The difficulty, she explained, was the need for technical assistance and staff to set up.

"There's not enough for the two theaters and all the other city events," Crose said.

Plettner-Saunders said the historic Century House on Santa Rita Road is a lovely place, but it is not good for performances. The city could use an outdoor amphitheater, preferably in the center of town.

Pleasanton also should consider producing a signature festival, which could be held over a season, not just in one weekend or day, Plettner-Saunders and Allen said.

In the survey, 65% said they believe the city should support or play a major role in the arts.

Luckily, Allen noted, city officials understand that it might take time to build an audience for new arts offerings.

Plettner-Saunders said the survey showed a strong interest in learning opportunities for children and adults.

"Now it's mostly the introductory level," he said. "We'd like to see that augmented."

Other recommendations for the arts were:

* Celebrate cultural diversity

* Evolve the public art program

* Improve marketing and visibility

* Develop the capacity of local arts and cultural organizations and artists

* Address cultural facilities needs

* Leverage the economic impact of the arts

"Pleasanton's arts and culture scene is under-recognized," Plettner-Saunders said. "There needs to be an effort to make it more visible to the community."

Other places have had poetry on the buses, which is something Pleasanton's new Poet Laureate Sandra Kay might explore, he said.

Plettner-Saunders and Allen noted that arts consumers are oblivious to city boundaries, and they've suggested the various groups get together to discuss and coordinate their seasons.

"How do we differentiate ourselves?" Vellinger asked. "Maybe a dinner theater."

The next night, Plettner-Saunders and Allen met with members of the Cultural Arts Update steering committee.

"They didn't take official action, but the tone was very supportive, and they made some suggestions and refinements," Plettner-Saunders said afterward.

"There was a lot of discussion about public art," he said. "The direction is they're enthusiastic about a public art master plan."

The next step is to unveil the draft Cultural Plan Update in July. It will be posted on the city's website at www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us or people can contact Community Services Manager Crose at mcrose@cityofpleasantonca.gov to be on the email list. Call her at 931-5347.

The plan will unfold as resources are available, Plettner-Saunders said.

One question in the survey asked if respondents would be willing to be taxed $5, $10 or $25 annually to support the arts, and 76%, 69% and 53%, respectively, said yes.

"It's another perspective on support," Plettner-Saunders said, although he noted that such a tax could not be added in California due to Proposition 13.

"The City Council decides," he told the arts supporters at Monday's meeting. "It will be up to you to advocate for the plan."

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