When we were looking for homes in Burbank 24 years ago, my first call was to the school district. This was before the internet. By the time their packet came in the mail, we were already in escrow and I discovered the elementary school in my neighborhood was ranked No. 10 of 11 schools. My second call was to the [Burbank] School Board president.
How can I help? My daughter was 1 [year old].
That is the day I became an arts and education advocate.
And for the past two dozen years, I’ve done all that I can to make this city, MY city, a place that my family is proud to call home.
It’s been an honor to serve as a Cultural Arts commissioner for more than four years. We’ve hosted engaging artists events, secured critical funding for arts grants and built the Electrical Box Beautification Program from 12 boxes painted more than three years to an annual program that will soon see 69 boxes along visible city corridors.
And so, it’s with great sadness that I have withdrawn my application to continue serving with the commission.
This is why.
The Cultural Arts Commission may seem like a warm and fuzzy offshoot of the city, but the arts are the heartbeat of Burbank and a critical part of the engine that fuels our economy.
Our commission was blindsided Dec. 30, 2022, when we received the Request For Proposals for Burbank Center Stage (home of The Colony Theatre). It makes sense that an Arts Commission would at least serve an advisory role in one of the few theatrical spaces in which our city has some control.
Prior to that RFP, we joined voices of the community that overwhelmingly wanted to save the Little Theatre at Izay Park. Yet the final report shows plans to raze it and build a “multipurpose room.” A multipurpose room is not a theater, which is one reason why the Cultural Arts Commission wanted to advise on the Colony RFP. We don’t trust the city to protect our theatrical spaces.
The city is now [more than] THREE MONTHS behind on their March 16 final selection timeline to choose a proposal. Had our commission been consulted, we would have assured that city staff recognize that a theater cannot operate on a month-by-month basis as the Colony has been forced to do. Instead of deciding on the four proposals before them, city staff has claimed understaffing and requested the current Colony remain [open] month-to-month through December, demonstrating a systemic failure and lack of value for the arts in our community. There has been no transparency in this process and the city should be embarrassed by the way they do business.
I am not a feather ruffler. I’ve quietly worked behind the scenes on numerous boards and nonprofit fundraisers for years, and I think it’s unfortunate that citizens like me who want to make a difference may be so disheartened that they no longer wish to serve.
Burbank Cultural Arts Commissioner (until July 31)
First published in the June 24 print issue of the Burbank Leader.