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LA Arts Town Hall 2009: D.C. keynote speaker debriefs

June 12, 2009 |  7:47 pm

LA Arts Town Hall exterior More than 500 artists, art leaders, city and county government representatives and potential arts funders convened today at the Japanese American Cultural Community Center for the 2009 LA Arts Town Hall.

This morning, Culture Monster reported on a chat that took place earlier this week with keynote speaker Robert L. Lynch, president and chief executive of the Washington, D.C., arts advocacy organization Americans for the Arts.

And this evening, we caught up with a rather ebullient Lynch as he prepared to fly back to Washington after the day's activities.

"First of all, I thought there was a great turnout, lots of people — and that in and of itself is testimony to the value of the arts to this community," he said. Lynch was particularly pleased by the mix of people, which included not only the requisite representatives of arts organizations but also government officials and their staffers. "You also had folks from the private sector — a number of funders, which was absolutely terrific; it shows an interest in partnership with the arts community."  

Arts LA Town Hall 110 Added Lynch, "I saw and sensed a lot of optimism -- not naivete, but optimism. And I was hearing from government representatives, Olga Garay from the city and Laura Zucker from the county, that L.A. is not seeing the kinds of slashes that some communities are facing right now."

As an emissary from inside the Beltway, Lynch said he talked to Angelenos about the "community service interest of the Obama administration, and how the arts here can tap into that.

"I tried to give them a message of the hope that I see right now," Lynch continued. "And that's true whether it's energy from Washington, from a Congress and a White House that is energized about the arts right now, or whether I'm energized about working with people across America — but in particular, in Los Angeles. I want to come back."

Added Lynch: "I feel informed, empowered.... I have to say congratulations to everyone.  I'm taking the red eye back to Washington, but I'm going back not tired, but enthused.  That might not be good for sleeping on a plane, but it's great."

— Diane Haithman

Photos: 2009 LA Arts Town Hall banner at the Japanese American Cultural Community Center; Robert L. Lynch. Credit: Diane Haithman/Los Angeles Times.

Comments () | Archives (3)

"Added Lynch: "I feel informed, empowered.... I have to say congratulations to everyone. I'm taking the red eye back to Washington, but I'm going back not tired, but enthused. That might not be good for sleeping on a plane, but it's great.""

Well, bully for him. What did the Los Angeles arts community get from yet another one of these sessions? Perhaps they can leverage synergies by cross-pollinating while tapping into the power of social networking and the Internet.

I like Burt's social networking suggestion but I'm tired of the "yet another one of these sessions" attitude. Hope and civic involvement are the essential ingredient in a number of recent wins for the arts. The Obama administration has increased arts funding and has policies to integrate arts into education, economic development and other areas. San Diego saved its $3.2 million arts education budget in a close school board vote two weeks ago. Santa Monica saved Bergamot Station from the wrecking ball a few months ago. In each case, it was artists' activism that made the difference. The LA Arts Town Hall was one good example of how we maintain an activist community. This is how it gets done.

David, the real problem with these kinds of events is the mistaking of advocacy for old fashioned rent-seeking. It is not artist advocacy that gets lasting results but community insistence that does so. Laura and Olga do tough and important work exceedingly well. But their jobs would be much easer if producers, presenters, and artists spent less time at meetings such as described above and more time making and presenting work that their communities felt was vital and irreplaceable. In any case we would all be better off by ceasing to advocate for the arts as if they were a slightly sexier mohair subsidy. We would at least be free of Lynch's risible statistics and flabby rhetoric.


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