City is considering forming a nonprofit organization to run theater, making it eligible for funds.

Glendale News Press May 10, 2008

The Alex may get grant aid
City is considering forming a nonprofit organization to run theater, making it eligible for funds.

By Jason Wells

Published:  Last Updated Friday, May 9, 2008 10:31 PM PDT

CITY HALL — The city and the Alex Theatre’s governing board want to create a new nonprofit organization that would operate the historic venue, bring it to self-sufficiency and promote cultural arts citywide.

Under the proposed structure, the Alex Regional Theatre Board would be reformed into a private nonprofit umbrella arts management organization called Glendale Arts.

The new structure would allow the nonprofit to continue collecting from traditional revenue sources, like ticket sales and rental fees, while taking advantage of more grant and foundation funding opportunities that come with being a nonprofit organization, city officials said.

“We’re really looking to position ourselves as the voice of the arts community on the private side,” said Barry McComb, executive director of the Alex Regional Theatre Board.

A major part of that will be to compile the city’s arts resources under one domain, where residents and visitors can access the information — calendars, events, locations, performances — in one place, under one “brand.”

The creation of an arts “clearing house” would also lead to a guild of volunteers that, under Glendale Arts, could be assigned and be shared among member organizations, McComb said.

The Alex Theatre, in addition to being a major venue, also has plans to extend its box office ticketing capabilities to other arts organizations, which not only consolidates business operations for them, but produces another revenue source for the theater, McComb said.

Additional revenue and business ventures will play a major role in the mission and direction of Glendale Arts, formerly known as the Glendale Arts Alliance, since the current $415,000 annual subsidy from the Redevelopment Agency ends in 2015, city officials said.

The relationship between economic independence and benevolent arts promotion on behalf of Glendale Arts should be symbiotic as the city continues to push for more cultural arts options, Arts and Culture Commissioner Steven Lee said.

“We need a strong arts organization like Glendale Arts to help build a strong infrastructure that we can help nurture,” Lee said. “We are working with them hand in hand.”

Many of the commissioners attended the public Glendale Arts scoping meetings, in which community members gave input on how they wanted some of the city’s cultural deficiencies addressed through the new organization, including more government subsidies, venues and gallery space.

And in January, the commission voted to form a temporary three-member subcommittee to work more closely with city strategic arts planning efforts.

But the municipal arts movement was dealt a setback in April, when the city’s first community services coordinator, Eve Rappoport, left to take a position with the city of Torrance.

Her job was to increase the visibility of city arts and cultural programs, and to serve as the liaison between the arts commission and Glendale’s stock of artists and venues.

In the process, she provided about 95% of the commission’s resources through project management and coordination, Lee said. The position is still vacant.

It is that hobbled progress that continues to frustrate one of the biggest cultural arts proponents on the City Council, Mayor John Drayman said.

While the Glendale Arts proposal would certainly help in unifying the arts movement, real progress in expanding cultural venues, such as a first-class museum or more gallery space, won’t happen until the city fully devotes its financial and organizational muscle behind the effort, he said.

Historically, the city has pointed to struggling nonprofits and playhouses to stoke Glendale’s arts image, but “that is not enough,” Drayman said.

Supporting the formation of an umbrella arts organization may be a step in the right direction, but “that is not a city arts program, and we need that,” he said.

An Arts & Economic Prosperity study, sponsored by Americans for the Arts, found that in 2005 the nonprofit arts and culture community in Glendale was a $12.7-million industry, generating 357 full-time jobs and $1.5 million in local and state tax revenue.

Without laying the groundwork for expansion of that industry, surrounding communities will capture the growth and leave Glendale behind, Drayman said.

And in that vein, the city and Alex Theatre, through Glendale Arts, are intrinsically tied, McComb said.

“At our core is collaboration,” he said. “We’re not looking to be on that island out there by ourselves.”

The Redevelopment Agency, in its dual role as the City Council, will consider the final proposal at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Council Chambers, 613 E. Broadway.