Almost three months ago, a warehouse in Oakland that had been converted into an artist collective named Ghost Ship caught flame and quickly killed 36 people. Ghost Ship had a business license, but was not up to fire safety code.
Since then, cities all across the nation have been forcing illegal underground venues, like Purple 33 in Los Angeles, to shut down. Artists are worried that there will be fewer and fewer places to live and work, and that gentrification will leave them homeless and without any creative outlets.
On Monday night, the Arts Council for Long Beach held a public forum about the future of the Long Beach art culture at the Gina M. Woodruff Gallery. All kinds of artists attended the meeting with the goal of finding a sustainable solution for Long Beach to maintain its art community.
Everyone showed up with passion and ideas to protect diversity and culture. The general consensus is that artists need creative space that is affordable, inspiring and safe. They need creative space to work, to play, exhibit – and sometimes, to live. For most, the cost of having an apartment and an art studio to work is too high.
According to Nicole Reese, a painter and the creative director of Auspicious Arts, a program for the non-profit City Heart, “Typical residential areas usually are not affordable or strange enough to suit the type of projects an artist would like to do.”
The meeting attendees agreed that money, not sentiments, makes things happen. Artists need to be creative and start thinking like entrepreneurs; find a way to monetize the art.
Jake Woodruff, musician and son of Gina Woodruff, suggested having more events that appeal to many different types of crowds.
Executive Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach, Griselda Suarez said that dialogue among the city, developers and artists needs to start. There was a call for solidarity amongst the artists; a strong grassroots operation.
This led to talks of some sort of Long Beach artists union being formed, where members would pay dues to secure benefits, like access to creative spaces around the city.
There will be more meetings like this one at the end of March, April and May. More information can be found at http://www.artslb.org.