UPDATE, Wed. March 12: Arcata Senior Planner Delo Freitas informed the Outpost that the meeting to discuss Arcata’s Strategic Arts Plan scheduled for Friday, March 13 has been cancelled, due to COVID-19 concerns.
Arcata is a pretty artsy town, especially in the theatre and performing arts realm. But with its big brother to the south, Eureka introducing the Eureka Street Art Festival, the utility box art program and various other public art projects, Arcata city staff feels like it might be time to up its art game. That is why the city is developing Arcata’s Strategic Arts Plan (ASAP), which aims to improve the city through supporting the arts.
Arcata Senior Planner Delo Freitas, who previously worked for the the city of Eureka and helped plan the Eureka Street Art Festival, told the Outpost that the idea was inspired, in part, by Eureka’s strategic Arts plan. But Freitas said that Arcata’s plan will not have the same focus as Eureka, which was very focused on promoting tourism through public art.
“We don’t want to redo what Eureka has done,” Freitas said. “[The plan] may be more focused on theatre and music. There are strengths specific to Arcata.”
Though Arcata already has a lot of arts related events, many of them are centered around the Arcata Plaza, Freitas said. One of the goals of the ASAP includes expanding public art and arts events to different neighborhoods and helping “every Arcata resident experience art in their day to day lives,” Freitas said. The plan also aims to include more art in youth education and to make Arcata more financially feasible for artists to live and work in.
Freitas said that local non-profits like SCRAP Humboldt, The Sanctuary and Arcata Playhouse already have programs in place to promote the arts in the community and a big role of the strategic arts plan is to collaborate with those groups and help coordinate their efforts.
“I think Arcata is already far along artistically,” Freitas said. “But we want to do whatever [city] staff can do to celebrate and support artists. I feel like the big intent of [ASAP] is to recognize existing groups for what they’re doing and provide the extra support.”
City staff have also spoke with representatives from HSU, Arcata High School and the Wiyot Tribe to help guide the planning process. The next step is to gather input from other community members and local artists, Frietas said.
Rather than host a meeting at city hall, Freitas told the Outpost, staff wanted to host a less formal engagement, something that would be more approachable for artists in the community. The Sanctuary offered to hold a public discussion about the strategic arts plan and, hoping to further engage artists and the community, curated an art show to go along with it.
The show “ARTcata ASAP” features multimedia pieces from multiple artist which aim to explain the purpose of a strategic arts plan, the work that goes into creating art, and the importance of art in a community.
Sanctuary board member and co-curator of the show Solomon Lowenstein told the Outpost during a walk through the exhibit, that the arts benefit a community not only through providing entertainment, but by promoting discussion of social issues and offering creative solutions to problems.
The Sanctuary, for example, sorts through massive amounts of HSU’s garbage and finds use for many items that would otherwise be put into a landfill. “Who’s gonna do that? The weird artists,” Lowenstein said.
The idea that art can serve many roles in the community is echoed by Arcata Playhouse Executive Director Jackie Dandeneau, who has utilized the arts to help transform Arcata’s Creamery district into a thriving neighborhood. By increasing the presence of art and artists in a neighborhood, you can help shift people’s perspective of the area, Dandeneau told the Outpost.
As Arcata’s local arts agency, Arcata Playhouse holds an important role in the strategic arts plan by acting as a liaison between city government and the arts community and by helping secure grant funding for artists and projects.
Until now, Arcata Playhouse’s community efforts have been primarily focused on improving the Creamery District and Dandeneau is looking forward to expanding those efforts to other Arcata neighborhoods. The Playhouse already has plans for the Valley West neighborhood — seen by many as a less-than-desirable part of Arcata — such as holding a summer theatre workshop at Laurel Tree Charter School, putting on parades and hosting art-centered events in the area, Dandeneau said.
Dandeneau is excited to work with the city to help implement the strategic arts plan, help get artists involved in the community and help promote the idea that supporting the arts can help improve the city.
“We need people to understand the arts are a viable part of our economic development,” Dandeneau said.
To learn more or to voice your opinion on the Arcata’s Strategic Arts Plan, consider attending the public discussion on Friday, March 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. (during Arts! Arcata) at the Sanctuary —1301 J Street, Arcata.
Arcata Playhouse will also host a dinner and discussion to gather ideas on how the organization can contribute to the community as Arcata’s Local Arts Agency, on Monday, March 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m at the Playhouse —1251 Ninth Street.