County scopes arts master plan


Marin County is reaching out to residents in an effort to develop a new county arts and culture plan to support artists and arts programs in the region. 

“There is no arts council; there is no single entity that is a resource or a collective voice for artists and arts organizations in our community,” said Gabriella Calicchio, the county’s director of cultural services. “Without that central entity—without a plan, something guiding us—you end up with all these disparate organizations and struggling artists just trying to make it from one day to the next.”

The initial phase, which began Sept. 6 and will run through the fall, will focus on gathering community feedback through interviews, discussion forums, online surveys and an economic impact study. Each county supervisor will host a community arts planning forum in their district; in West Marin, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni will hold one such meeting at the Dance Palace on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. 

“We know sometimes West Marin is farther away and less connected to the rest of the county,” David Plettner-Sanders, a consultant working on the plan who previously helped develop an arts plan for Sonoma County, said on KWMR last Thursday. “We want to make sure that residents of West Marin are invited to participate in the arts planning process.”

Libby Garrison, a Stinson Beach resident and the director of marketing and communications for the county’s cultural services department, said on KWMR that the plan’s goal is to figure out the best way “to preserve, celebrate and educate the entire community of artists in Marin.” 

To bring in funding to explore cultural planning, the Marin Cultural Association—the Department of Cultural Services’ nonprofit wing—has reached out to donors, including the Hewlett Foundation, the California Arts Council and the Marin Community Foundation, for seed money. Though Ms. Calicchio said she could not say how exactly the eventual plan would be funded, the topic will be broached during the public feedback process. 

In addition to the community meetings, the county will host a series of meetings with 22 groups, including arts-education groups, libraries and literary organizations, and foundations that fund the arts. 

The county will also undertake an economic survey to evaluate the economic imprint of arts organizations on Marin: the tax dollars that museums, nonprofits and theaters generate and the number of people employed by such organizations. “All the things we talk about in terms of value of the arts that most of us understand, we will also have an argument that is a financial argument,” Ms. Calicchio said.

The plan might address grants for artists, workshops on the business elements of making a livelihood as an artist and ways for artists to capitalize underutilized space for working and performing.

“This plan is really meant to be a collaboration with the entire community,” Ms. Garrison said. “We don’t want to do this plan in a vacuum. We can only think big-picture about what we think the community wants, but can’t make a plan for the county without the community’s input.”  

Ms. Calicchio added, “We have more artists per capita than any other county besides Los Angeles. I think there’s a reason for that—we live in the most beautiful place in the world. That serves as great inspiration for our artists, and we need to make sure artists can continue to thrive here.”