Why the Arts Commission matters

The myriad reasons the city should keep its ties to this group

The author, president of 1078 Gallery’s board of directors, is a Chico resident.

Last week’s City Council decision regarding the future of the Arts Commission was very disappointing. By a 4-3 vote, the council decided to reduce the number of meetings the commission may have to two per year, and also directed the commission to “entertain or look at” creating a stand-alone arts council, which would not be officially affiliated with the city of Chico.

As part of its work this year, the Arts Commission considered this option, and rightly rejected it. Why should the city of Chico continue its connection with the arts in an official way, rather than disbanding the 25-year-old Arts Commission in favor of a new, private arts council?

• Because, just like our parks and other public facilities, the arts and culture of our community are shared assets that we all have a stake in and we can all benefit from. For the city to not be connected with the arts would be a huge missed opportunity.

• Because art in the public sphere is one of the foundations of “place-making”—the things that give our area its unique character. Our city’s general plan recognizes this with the stated goal of celebrating public art and expanding the role the arts play in our quality of life.

• Because the arts benefit our community in numerous measurable and immeasurable ways. Economic growth, better school test scores and even reduced crime all have been linked to the arts (see the 1078 Gallery’s website, 1078gallery.org, for links to current research). Aren’t these all things we want in our town?

• Because we can’t be an “art town”—one of the primary reasons people like to visit, and companies like to locate here—without a city body supporting the arts in this most basic, fundamental (and very low-cost) way.

• Because a private arts council would have the desires of its board, not the entire community (as represented by city government), as its primary driver.

• Because we don’t need another arts organization in Chico—we have over 100 of those already. We need a body that helps connect these groups with the needs and resources of the community. That’s an Arts Commission.

Cities like ours across the state have arts commissions. Orland and Oroville both have them. To disband the commission would be misguided, short-sighted and foolish. I hope that the four council members who voted to further reduce the role of the Arts Commission will rethink their decision in the coming year.