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Local artists strategize ideas for inclusivity

Sandra Violet Clark adds a sticky note to an idea board at the Oct. 18 meeting of Arts Alliance Davis as Chris Zdunkiewicz watches. (Wendy Weitzel/Courtesy photo)

By Wendy Weitzel

Members of Arts Alliance Davis met on Oct. 18, brainstorming strategies for supporting local artists and their programs, boosting big ideas and ensuring that everyone has access to see or partake in the community’s creativity.

Arts Alliance Davis meetings are open to anyone interested in or involved with local arts and culture. Its most recent gathering, at the City’s Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer House at 604 Second St., drew more than a dozen participants.

This meeting operated like a mini strategic planning workshop, where attendees took stock of accomplishments, analyzed areas of achievement and looked at ways each person could contribute to a more vital, collaborative, destination-worthy community. After surveying the broader picture, members narrowed the focus to the next year, and two things they hoped to improve on by the end of 2024.

First, the group wanted to explore how to solve the lack of affordability of artists’ working and living spaces. Many young people and emerging artists cannot afford to live in Davis or set up a studio here, they said. Shelly Gilbride, director of International House Davis said UC Davis is losing out on talent because of the high cost of housing in Davis.

Costly housing further compounds another problem: the lack of diversity in a predominantly white town. Natalie Nelson, director of the Pence Gallery, said the group has a lot to celebrate “but we also have so far to go. There needs to be a category of where we are failing, like diversity. What do we need to work on?”

Gilbride, who serves as chair of the Arts Alliance, added, “Immigrant and native stories are important to recognize. Arts and culture is often a white space.” Commenting on the demographics of the people at the meeting, she said white women are often the face of the arts in Davis because many traditionally have financial support from partners. “But we do need to make an effort to make that change for people in our community who are not able to come to these meetings … they are too busy getting stuff done in our community.”

Secondly, Arts Alliance members wanted to prioritize salaries and qualifications for Davis arts teachers. California voters on Nov. 8. 2022, approved Proposition 28, which guarantees school visual and performing arts funding, bringing about $1 billion to public schools across the state, about $1 million of which is allocated in Davis. The demand is new, and there aren’t enough credentialed teachers trained in the arts to meet the demand, attendees said. The Davis Joint Unified School District recently added a visual and performing arts coordinator, but is having difficulty filling the arts positions.

So, what can be done to help these causes? Gilbride encouraged the group to invite new voices to Arts Alliance meetings, and share its resources. Just being on the email list will help spread the news.

The group wants to promote fair pay for everyone in the arts and culture fields, and for the community to support and value the arts – not just what’s free. “UCD has a ton of free community events,” Gilbride said. “People expect everything for free. We need to recognize that when we are off the university, we need to pay our artists for our work.”

Oona Hatton of Davis Repertory Theatre said artists have talents beyond their medium with “transferrable skills that can get things done.” Artists are excellent at collaboration, listening and thinking outside the box. She said their gifts should be used to help engage the community.

Gilbride echoed those sentiments, saying members of the group can use their skills to advance civic engagement and be advocates for each other. “We’ve achieved a lot. We’re all really good at doing stuff. We’re not really good at documenting it. That’s often true of artists. We want to do the thing. It’s important that we keep telling each other’s stories.”

Hanna Nakano, editor and publisher of The Davis Dirt reminded attendees that posting items in the publication’s online events calendar is one of the best ways to spread the word. Since she took over publishing The Davis Dirt shortly after the pandemic, it has become the most comprehensive listing of community happenings. Visit https://thedirt.online/add-an-event/ to make a submission.

Arts Alliance Davis was formed in 2015 as a grassroots effort to give artists and their supporters the opportunity to gather, share ideas and create meaningful impact. Meetings, held at least quarterly at local arts-related establishments, are open to anyone. The next meeting is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 8 at the UC Davis Mondavi Center.

For more information on Arts Alliance Davis, to post an event or opportunity, contact Shelly Gilbride at [email protected]. To subscribe to the mailing list, go to http://artsalliancedavis.org/.

Learn more about local and regional arts, Arts Alliance Davis and city of Davis Arts and Cultural Affairs through the following channels:

- Arts Alliance Davis Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArtsAllianceDavis

- Arts Alliance Davis website http://artsalliancedavis.org/

- City of Davis Arts Instagram @cityofdavisarts, hashtag #cityofdavisarts

- City of Davis Arts & Cultural Affairs Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DavisArtsandCulture

- City of Davis Arts website at https://www.cityofdavis.org/arts


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