Question # 1
There is great sub-surface energy emanating from the larger “Arts Community” within the city which bursts forth on First Friday Art Walks when our many galleries, related and nearby businesses remain open and welcoming to a delighted public. A similar spirit in a smaller venue is evident at Uptown Saturday Night as the merchants along ‘Uptown’ San Marco Avenue, including several art galleries, entertain the public after normal business hours. Given the enormous popularity and success of these monthly events, why would the city not encourage more ‘arts-based commerce’?
Without the benefit of having an administrative line office dedicated to supporting local businesses, the city can only compensate by developing cost-effective alternatives. There are a few simple options which I will sponsor if elected:
a. The City Commission should create a new citizen advisory board, a Cultural Arts Committee, whose primary purpose would be to organize civic events and programs to promote the creative, performing and literary arts in conjunction with existing arts advocacy organizations, schools and museums. It is envisioned that such a body would be representative of many occupational categories and institutions within the Arts Community and would be helpful to the City Commission in expanding programs and opportunities within all areas of the city.
b. Given the documented interest and investment by adult travelers in cultural events and also by city and nearby residents, many of whom live here because of their interest, enjoyment or involvement in the arts, the new city website should make cultural event
information easier to access. Although there is a link to the SJCC website [and the SJCC does a great job of informing about specific ‘cultural’ events], it takes some guess work and maneuvering [through “Visitors” then through “Special Events”] to connect to that site. Further, the site presumes that without a more generic title such as ‘Arts, Music, Theatre and more … ‘ for example, a visitor knows that the “St. Johns Cultural Council” referenced will provide the sought after information. The site should be more userfriendly and recognize that it’s not only visitors who are interested in ‘Cultural Events.’ I would propose a re-design of the new COSA website to allow ‘the public’ more direct access to SJCC’s website and information on present and upcoming Cultural Events.
Question # 2
As your well-structured question points out, our city’s downtown commerce once had interesting historic references. In order to restore some of that ‘old world’ energy and bring more business opportunities to the city, we need to utilize our beautiful, open public spaces for the benefit of our residents and visitors alike. There have been two major “Issues” listed on my website since February, 2008 which largely define my position on the subject:
a. I am supporting the creation of a Market in the Public Square between the Visitor Information Center [VIC] and the Parking Garage where local foods and produce, fine arts, crafts and other interesting wares can be sold on a regularly-scheduled, downtown Market Day. This event would in no way compete with the wonderfully successful Farmers’ Markets now held at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre on Saturdays and at the St. Augustine Beach Pier on Wednesdays. To the contrary, the city would imitate their successes and attempt to return a ‘Downtown Market’ to the city on a day to be decided after public testimony from a variety of perspectives —- all welcome.
b. I have also been promoting a reconsideration of policies which have caused outdoor dining activities to be restricted. I believe that the city should “… Allow the owners of restaurants in permanent buildings with sufficient sidewalk space to provide acceptable pedestrian and safety vehicle access to expand outdoors into sidewalk cafes … where food and drink can be served to the public. These venues … would serve to create an atmosphere of enjoyment and festivity and encourage a favorite human pastime –people- watching.” (Quoted from my website)
According to a 2004 study sponsored by the Florida Department of State and the Florida Cultural Alliance, ‘Arts and Culture’ have contributed significantly to the local economy of Florida’s cities. In a period of economic downswing, however, the City Commission will need to create new opportunities such as those previously mentioned:
a. Creating a Cultural Arts Committee to organize events and programs
b. Making Cultural Event information easier to access on the city’s website
c. Create an outdoor Public Market at the VIC
If elected, I would encourage the Arts community to explore other non-traditional options in conjunction with St. Johns County government such as:
â€¢ Sponsorship of Public Art Programs and Competitions (Tourist Development Council / Chamber of Commerce)
â€¢ The Arts in Criminal Justice, a newly formed national alliance (Sheriff s Office, Corrections Department)
â€¢ Art Therapy for Health, particularly mental health (Hospitals and Clinics)
In the end, I believe that the creation of a Cultural Arts Committee as a citizen advisory board to the City Commission is critical to assuring that ‘the artist labor force’ in the city and beyond is well-represented and that more opportunities for integrating ‘the Arts’ into non-traditional activities are discovered.