Letter to the Editor: Commissioner Expresses Her Discontent With City’s Lack of Respect for the Arts

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Letter to the Editor:

When we were looking for homes in Burbank 24 years ago, my first call was to the school district. This was before the internet. By the time their packet came in the mail, we were already in Escrow and I discovered the elementary school in my neighborhood was ranked #10 of 11 schools. My second call was to the School Board president.

How can I help? My daughter was one.

That is the day I became an arts and education advocate.

And for the past 2 dozen years, I‘ve done all that I can to make this city, MY city a place that my family is proud to call home. 

It’s been an honor to serve as a Cultural Arts Commissioner for over 4 years. We’ve hosted engaging artists events, secured critical funding for arts grants and built the Electrical Box Beautification Program from 12 boxes painted over 3 years to an annual program that will soon see 69 boxes along visible city corridors.

And so it’s with great sadness that I have withdrawn my application to continue serving with the commission. This is why. 

The Cultural Arts Commission may seem like a warm and fuzzy offshoot of the city, but the arts are the heartbeat of Burbank and a critical part of the engine that fuels our economy.

Our commission was blindsided December 30, 2022 when we received the Request For Proposals (RFP) for Burbank Center Stage (home of The Colony Theatre.) It makes sense that an Arts Commission would at least serve an advisory role in one of the few theatrical spaces in which our city has some control.

Prior to that RFP, we joined voices of the community that overwhelmingly wanted to save the Little Theatre at Izay Park. Yet the final report shows plans to raze it and build a “multi-purpose room”. A multi-purpose room is not a theatre. Which is one reason why the Cultural Arts Commission wanted to advise on the Colony RFP. We don’t trust the city to protect our theatrical spaces.

The city is now over THREE MONTHS behind on their March 16th Final Selection timeline to choose a proposal. Had our commission been consulted, we would have assured that city staff recognize that a theatre cannot operate on a month-by-month basis as the Colony has been forced to do. Instead of deciding on the four proposals before them, City staff has claimed under-staffing and requested the current Colony remain month-to-month through December, demonstrating a systemic failure and lack of value for the arts in our community. There has been no transparency in this process and the city should be embarrassed by the way they do business.

I am not a feather ruffler. I’ve quietly worked behind the scenes on numerous boards & non-profit fundraisers for years, and I think it’s unfortunate that citizens like myself who want to make a difference may be so disheartened that they no longer wish to serve.
 
Suzanne Weerts
Burbank, CA
Burbank Cultural Arts Commissioner (until July 31, 2023)
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