Friday, March 21, 2008

Keeping Art in the New San Pedro as Condos (and Rents) Rise

San Pedro’s picturesque vistas and low-key lifestyle have held magnetic appeal for artists. Combine the social and geographic traits with affordable rent and the result is apparent.

Through the decades, an active artist community has taken root and established a visible studio presence, concentrated in downtown San Pedro. Countless more San Pedro-based artists operate behind the scenes, maintaining private studios and/or commuting to work in other cities.

As San Pedro evolves and construction cranes fill the downtown skyline, rents are rising and artists are sounding the alarm.

A year-old committee of arts organizations, business owners and working artists has been grappling with this question and others as it develops a plan for the San Pedro Arts, Culture and Entertainment District (SPACE).

The committee was formed under the auspices of the San Pedro Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. Its mission is to “create a downtown arts district that will sustain and promote the cultural and economic vitality of the community.”

The SPACE committee held a public meeting on March 15 to release its draft plan, a five-year blueprint to boost the arts with $500,000 in city funds.

The committee is co-chaired by civic leader Noramae Munster and newspaper publisher James P. Allen.

In an interview with San Pedro News, artist and committee member Ray Carofano summarized the key issue. “It’s called the arts, culture and entertainment district. We have to keep the artists in town or where’s the art going to come from?”

Artist and committee member Lauren Kilgore has worked out of a Seventh Street studio for more than 20 years. She has witnessed a changing landscape that’s now being built into contemporary condominiums for urban professionals.

“Calling condos ‘lofts’ is a co-opting of the artistic culture everyone in San Pedro recognizes as a positive,” said Kilgore.

“If we price out the creative artists as a result [of new developments with higher rents], San Pedro will change from a vibrant, actively artistic community into a merely ‘arty’ one,” said Kilgore. “The ACE committee is working hard to avert that fate and we’re hoping for everyone’s support.”

Artist live/work housing is a main area the committee is studying.

Artist and committee member Ron Linden also emphasized the need for a gallery and performance space that artists could share, creating a central point that could be known and identified as the artists’ hub.

Visit for more information about the project and notification of upcoming public meetings

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