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Salon Series to focus on intimate settings with artists

Suzanne Guldimann, Freelance Reporter
4:59 pm PDT August 12, 2014

It’s an experimental and bold new program, unlike anything the City has yet sponsored. As the City of Malibu’s Cultural Arts Commission prepares to debut its first Salon Series event, Commissioner Richard Gibbs, who proposed and has championed the series, took some time to share his thoughts on the program with the Malibu Surfside News. 

The Salon Series, which will debut later this month, will feature small, intimate artist talks in a private setting that could be a recording or art studio, or a writer’s living room. The list of prospective artists rumored to have volunteered to participate is diverse, but the first two salon speakers are expected to be drummer and vocalist Michael “Mike D” Diamond, one of the founding members of hardcore punk turned hip-hop band The Beastie Boys; and Malibu sculptor Chuck Arnoldi.

“It’s not a celebrity hunt,” Gibbs said. “It’s not a photo op. It’s a chance to see someone like Mike D at work and play. That’s the heart of the salon. It’s all about artists talking about their work. By nature it’s small, intimate. Lecture series are great, and we support them and that could be part of the Cultural Arts program later, but that’s not what this is. The salons will be immersive, you’re being immersed in the artist’s art, what they do, where they do it.”

Gibbs said that he hopes the intimate, informal format will attract “artists less inclined to speak in public.”

He also explained that it is difficult to pin down exactly who will be offering a salon, because the  artists that have been approached to participate are difficult to book in advance. “We have to be flexible and able to adapt,” he said. Because the events will take place in homes and studios, the locations will not be announced in advance to respect the artists’ privacy. 

There is currently funding for four salon events. Future guest speakers could include filmmakers,  actors, writers, musicians, dancers, photographers, poets or painters. There’s an element of surprise, because the person who submits a application to attend a salon series event won’t know in advance what they will actually be chosen to see. City staff will match their application with the list of events and determine which salon best matches the individual’s interests. Because the events will be limited to as few as 25 participants, not everyone who applies will be selected.

Gibbs discussed the complex registration process, which involves filling out an online questionnaire.

“[The application process is designed to] make sure everybody gets to see what they want to see,” Gibbs said.

“The events will take place in a living room, a studio, a writer’s lair, in front of the actor’s mirror. We are being very careful to ensure that as many people as possible who are passionate about a particular art form get to attend.”

Residents will take priority over non residents, those who register first are also prioritized. Applicants who have already attended a salon will go to the end of the line for future events. Applications will remain active for six months. The program is for adults only and it is currently not possible to register for more than one person at a time, so participants will not be able to bring a friend, date, spouse or child.

Gibbs, a film composer and music producer,  also spoke about the genesis of the salon series and his vision for the role of the Cultural Arts Commission, which he said he hopes will eventually be able to facilitate the creation of a Malibu Performing Arts Center.

“I moved here in 1992. I was excited to move into a community where other artists are accessible if you run into them.” Gibbs said, adding that he sees the salon series as a first step in creating the infrastructure for those artists to connect. “We’re not here to raise money, we’re here to raise consciousness,” he said. 

“Two of our first artists are Chuck Arnoldi and Mike D,” Gibbs said. “I love diversity in the arts and we are out to showcase the diversity in this community—many different artists, and none of these artists are doing it for self promotion, they are doing it for the community.  Art is not a charity. This program is a place for the arts. A tiny toehold.”

While the official City of Malibu website describes the Salon Series as “exclusive and intimate events where high profile professionals in the arts industry will share insight into their particular fields,” Gibbs said the emphasis is on intimacy, not exclusivity. 

Malibu residents interested in attending a salon must register online at, or stop by Malibu City Hall to register in person.