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City votes to fund upcoming Salon Series

Suzanne Guldimann, Freelance Reporter
3:37 pm PDT July 21, 2014

After months of planning and discussion, the Malibu Cultural Arts Commission’s first major event series is about to become a reality. 

At its July 14 meeting, the Malibu City Council approved $4,600 to fund the first four events in the proposed Malibu Salon Series.

Each event in the series will feature a visit to the studio or workspace of a different Malibu artist. The first salon is expected to take place as early as August. The average cost for each Salon Series event is projected to be $1,150, including direct expenses of $550 for part-time staffing and $600 for insurance liability coverage, according to the staff report. Each event is free to the public, but is expected to be limited to approximately 25 participants.

“The Salon Series is an exhibition and discussion program that emphasizes participation between guests and featured artists who will explore meaning, context and craft of the host’s works,” the staff report for the event series states. 

The staff report describes the events as “free, intimate gathering[s] allowing Malibu residents to interact with successful artists in a small group setting, typically the artist’s studio.”

The first three artists are reportedly painter, sculpture and printmaker Chuck Arnoldi; actor, painter and composer Anthony Hopkins; and musician Mike “D” Diamond.

“We want to make sure it’s not an insider event,” City of Malibu Parks and Recreation Director Amy Crittenden said, addressing concerns over limited availability.

“We don’t want it to become an A-ticket for some people,” Crittenden said, explaining that a statistician is helping to develop an equitable way to distribute tickets to the events, and that the Commission sees the series as a “launch pad” to more ambitious future events.

The Commission is recommending that attendance is first come, first served, and that selection is based on interest and residency, with Malibu residents receiving priority. “Online registration will be used to receive attendee interests and information,” the staff report states. “Applicants will be provided with a list of the art disciplines to be marked in order of preference. Non-resident applications are considered after Malibu residents have been processed. Those interested in attending multiple events within a 12-month period are added to the end of the queue and moved up when all of the above criteria are satisfied.

“Promotion for the event will be placed in City publications, newspapers and on the city website. Those interested in attending will be able to utilize the City’s ‘notify me’ program for registration and also to receive event updates,” the staff report concludes.

“There are a lot of creative members of the community, this is the way they want to help,” Crittenden said.

Insurance has been the main sticking point for the proposed event series.

“I’m very concerned about liability,” Councilmember Joan House said, citing a report prepared by City Attorney Christi Hogin that states that the program “will expose the City to new forms of potential liability that do not currently exist.” 

“It’s a litigious world,” Hogin said. “We need to be aware of it, chose the level of risk.”

“I don’t want to do away with your program but I want to send it back,” House said.

Crittenden explained that the program includes additional insurance to cover liability and that City staff will schedule a “walk-through” of the sites prior to each event, to identify possible problems. 

“We’re not experts,” she said. “It’s an uncomfortable thing because we haven’t done it before.”

Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal was not deterred by the warnings. 

“I have a lot of faith,” she said. “I’m very excited about [the series].

Mayor Skylar Peak, telecommuting from Bali, shared Rosenthal’s enthusiasm, describing the series as valuable to residents. 

“This is a unique opportunity,” Peak said. “[Let’s] figure out a way to make it happen.”

The Council voted 4:1 to approve the funding, with House dissenting.