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Downtown Artwalk: Off, Then Back On

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Public relations chaos haunts the very popular downtown Artwalk, as it is apparently killed and then revived over the course of the weekend.

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The latest in the still-twisting saga, from Blogdowntown:

The Downtown Art Walk's future is still up for debate, but the event will be proceeding as planned on October 14 despite a Friday announcement that it had been cancelled. That announcement, posted on the Downtown Art Walk website, said that the event was "ceasing all event operations until January 2011," when it would return as a quarterly, weekend event.

The board of the non-profit set up to run Art Walk this afternoon issued a release blaming Executive Director Jay Lopez for making the statement without its approval.

The sudden turnaround might have come because of community dismay:

Friday's announcement caught the Downtown community by surprise, with many of the 240+ comments posted here on blogdowntown indignant that the event would be cancelled without a community discussion.

The original announcement of Art Walk's cancellation until 2011.

Richard Schave, the founding director of Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, blames the current chaos on a management board that doesn't care about the community, a board Schave has been at war with for awhile. From a press release from Schave:

Today's bizarre press release announcing cancellation of the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, a hugely popular community event, is deeply troubling. Art Walk was placed in a non-profit in mid-2009 precisely to avoid such capricious decisions, which fail to take into consideration the value and significance of this event for the greater community. Promoting positive public space, as Art Walk does, benefits local businesses, fosters community, and deters crime. This shocking announcement comes after nearly two years of wrangling for control of the Art Walk by a disparate group of business leaders, gallery owners and community activists. The community is the poorer for the Art Walk board's failure to remain focused on its mission statement, and the fundamental goals of a non-profit.....

Some background: In fall 2008, gallery owner and Art Walk founder Bert Green began quietly informing select individuals of his intention of shutting down the popular Downtown Art Walk, or moving it to a weekend, daytime time slot....

When Richard Schave, host of the free Hippodrome Art Walk Shuttle, was asked by Bert Green in early January 2009 to take over the reins of the Art Walk, the only viable path Schave saw was that of a non-profit (a California Public Benefit Corporation), an entity which would hold this important cultural event in trust for the benefit of the whole community. Schave put together a board, prepared all appropriate documentation for the creation of the non-profit...

Within weeks, Bert Green deleted the longstanding community Yahoo group that gallery owners had used to communicate among themselves and with Bert Green as the manager of the Art Walk, and later with the non-profit's board. This deletion occurred with no notice to the new non-profit which had been given administrative privileges of the list and led to believe the list was in Art Walk's official control. Once the Yahoo group was gone, all evidence of the new management's many instances of community outreach to the gallery owners was destroyed, and a campaign launched wherein Bert Green and Russell Brown personally informed gallery owners that they should not cooperate with the new Art Walk management.

Schave was pushed out of his management of the nonprofit, and later his wife Kim Cooper, who was founding treasurer and curator for the Downtown Art Walk nonprofit, filed a grievance against Russell Brown in his capacity as head of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood council. The history of that grievance complaint can be found here.

Ron Kaye is alarmed at the notion that the popular Art Walk might be asked to pay police cost recovery for their efforts managing the crowds, as the L.A. Weekly reported:

Where else on the face of the Earth do you have to pay extra just to have a few cops walking around with people having a good time like they do at the monthly Art Walk, one of the few events that actually brings people from all over the city to downtown without charging them a fortune like the hustlers at Staples and LA Live do....

It's all the doing of the mayor and City Council who embraced the insane notion that the people who pay dearly for public services in taxes, rates and fees also have to "pay full cost recovery" for any services they actually use.

In other words, you get nothing for the $4 billion you put into the general fund except thousands of disgruntled workers whose salaries, benefits and pensions are so expensive there's no money left to serve you.

Image taken by Flickr user Nadiakovacs. Used under user Creative Commons license.

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