Last night at Zoey’s, a group of local musicians, journalists, venue owners and music promoters gathered at the behest of the City of Ventura to discuss the future of the Ventura music scene. Led by Eric Wallner, the “creative economy specialist” for the City, the purpose was to brainstorm ways to improve and support local music.
I really think they’re going about this correctly. Looking around the room, I saw people who have been in the trenches promoting shows in all genres – punk rock, metal, singer-songwriters – and I felt that the City is asking the right folks. I’ve elsewhere bemoaned the sad state of City-sponsored arts festivals, so I was doubly happy that this felt different.
Wallner gave a brief introduction and then turned the floor over to Chris Jay, local musician/journalist/promoter powerhouse. Between Chris’ foul mouth and the obvious fact that the people assembled were true music lovers and patrons of the arts, people immediately saw that this wasn’t some stuffy meeting but a genuine attempt to harness their experience for the benefit of the city. Particularly cute was the brainstormed list of “problems,” wherein “aggressive police presence” was followed immediately by “cover bands.”
The conversation is just beginning. The biggest issue that came up immediately was the lack of all ages venues. Also very constructive were suggestions for tangible, yet relatively inexpensive, ways Ventura could be more welcoming to bands; parking passes so you don’t get a ticket when you’re unloading gear; vouchers for discounted printing of flyers at Kinkos; a discussion with the Police Department about maintaining safety while creating a friendlier environment for kids at shows. There was also talk about a city-sponsored rock music festival.
It’s smart. Ventura is wise to recognize that a strong artists community is good for business. Austin is an obvious example of a place that excels at this, but other cities like Santa Fe and even Baltimore are recognizing the connection between a genuinely thriving arts scene and a thriving economy.
I’m proud to be a part of this discussion and encouraged about the possibilities for the community. We all complain about the problems with our local music scene. I really applaud Chris and Eric for trying to do something about it.
UPDATE: Michel Cicero of the VC Reporter, also in attendance, posted this. I think she’s absolutely right. Some cities are able to give berth to artists and some aren’t. We’ll see. But I do believe last night was a good sign.