Members of the Sunnyside Arts Commission (L-R) Spencer Martin, DeLeesa Restucci and Bruce Walker, listen to creative discussions at last night’s inaugural meeting of the commission. The group, made up of citizens, artists and school representatives, discussed a wide range of ideas for improving access to art in the city.
Photo by Laura Gjovaag.
What happens when eight or nine very creative people gather to talk about art?
The inaugural meeting of the Sunnyside Arts Commission was marked by an explosion of ideas that came so fast that the chairman often had to stop discussion or the group may have stayed to talk all night.
Although it was formed several years ago, the commission did not have enough members until recently to meet. The purpose of the commission is to advise the city council on matters of art and culture in the city, encourage programs in the community and participate in discussions pertaining to design elements of city fixtures.
At last night’s meeting, discussions ranged from Neon Alley to community theater, with each topic sparking new ideas.
Early in the meeting the commission elected John Fannin as its chairman and Deleesa Restucci as vice-chair. The commission also formed a rules and procedures task force made up of Restucci, Leroy Ganser and Kathy Rogers.
Next, the commission tackled the issue of finding out what sort of pool of resources the city has in terms of artists. Staff liaison David Layden, the city’s finance director, suggested creating a database of people who are involved in creative fields. Ganser said the city has many talented people, but a lot of them are unknown to the general public.
The commissioners decided to form a subcommittee with rotating membership that will work on creating a database. In addition, the commission wanted to be able to post information about artists on the city website.
“We could include people who offer music or art lessons,” noted Rogers.
Initial members of the subcommittee are David Chavey-Reynaud, Bruce Walker and Fannin.
Layden also presented a handout that described how the city he used to work for, Gillette, Wyo., created an “Avenue of Art” to allow artists to show off artwork and helped the city to purchase pieces.
Discussion then started to range across every topic touching on art in the city.
City Councilman Spencer Martin mentioned the mayor’s challenge coin, a concept borrowed from the military that will give people who provide outstanding service to the city a coin to commemorate their effort. Martin said the coin will need a design.
Martin also mentioned that the council’s community development subcommittee had discussed applying the Loving Sunnyside Initiative concept to the downtown core to improve the look of the area.
The commission discussed whether or not the city should have a theme. Rogers suggested an optional Southwest theme for businesses.
Debbie Mendoza said she joined the group to promote community theater. She said that once a person graduates from high school, there are not a lot of opportunities for casual acting.
Chavey-Reynaud, the high school band instructor, talked about encouraging live music performances at local restaurants. He spoke of his own experiences and said he wanted to provide that to his students.
The suggestion was made to have students perform at the city’s farmers market, where the group would not only get experience playing for a crowd but could also possibly earn a little money from donations.
Ganser also mentioned the Community Concert Association and suggested promoting it.
Restucci suggested creating a penny press that commemorates the city’s bronze statues. The press would be both a fundraiser and would provide visitors a souvenir.
Rogers reminded the members of the commission of the school district’s broken statue, which currently resides in the district board room, and recommended encouraging the district to fix it.
Fannin brought up ideas regarding art walks and open mic nights, which led to cross discussion on a variety of events that could be held to encourage the arts in the city without breaking the bank.
Layden made a short presentation on Neon Alley. The basic situation is that the city does not have the money to fund the project, which calls for displaying many of Sunnyside’s neon lights that once graced downtown streets.
The commission decided to meet again on Wednesday, May 28, to further discuss some of the ideas that were proposed, although ideas continued to flow even after the meeting adjourned and group members left city hall.