Proposed Arts Festival Draws Plaudits, Logistical Issues

Daniel Stern

Plans by Malibu’s inaugural Cultural Arts Commission to put on a new citywide arts festival in fall of 2014 drew positive reviews last week at a public meeting at City Hall. 

However, the length of the event—either four days or one month—remains up for debate after the founder of the Malibu Music Festival expressed concerns the two events would end up competing with one another. 

Proposed is a four-day, volunteer-driven event to be held over a long weekend in fall 2014. The event would kick off with an evening gala fundraiser, followed by three days of multidisciplinary (visual, performing and literary) cultural arts events, including juried art competitions and self-guided art studio tours. 

“We’re hoping to create a citywide cultural extravaganza,” Chairperson Daniel Stern said. 

The commission proposed having the opening night gala at a tent in a central location, perhaps the Malibu Chili Cook-Off site in the Civic Center or nearby. At this fundraising event, they would unveil the works of art chosen for the city’s first temporary art exhibit. 

“For the rest of the weekend, any artist, art institution or business can participate, and be put on a map with a flag,” Stern said. “You’d pay $35 for a self-guided tour of the art—film, dance, music, etc.” 

But Terence Davis, founder of the nonprofit Malibu Music Awards & Festival, which was just held for its 6th year from Oct. 11-19, said “I’m an opponent of the general concept.” 

Davis explained that the music festival featured venues up and down Malibu’s 27 miles of coastline, with performers from children to Tom Petty and Grace Slick. “Our concept is very similar to yours,” he said. 

Davis said his festival was well-funded due to “six years of scholarship money,” and he did not want his nonprofit organization to compete with the City of Malibu to raise funds. 

“We’d prefer the arts festival to work with us rather than compete with us,” Davis said. “For me, working with the arts festival would mean a lot of free publicity.”

Scott Tallal, head of the Malibu Film Society, suggested expanding the timeline for the cultural arts festival from four days to a month-long event in order to incorporate the existing music festival, as well as other artistic disciplines. 

“Please consider expanding this from four days to an Arts Month with film, plays, sculpture, music, etc.,” Tallal said. “Keep the kick-off night, after which is the week-long music festival, etc., with a month-long calendar (with more events on the weekends than the weekdays). Get retailers and restaurants involved. Have all the Malibu restaurants do prix fixe meals.” 

[Editor’s note: Tallal is the husband of the article’s writer] 

Meanwhile, the notion of the festival drew wide support among the roughly 30 attendees, most of whom were artists themselves or representatives of arts organizations or institutions. 

Representatives of the Malibu Art Association said they were “thrilled about all of this.” 

Several Pepperdine University representatives also offered support for the concept, including the use of the Smothers Theatre for professional presentations and the Weisman Museum for exhibits, while the art department could host art workshops and galleries. 

“We at Pepperdine University are very enthusiastic to be part of this,” Weisman director Michael Zakian said. 

Alexandra Stanley, owner of the LUCE della Citta art gallery and home decor shop in the Civic Center, volunteered the use of her venue for the event. 

Mark Persson, executive director of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, did not voice concern about conflicts with the chamber-sponsored Malibu Arts Festival, which began in 1971 and takes place in July. 

“I like the idea of integrating the art throughout Malibu,” Persson said. “The difference between this festival and ours is that we draw artists from the entire nation, whereas this event is being held to support local artists.” 

The six-member Cultural Arts Commission was created in late 2012 following a two-year study by the city’s Arts Task Force to make recommendations to the Malibu City Council on arts policy, use of city parks for arts-related events, purchases of art by the city and outreach to Malibu artists. 

The many detailed ideas about staging, shuttle buses, signage, marketing and more will be discussed further at regular committee meetings the fourth Tuesday of each month. In the meantime, Stern asked that anyone with expertise in marketing, public relations or publicity who might want to volunteer please come forward.