Malibu Arts Commission requests Chili Cook-off site for potential Malibu Arts Center


During the Malibu Arts Commission meeting on March 10, commissioners discussed venue size, parking, design ideas and are considering occupying the 9.4 acres Chili Cook-off site for the project. 

“I think that we’re all thinking it should be on city property, is that correct? We’re all aiming for that,” Commission Chair Lotte Cherin said.

In the last Malibu Arts meeting on Feb. 22, Cherin said they removed the word performing from the title because people thought it wasn’t going to be a showcase for the arts, only for theater. 

Cherin said the city was given some acres behind Whole Foods, but some commissioners said they prefer the Chili Cook-off site.

“Whatever we build should be an architectural jewel,” Commissioner Peter Jones said. “And so if we’re going to build an architectural jewel, I think people need to see it and not be hidden.”

Fireball Tim Lawrence and other commissioners said they spoke to Mayor Paul Grisanti, and he said that location is what he suggests and prefers as well. 

Commissioners said they want to focus on the indoor center but also hope to create an outdoor area.

“The performance and the music happens indoors, but we also live in probably the most beautiful towns in the world and to have some kind of concert under the stars even if it was a smaller type of experience and a smaller type of stage, to have that flexibility, would be really great,” Lawrence said.

Commissioner Graeme Clifford asked where they would get the funds to build the center. 

“Funding can come from a lot of places, there are grants that can be applied for, benefactors trying to collect donations here within the city but that’s something a lot of grants that are dependent on and the type of facility and the need of the community,” Community Services Director Jesse Bobbett said. “Or sometimes it’s demographics, so we have to look into grants that are available.”

Speaker and vice president of the Malibu Film Society Board John Johannessen provided feedback and suggestions to the Malibu Arts Commission. 

“If you want dollars, you have to design it right; if it’s too small, you’re not going to get the money,” Johannessen said. 

Cherin asked Johannessen what he thinks is needed to build the Malibu Arts Center.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up saying we need 30 million or more,” Johannessen said. “30 to 50 million.”

Johannessen said the Malibu Film Society has been trying to create a venue in the city but said there has been opposition with building projects in the city.

“I’m here to bring my knowledge of 40 years in the construction industry,” Johannessen said. “I’ve designed and built about 50 homes, so I’m well equipped with experience.”

Lawrence said the meeting has been going on for too long but not much progress has been made. 

“I think that we’ve been bouncing, and I think a lot of the issue that you have as a group is that when you bounce a lot, it’s very difficult to get things done,” Lawrence said. “I think our primary thing is to focus; we really need to make clear what we want to achieve in a meeting as well as what our next steps are.”

Jones said they need to figure out the political opposition for those who don’t want a music center in the city.

“What we should be aiming for is for something small that would only accommodate locals and not try to bring in money-making acts,” Clifford said.

Clifford and Jones suggested creating a questionnaire for the community to provide their input.

“I think we need some data of what people want,” Jones said. “I think the next job for us is to come up with the questions.” 

Commissioner Barry Haldeman said he attended an arts committee meeting hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and said they need to start working together and make a unified approach.

“I think one of the things that [we] might want to do is open a door to get them involved, not that they’ll represent the city but that they’re in the city, and they might actually facilitate a lot of things,” Haldeman said. “So we have to figure out how to use that asset in a way.”

The next Arts Commission is on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m.