Malibu Cultural Commission reject donated ‘Malibu Mermaid’ sculpture

During the two-hour Malibu Cultural Arts Commission meeting on March 22, board members raised questions and concerns on the private photography exhibit the subcommittee curates within the few commissioners. 

To start off, Commissioner Barry Haldeman asked the members of the committee how they curate the artists that are chosen to participate in the shows.

“All the artists are already chosen, so we’re just going to pick those three to prepare them for the exhibition,” Commissioner Julia Holland said. “We did not do a public call. We hand-selected artists this time and the local artists that we know, so we did not do a local call.”

Commissioner Chair Lotte Cherin requested the panel to do a public call and hire outside jurors to avoid political issues. 

“I think that’s very appropriate for some of these rather than us individually picking people that we want to see,” Cherin said. “I don’t think it’s fair.”

Commissioner Fireball Tim Lawrence disagreed with Cherin and said having a specific style of photographs for an exhibit is essential.

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“To do an open call where we get 80 artists that we are unfamiliar with, I think it’s important that we’re [at] such an infancy with this gallery that we need to grab people that we know are in Malibu, that we’re familiar with,” Lawrence said. “It’s also the strategy we mentioned about the gallery is twofold: One is that we want good art, two is that we want people in there that can actually have the ability to share. There are a lot of great artists out there and there is time to be able to do something that’s much larger, but this is our very first photography show.”

Holland and Lawrence both explained that the photography show was organized privately and locally to keep its curation.

“I do think, just to be sensitive to the city, we may have to put out some call — even if it’s for a week — because I think we open ourselves up to being elitist,” Haldeman said. “It doesn’t mean you have to pick the art — it just means that you have to give people an opportunity so we aren’t open to criticism, especially in our infancy as we start this [exhibit].”

Haldeman suggests making a public call or asking for submissions.

“We’ve been at this for a long time. This is not a new thing, we put this up way back,” Holland said. 

Lawrence said for them to do a call now and get a great amount of art wouldn’t give them time to do a successful show.

“That we have a show that has legs to it, that can go out and tell other people that they had a positive experience at this photography show, including people that might be related to you or friends,” Lawrence said. “And ultimately our goal. I’m not worried about criticism, I’m not worried about if there’s going to be people that are going to be upset, that we’re not included and there’s no way to get around that, the goal is to do what we can, and do a successful show.”

Lawrence said they have been planning the exhibit for several months and are unable to make adjustments, but Cherin said others should contribute. 

“Given that it’s been several months, I think we really run a risk by simply creating our own judges and selecting our own people for an event that is supposed to be for the entire community,” Cherin said. “I think we run a risk there. At least let’s get some outside jurors rather than picking the people we want.”

Speaker Graeme Clifford said Holland and Lawrence should be able to proceed with organizing the exhibit.

“I’d also like you all to consider that this is not the last game, this is ongoing, so there will be another big photography exhibit. People will have an opportunity,” Holland said.

The commission moved on to the next item on the agenda and Haldeman provided an update for the business and community outreach, and Bobbett provided an update on the 2022-23 budget. The proposed budget includes operating an advertising budget for art-related programs and events. 

According to the proposal, there will be an increase of $29,700. The additions would be $18,800 for the Poet Laureate committee, $3,400 for quarterly concerts, and $7,500 general operating increases, totaling $64,700. 

Malibu Cultural Commission meeting. March 22, 2022.

Bobbett provided an update from the March 10 special meeting which highlights the commissioners vision statement, the proposed project for the Sycamore Village Property, also known as the Chili Cook-Off Lot, and the community survey.

Speaker and vice president of the Malibu Film Society Board John Johannessen spoke during the meeting and said the Malibu Film Society is also looking for a home. The MFS has been hosting events at Pacific Palisades and Agoura Hills, but not in Malibu. 

“We have a few hundred members of the film society. We started out 12 years ago [and] the city even gave us grants to get started, and we went from 12 or 15 people when we started out and I think we have now a couple hundred members and we’ve had some fantastic events,” Johannessen said. “So if we can get the community to be a part of that and help us come back to Malibu that would be great.”

The commission also reviewed the proposed art installation of the “Malibu Mermaid” sculpture. Lawrence said it would be a nice addition to Malibu; however, some commissioners said it would be inappropriate and a conflict of interest, even though it was donated by the artist, Lawrence’s wife Kathie. 

The consensus of the commission was to not move forward with the proposed request. 

The next Malibu Cultural Arts Commission meeting is scheduled for April 26. 

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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