Long Beach Begins 5-year Arts Planning
By Dianne Anderson
Anyone ever wanting a greater say in the direction of cultural and artistic expression for the city of Long Beach will get their chance at an upcoming Arts Council 5-year strategic planning event.
Local poet and blues performer Shy But Flyy is coming out in support, where she hopes to raise and rouse the city’s artistic consciousness.
She said that a lot of youth from her generation, the 20s, seem to be missing out on the way art is unfolding in the city.
“For me personally, I’d like to see more funk, more soul and blues festivals,” said Shy But Flyy, who performs jazz, A Capella, and spoken word in venues across the city.
She also partners with different artists from across the city, who bring a mix of elements to their performance platforms. Her spoken word crew represents youth and the political climate right now, expressing themselves in conversation and music.
“We talk about things going on, especially our personal experiences. Someone in the audience relates, they keep coming back to our shows. We talk and build,” she said.
Every Saturday, she also co-hosts a poetry crew with an open mic at Shades of Africa, where the community comes to perform the issues of the day.
Talented newcomers show up, but they draw out established voices, even feature popular names. Teachers send their students, who receive class credit. Sometimes well-recognized poets drop in when they’re in town.
“If something is going on in the community or the world, it becomes a discussion, people have that outlet. Not everybody agrees, but that’s good. It allows people to get that other perspective. It’s a creative safe space,” she said.
Griselda Suarez, executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach, said they appreciate poets like Shy But Flyy, who are shaping and broadening an artistic flow for the city.
As an arts funder and arts advocate, she said the council has partnered, highlighted, and supported many local artists.
“We recognize that people are always booking artists, and as much as we can book our artists, we try to do that,” she said.
On Saturday, Feb. 29, the council is calling on the community to get involved with their 5-year strategic planning starting in 2021. The event, also featuring Dembrebrah West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, will be held at Courtyard by Marriott, located at 500 East First Street in Long Beach from 10: a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The nonprofit wants the community to have a voice and share their vision for the future of arts and culture in the city. They are also are bringing together a diversity of performers, and secure funding to hire as many local artists as possible.
In the coming months, they will continue to host small meetings, conduct electronic surveys and gather community data about their artistic vision.
Raising social consciousness has been the goal. In 2018, the Arts Council also hosted an event to discuss the importance of starting the African American Culture Center in Long Beach.
“We were happy to host that event for Black leaders in the community along with so many of our partners, artists and performers,” said Suarez, who was an advisor invited to participate in that committee that later went on to gain city support.
Another example of how their nonprofit fosters support in the community is their registry for visual artists, performing artists, literary artists, as well as folk and traditional. She said they accept registry submissions from all genres.
Last year, they also partnered with the Central Park Five – Long Beach Opera, and recently held a night for Mural Painting Day of Service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We understand the different kinds of genres and expressions that our artists have, and we try to diversify as much as possible,” she said.
The nonprofit Arts Council has been around 40 years. At their last Arts Council strategic planning sessions about six years ago, there was some realization of a disconnect between the artists and creative partners in the community.
It has set in motion new goals to refine the mission to promote more culture.
“Since then, the Arts Council has been working harder to connect, to diversify and discuss equity and inclusion issues,” she said.
Today, she said they are striving to become more infused into the community and focused on providing more opportunities for artists and performers.
“That’s what we’re trying to do in envisioning our new strategic plan,” she said.
For more information, see https://artslb.org