Monday, December 9, 2013

Creating an Arts District…

Participating in the forthcoming discussions led by our Oceanside Museum of Art, I will post various examples and opinions on the Creation of Art Colonies and Art Districts, and the implications which arise in the process. Is Gentrification to be desired? What happens when the long time residents and business owners confront the success of an Artist Colony or Arts District? What about Culture Clash? What about the Money Clash? What about when the Success of the Colony becomes the antithesis of what it started out to be? Please feel free to comment where ever you live and if you have had experiences to share. 

Article taken from Pomona College Magazine • 550 N. College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711

Downtown TurnaroundEd Tessier ’91 turned dying downtown Pomona into a vibrant Arts Colony with some help from family and the skills he learned at the College.

By Mark Kendall
Ed Tessier ’91 grew up watching downtown Pomona die. The sporting goods store where he got his first baseball glove closed. So did the department store where he bought his Cub Scout uniform. So did the lunch counter where his grandpa used to buy him root beer floats.

Shortly after graduating from the College, Tessier set about bringing downtown Pomona back to life.

While in school, Tessier majored in urban sociology and used Pomona’s downtown for case studies. Still, he never planned to undertake a crusade to save it. He expected to wind up behind a desk in some city planning department, “playing with colored pencils the rest of my life.”

But his father, Victor, a prominent Pomona attorney, had suffered multiple heart attacks and in 1992 asked his children (Ed, Jerry and Vicki) to take over six buildings he owned downtown. They could have unloaded the properties, but felt too much of a connection with the community.

”It was an emotional decision,” says Tessier.

Tessier remembered the words of one of his mentors, Pomona sociology professor Robert Herman. “He had a mantra,” says Tessier. “That even in the most distressed neighborhoods there’s always something that works. The goal should be to find it and nurture it.”

After months of research, Tessier’s first plan was to turn the area into a Latino-oriented businesses district. Latinos now were the majority in Pomona, and such retail efforts had been successful elsewhere in the Los Angeles area. But it turned out another developer had proposed doing the same thing elsewhere in Pomona, and the city told Tessier to come up with something else for downtown.

The downtown already was home to an underground arts scene, with “guerilla artists” occupying empty buildings, hosting exhibitions and poetry slams. Tessier decided to tap into the existing vibe and proposed turning the area into an arts district centered along Second Street, west of Garey Avenue.

By 1993, Tessier had opened (with a business partner) The Haven, a combination gallery and coffee house. Downtown artists came out of the woodwork and connected there. But the place wasn’t just drawing crowds on weekend nights. It was drawing scrutiny from the city, as Tessier tells it, with visits from code enforcement and other agencies. He saw this as part of the longstanding tension between downtown artists and the city.Read More: