Culture department

Dear Editor:It seems that all the critics of the Downey Theatre finances are starting with the assumption that it should be run at a profit or at the very least be revenue neutral. ("The Problems with the Downey Theatre," 5/7/10) I certainly would not consider this to be a reasonable expectation. Every time I go to a community theater, I am exposed to requests for donations to help meet expenses. I see plaques on the walls honoring patrons that have made large contributions. This is true also for most other cultural things like museums as well. The Downey Theatre is in the culture business which adds a great deal to our city by providing the venue for the fine music of the Downey Symphony and high-quality entertainment of the Downey Civic Light Opera. The theater is also utilized very well by presenting programs that introduce culture to our children while receiving little revenue from it. Where else can children be exposed to anything cultural? Certainly not at the movies or on TV. We're talking about a quarter-million dollar shortfall for theater expenses out of a $138 million city budget. Can't we find this small amount somewhere to pay for this? If nothing else can be cut, even by this amount, maybe it's time to reconsider our service priorities. If theater expenses can be cut still more than they already have without affecting quality or if more revenue can be generated by more events and/or outside management, great. But let's not lament too much if it can't. We're getting a bargain now when considering the benefits. If you look at page 15 of the city budget, you will note that the expense for the new post of "City Manager for Emergency Preparedness" is $323,362. This position was created in response to the false alarm scare of water contamination two years ago. The City Council handled that emergency admirably by making decisions based on information as it became available. They acted both quickly and cautiously to protect the people. No non-elected city official could have done as well. Members of the City Council allegedly have questioned why the people were so against setting up this post when "We can afford it." Well, perhaps we can't afford it. This is considerably more money than the Downey Theatre shortfall. On the lighter side, page B6 of the city budget shows that dog license revenue has dropped from $344,142 to $20,582 over the last two years. How come I haven't heard a 'bark' about this? This drop in revenue is also way more than the needs of Downey Theatre. - Ralph Mains, Downey

Dear Editor: Last week's article by Lawrence Christon about the Downey Theater has caught my attention. ("The Problem with the Downey Theatre," 5/7/10) Mr. Christon's articles are always informative and intelligent. His comments about the theater and the state of the arts in Downey generally deserve discussion by all of us who use and enjoy the theater. I strongly support the formation of a Cultural Affairs Department for our city, and would suggest Mr. Christon as the right person to head it. His writing indicates he feels Downey is in need of strong new leadership in arts management. Many of us in the community applaud his ideas and hope the present subcommittee of the City Council will not make any decision about the future of our theater without public input. - Phyllis Gillespie, Downey

Dear Editor: I'm heartened that a discussion about the Downey Theatre has begun within the community and the City Council. We have a beautiful theater that tells of a time when the city knew how important the arts are for bringing together a community. The Downey Children's Theatre would be a good subject for a future "Looking Back On" article. We shouldn't be looking for somebody else to bring the arts to us. We live here, we know this community-- even if we have to virtually start over, we need to build up new arts initiatives. Our forefathers' choice of children's theatre was a great place to start, because it's popular with kids and parents, and it has a built-in audience. Also, I'm a big fan of Shakespeare and the classics, so I'd love to see a series of three plays interspersed between the three DCLO musicals. Then there's music, art showings, film series, and remember the city's "Way Outer Broadway" talent contest? The audience is here, especially if we put up high-quality work that is honest and engaging. Great art transcends race, class, education level and even language. The burden shouldn't fall solely to the city staff. We need to come together as a community and develop our own vision for the arts, entertainment and culture here in Downey. What do you want to see? If we can get together and get organized, present our own plan to the city, then we can start making our vision a reality. I'm starting a new initiative to bring some of our arts groups together, called the Downey Arts Coalition. If you are a local artist or interested in supporting the arts locally, visit - Andrew Wahlquist, Downey

********** Published: May 14, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 4