Every Saturday, Alan Ware heads to Oak Park to teach students of underserved communities coding and design.
Omonivie Okhade builds her business, Tula in Bloom, making jewelry inside Hacker Lab to help women celebrate their most authentic selves.
Hacker Lab stands with and celebrates the artists and entrepreneurs of Sac. That's why Hacker Lab is calling on the City to spend Measure U funds on what was promised. Join us at City Council to support or tell your own story tomorrow, Tuesday, May 28. 2 PM start.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg and proponents of Measure U promised funds from Measure U would invest in underserved communities, growing jobs and opportunity. However, the funds go into the city's general fund, where pensions and public services loom.
Last week, Mayor Steinberg announced a plan to pay down $40 million toward a $400 million bond to deliver on the promises. The council is divided, fearing fiscal shortfalls. The city's budget will be finalized in June.
Gina Lujan, Hacker Lab CEO and Measure U Community Advisory Commissioner, said the city council must support the city's artists and entrepreneurs, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.
“We stand firmly in that it should go to inclusive economic development and neighborhoods that have been overlooked the last several years,” Lujan said. “We want the money to go where it was promised.”
Pat Fong Kushida is president and CEO of the Sacramento Pacific Asian Chamber of Commerce and administrator of the Sacramento Inclusive Economic Development Collaborative, a group of Sacramento's ethnic chambers and PBIDs in partnership with the Metro Chamber. Kushida wants to ensure Measure U funds go towards local economic development with as much inclusivity as possible, however the council gets there.
“The Sac IEDC formation allows all of our organizations to come together and advocate collectively for our communities,” Kushhida said. “[We can] work across silos, learn from each other and create systematic change so that communities long neglected now have a seat at the table.”
“In short, we have the council wanting to use this money to pay for pensions rather than along-term fiscal solution for the problem,” said Erika Bjork, Metro Chamber Communications Officer. “This comes down to trust. Say what you're going to do.”
It's no secret artists and entrepreneurs can use a little help in Sacramento. Hacker Lab asked four artists and entrepreneurs why it's important to fund their efforts.
Alan Ware sees opportunity in the eyes of young people every time he works in Oak Park, one of the city's aging, underserved communities Measure U should help.
“I believe many look at those less fortunate as deserving of their situation,” Ware said. “How am I suppose to argue to help for the underrepresented? I feel like the justification is in the term, UNDER-represented … We're taking good faith for granted here. Call it arrogance, call it ignorance, call it well-intentioned. Regardless of the motivation, the impact (or lack thereof) remains the same. We have communities that need help. Let's help them. And let's keep doing it until we figure out how to get it right.”
Omonnvie Okhade attended the last city council meeting to support her business Tula in Bloom.
“Being a first-time business owner is hard. Being a first-time business owner within the creative field can be brutal. The pervasive idea of the struggling and starving artist persists in part because there is a lack of appreciation for the importance of creative arts. We must recognize the significant impact the arts have on the economy and the success of communities,” she said. “My journey as a creative entrepreneur has had its ups and downs, and I've been incredibly fortunate to benefit from programs and institutions like the Arts & Business Council's Flywheel Incubator, Hacker Lab and Small Business Development Center, which have afforded me opportunities to develop my creative and entrepreneurial skills. Public support for programs like these ensure a thriving economy contributed to by hardworking, creative people adding quantifiable value and invaluable identity to the communities in which they live and work.”
Speaking of prior investments like the Creative EDGE, she said funding artists and entrepreneurs is imperative for the city's economic future; and the needs are now with exorbitant costs to hold events in the city, as just one example.
“When people leave their homes, they spend money. Music, art, fashion shows; block parties; workshops and classes — this all profits property owners because food and beverage tenants pay more per square foot than galleries, boutiques, record shops, etc,” Rhomberg said, calling for an arts insurance company to capture and reinvest those funds. “Property owners also profit when arts, music and cultural events attract new residents driving up rents.”
“We need help, from starting a band to selling out at Ace of Spades,” she said. “75 percent of my customers every weekend do not live in Sacramento. The guys doing the night market here lost money their first time. They're spending so much time trying to get sponsors with no support. I don't know how long these young entrepreneurs are going to last.”
“It's encouraging the city leadership recognizes the economic impact that arts can and does make,” she added. “We still fall behind in the per capita investment made from cities of similar size, but we're making progress; hopefully the best is yet to come.”
Melissa Uroff, between a crying 2-year old and a life in the arts, shared specific ways the city can support artists and entrepreneurs, if the city delivers on the promises of Measure U.
I applied for the creative economy grant and while I personally did not receive it, I saw a lot of my friends and colleagues who did receive the grant do a lot of great things that they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I also saw a large part of the community able to engage themselves in art, music and performance that they would not have otherwise seen or participated in.
Arts build community, and they (the arts) are essential to a city but it seems that instead of our city embracing what is making our community great they push artists out of their own neighborhoods and all to put something as silly as a Chipotle or something of the sort. They bring in out of town muralists and pay them much higher rates than our own local folks, they charge outrageous prices per square foot and all of a sudden the artists that make an area great have to leave the neighborhood they created.
I need to say that I am not against out of town artists creating public art here, but I do believe that our city should also support the community that resides here.
Sacramento is not just now becoming an arts city, we have been an arts city for as long as I can remember and beyond.
To stop rambling and get to the point, support is needed (in my opinion) in the following ways.
1. Hire our people more. Take a chance on artists that may not have a huge portfolio, especially in public art, but that have talent and potential. Give them jobs, nurture them through the process, help with the paperwork, because that is the stopping point for most creatives, paperwork.
2. Create studio space that is affordable and safe.
3. Dedicate spaces to performance. And not just music. Did you know that this town has everything from freak show acts to performance artists to body painters to Burlesque to comedians to actors... the list goes on and on.
4. Teach. Give the opportunity for artists to share their skills with others. I teach art to a variety of people from the homeless community to teens working in their mental health to ask risk youth, to toddlers, all funded through yolo county. We need more opportunities like that in Sacramento. Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission only added 7 teaching artists to their roster this year and their pay only includes a $50 supply budget. Come on, folks.
5. Art as therapy. It’s how I personally work things out, when I teach to the homeless community they tell me it’s the only time in their day they feel at ease, that they look forward to coming to class all week and that they didn’t know they could accomplish so much. Let’s help out those that need a little self care by making some art with them and teaching a new skill.
6. Nurture our youth and keep them engaged in the arts. Keep venues open. Especially all age venues. Without young folks able to visit gallery space, music venues, see performance, we do not have a future in the arts.
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Join us this Tuesday at City Council to support using Measure U for what was promised. 2-5 p.m., Tuesday, May 28. City Hall, 915 I Street.