Riverside Arts Council Moving “The City of Arts and Innovation” To The Next Level.

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Riverside Arts Council Executive Director Patrick Brien talked with Southern Cal CEO Magazine about why fully developing the arts can have a profound cultural and economic impact on the city.

Rock Concert provided by the Riverside Arts Council
The arts have an ability to help a community define itself.

Riverside is known as the birthplace of the citrus industry. Now, it’s also known as “The City of Arts and Innovation.” It’s a big moniker which Patrick Brien proudly nurtures in his job as the Riverside Arts Council Executive Director. “The arts,” he said, “have an ability to help a community define itself.”

Brien told Southern Cal CEO Magazine the arts are critically important to Riverside’s cultural and economic future. Studies jointly conducted by the Arts Council and Americans for the Arts in Washington D.C. show a Riverside arts patron will spend an average of $24.80 above and beyond the cost of admission in local restaurants and shops. If you consider the tens of thousands of people who attend art related events in Riverside, Brien said, “We are very, very confident the impact the arts can have in a community, and in this community, is quite profound.”

Brien applauded the tremendous investment Riverside has put into developing the arts in downtown. Venues, such as the beautifully restored Fox Theater and the remodeled Riverside Convention Center, project a metropolitan feel. A thriving arts scene can help sway companies to relocate or start-up here. Brien said many employers want the cultural allure and prestige of a big city, as well as, a business friendly climate. He also praised the recent opening of the black-box theater, called “The Box,” in the Fox Entertainment Plaza.

A black-box theater is a square room with no fixed seating or stage. It can be reconfigured, Brien said, to meet the needs of whatever is going on. The Box accommodates performances too small for the 1,600 seat Fox Theater. The Riverside Youth Theater recently moved its shows from a Moreno Valley church to The Box. The theater group has found The Box is affordable and it has sold out the 200 seat venue almost every time. “Now they’re performing at one of the flagship venues of the city, and everyone knows who they are,” he said. “It’s one of the great side benefits of having a facility like this.”

He also noted events, such as the downtown Arts Walk (on the first Thursday of every month), go a long way to get people, who otherwise would never set foot in a gallery or theater, to check out the local visual or performing arts at virtually no cost. It all stirs the economic pot. “There’s a lot of connectivity that goes unseen by most people,” Brien said.

Now Brien must take The City of Arts and Innovation” to the next level. Brien said he has to find ways to take the arts to Riverside’s diverse population segments which typically don’t attend the array of events at the downtown venues. For example, he said a partnership with the parks and recreation department may be a way to reach families that might spend their free time together in a park rather than at an auditorium. Home mailers, he said, won’t work.

Generating money to fund the Community Arts Partnership Grants program is also critical to the Arts Council’s mission. The annual “Mayor’s Celebration,” formally known as the “Mayor’s Ball,” has been the Arts Council’s main fundraiser for three-plus decades. “It has been my goal for several years, “ Brien said, “to try to better incorporate the local arts organizations into the center of that event because really it should be a showcase of what it is that we have to offer.”

The money raised at the event goes right back into the community. The funds are spent on bussing school children to performances, and on teaching other arts organizations how to apply for their own grants, or on how to market themselves -- even on how to file their tax paperwork for non-profits.

It’s a big challenge for Brien, but, it’s all part of a day’s work in “The City of Arts and Innovation.”

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Dwight Cromie

Bill Friedl
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