Letter to the Editor | More time needed for input on PCA lease

Please allow more time for public input for the lease renewal at the Center for the Arts and think about how this space can better serve the entire community of Piedmont.

The Piedmont Center for the Arts is a gem for the residents of Piedmont. However, now that their 10 year lease is up for renewal, I am greatly concerned that the public hasn’t had adequate notice of this long-term lease that will affect the state of the arts in Piedmont. If pushed through this Monday, we will have missed a huge opportunity to look holistically at how we interact with the arts as a community.

I initially wrote a letter to PCA as a thank you for their support in passing on the subsidy they received from the city to the company I co-founded, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, in the form of affordable office space. Yet I am now concerned about the potential of another 10 year lease.

BACT outgrew PCA 5 years ago and since then, that office space has not housed an arts organization.

I chair the Piedmont Arts Fund (formerly PAINTS and CHIME) and sit on the oversight committee for the building of the new theater, another space that will create opportunity for the arts. 

I believe it would be a mistake for the City Council to approve a 10 year lease (that isn’t up for another 8 months) without taking a wider look at the needs of the community as a whole and making sure that the space at 801 Magnolia is used in the best interest of the entire Piedmont Arts Community.  

Because the Piedmont Center for the Arts benefits financially from the city’s generosity, we need a coordinated effort to ensure that the programming and those holding the keys to access this arts facility actually represent us in an equitable way. 

There are lots of different ways to approach this that could be built into the lease, including:

  • A mandate to ensure board seats for other community stakeholders that represent diverse ages and interests;
  • A mandate that the subsidy is passed on to arts organizations renting the space;
  • Ensure that a certain number of hours are available free of charge to PUSD arts students;
  • Or even create an independent arts commission (similar to the recreation commission) that has oversight of the space and can create an action plan that allows the City to support the arts in a holistic way.

Arts organizations thrive on community support and truly are most functional when they have municipal support.

My concern with a 10-year renewal of the lease of PCA is that a very small independent non-profit is reaping the benefits of a high value city space for free and there is neither a mandate from the city to share the subsidy nor run the space in a fair and equitable way. 

COVID has hit a major pause on the arts, and there is no need to agree to a 10 year lease without allowing this time to pause and inform the greater community (many of whom are managing distance learning and are stretched thin) and garner their input. 

Please hit pause and think like an artist – think creatively, think independently, think critically, and think about how making art allows us to come together to benefit the ENTIRE Piedmont community.

One thought on “Letter to the Editor | More time needed for input on PCA lease

  1. So appreciate your perspective on this city asset/space and hope the solution includes a more thoughtful and equitable plan. City Council should not be rushing this decision and should be taking time and actively reaching out to the broader community to understand how this asset will be best utilized.

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