Town Square

Proposed term limits irk Cubberley artists

Original post made on Feb 19, 2014

With lease negotiations over Cubberley Community Center approaching the finish line, Palo Alto officials are considering a new policy that could displace some of the artists whose studios have long occupied Cubberley.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 11:02 PM


Posted by Resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 19, 2014 at 9:59 am

Maybe term limits will turn out to be a good thing, so we don't have to look at this bureaucratically chosen art for too long. Who is this administration to think they should chose the kind of art Palo Alto wants to see and contemporary artists want to make? There are several installation artists there now and at least two doing"new media" video stuff. It is a diverse and committed group now that were the best of who applied. Want more artists passing through, do your administrative job and utilize the jurying process. Or have you decided to hand-pick some new artists that reflect your tastes. Better keep the Palo Alto resident ratio the same.

Posted by Grrrr
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:01 am

Yes lets create an artist zoo. I would love to visit and watch the antics of such creatures (every "Saturday and Sunday"). Perhaps we can get them to jump through hoops. All it takes is a small discount on studio space and we will have loads of them knocking on our door, waiting to be put on display, and giving freely of their time and genius. I hope the zoo keepers get pith helmets. They are so cool.

Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:34 am

Can I have subsidised work space for 20 years so I can be an artiste?

Posted by Artist
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:57 am

To Marc, Yes you can...if you are good enough, can pay the $500/month it costs (barely subsidized)for a studio, you are willing to teach for the City, create lecture series and special projects and donate a work to the City--you too can be an "artiste." Oh, by the way, 80% of these people have Masters degrees, which you might also need, in art (although one was a mathematician, one a chemist and one a computer scientist first, so they have those degrees and unusual perspectives as well). Step up Marc, let's see what you have to say about our culture and society at this time and place. Artists hold the mirror up--though it is often unappreciated during its time; that's OK, because artistes commit their lives to continue making. These changes will only encourage an amazing group of people to branch out and be better; Palo Alto's (minus Marc)loss.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 12:02 pm

> you are willing to teach for the City, create lecture series
> and special projects and donate a work to the City

What evidence can you provide that each of the artists that have been subsidized by the Utility ratepayers and the taxpayers have done any of these things--each year of their tenancy?

Where is the paper trail that documents these claims? Is there a web-site? Where are the pieces of art housed?

Oh, and does these obligations appear in each and every contract offered to the subsidized artists?

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Wow - an amazing amount of art-hate from just a couple of posters. The fact that there's any art left in Sili Valley is amazing. It's a joy to be able to discuss art instead of apps, ask questions about inspiration and technique instead of VC funding and marketing, and see a result that isn't necessarily on a computer screen.

A reminder from Alfred North Whitehead- A general definition of civilization: a civilized society is exhibiting the five qualities of truth, beauty, adventure, art, peace.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm

> an amazing amount of art-hate

Or possibly an amazing amount of hostility towards subsidy-abuse, which has been running rampant in this city for decades.

In the past, many of these so-called "artists" have not even been Palo Alto residents. Their claim that not being given a life time subsidy of over $1,000 a month would be "unfair" demonstrates just how unrealistic, and greedy, these people are.

Posted by Please become informed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm

As a resident who lives close to Cubberly I have often attended the open studio events that these artists participate in, and these good people are for REAL. If you have visited these studios, you would see that there is nothing deluxe about the rooms given to the artists. I don't know where the article gets the notion of "market rate" for this run down, drab facility. The article also does not mention the significant amount of volunteer work and teaching that these artists have provided to the city for art classes and events at the Art Center. I am NOT one of these artists, I just happen to appreciate their talent and what they do for the city.

Here are some links about these artists for anyone who wishes to be better informed.
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link (a program originated by one of the Cubberly artists on behalf on the City while the Arts Center was closed for renovations)

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

> I don't know where the article gets the notion of "market rate"
> for this run down, drab facility.

Everything has a "market rate"--whether it is run down, drab, or whatever. The rates for these rentals has never been linked to market rates. There are any number of rentals just across San Antonio road that that could be compared for similarity of monthly rental, and amenities available to the occupants.

Thanks for the links. Noticeably absent, of course, is any sense of community participation in these events. Also missing is any sense of gratitude on the part of the occupants of these subsidized rental areas for the cost savings made available to them--which would likely be considerable given a multiple-year occupancy.

Time for a change!

Posted by Artist
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Joe, all this information is public, but you might actually have to do some work to find it... go by City hall to see art hanging in the offices, go to one of the public meetings, call the Art Center to find out about the collection, go to one of the lecture series, take a class, participate in your community rather than sitting at home grousing on your computer about people who are deeply involved in their community. I rent an industrial space (much better for art than classrooms with asbestos tiles) and pay $1 a foot. Cubberley is barely subsidized and the City expects a lot in return. Plus these people show internationally and get the name of Palo Alto out in the world beyond the tech industry. These things obviously don't matter to you, but they fortunately matter to many. I'm glad our community has so much art--wish they weren't chasing away some treasures!

Posted by other data
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Another way to look at it is the cost to the city per square foot leased (since that is the cost to taxpayers rather than market rate). "residents pay about 82 cents per square foot for land whose value is estimated at $2 to $3 per square foot; non-residents pay 91 cents per square foot). The city's subsidy is valued at about $165,000 annually." It does not say how many square feet are in use and what is taxpayer cost per square foot to lease from PAUSD. Since there are many use types (gyms, classrooms, temp library)it will be inexact, and likely will not include overhead for the City employees who manage the leases and site. If $165K is accurate, maybe $3/year per resident is a good investment. I favor term limits since all subsidies are subject to abuse, due to the value to the subsidized, as in NYC rent control units. In our case an artist could sublet 1/3 of their scarce space "at market" to cover their whole subsidy. Long term limits are good. The previous City manager there ran a little fiefdom favoring entrenched users of all facilities, which creates a stale environment and no opportunities for new users, in my opinion.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Please tell me that the art spaces are leased to Palo Alto residents - not non-residents.

If leased to non-residents...what are we doing here? Is this Children's Theater II?

I agree that there should be some sort of term limit - but first priority for all spaces should go to Palo Alto residents.

Posted by PAtron of the Arts
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2014 at 7:38 am

What makes Palo Alto special is the spectrum of the community and culture. It is not just a residence for high-tech workers. We have valued diversity, invested in public spaces, education, athletics and the arts.

What is maddening about this article and the current debate here is the assumption that if the city hasn't documented all of the contributions of the Cubberley Artists, that it must be zero; that being a professional artist requires no talent, effort or sacrifice; and that art itself is of less value than yet another tennis court.

Far from being dilettante freeloaders, these artists had created something special. Their reputations around the Bay Area as well as globally reflected well on Palo Alto. Beyond their work, they taught classes for the city, they produced lectures, and they developed community building projects. The fact that, through regime change in the city, there was an absence of support, bookkeeping and appreciation, doesn't mean that there wasn't an earnest effort by these artists to give back. This abrupt and ham-handed policy has so disrespected many of these artists' contributions that we are now seeing a flight from Cubberley of the very artists that were models of what the city hopes to have.

The current administration hopes to reboot the program and eventually, they may be able to create something stronger than what we had. However, we have severely wounded the program in the process, tarnishing artists unfairly and damaging Palo Alto's reputation among the art community. Artists are leaving the program in droves while the administrators create excuses about why it takes them so long to jury in new artists to vacant studios. Administrators have always had the power to put whomever they wanted into those studios. These term-limits are a way of dealing with a perception problem created to a large degree by their own incompetence in managing the program that they've been ignoring for years.

Posted by x
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm

How about a term limit of one year, to give a far greater number of artists a chance at some studio space? The idea that a few people can monopolize this space for 15+ years is ridiculous. Move on and give someone else a chance!