The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Pomona ready to launch an effort to use the arts to improve its community and its residents

by Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

POMONA – The arts serves as food for the mind and soul but in Pomona efforts are under way to use culture to build communities, empower people and bolster community pride.

Residents, artists, business people and others have all been collaborating and together have helped develop a cultural plan approved Pomona City Council members in February.

Some of those same people participated in the work that led to the development of a visual and performing arts education plan – known as the Arts for All plan – adopted by the Pomona Unified School District Board of Education last month.

“It’s interesting because it’s all coming together at the same time,” said Pomona resident and artist A.S. Ashley.

Ashley participated in developing both plans and is a firm believer that culture can play a critical role in fighting crime, bringing businesses to the city and building community pride.

Both plans provide opportunities for greater interaction among professional artists and students leading to solid arts education programs, he said.

Those programs can lead to art projects that can turn a neglected vacant lot or a vandalized wall into a setting for a student sculpture or mural, Ashley said.

That same project can become a source of pride for those in the neighborhood and inspire others to improve the look of their properties, he said.

Through collaborative effort organization ranging from small church groups to larger non-profits will be able to offer young people opportunities that will also allow to engage in positive activities instead of taking a path that involves gangs or crime, Ashley said.

Through this and many other efforts “the city can show that it cares and the community can show that it cares,” Ashley said.

The arts can also function as mini redevelopment projects by improving the look and feel of a community enough to draw the attention of business people and entice them to open businesses or start new developments, he said.

Andi Campognone said the arts can do a great deal for Pomona without requiring massive amounts of money.

Campognone, a member of the city’s Cultural Arts Commission and co-chairwoman of the Cultural Plan Committee, said with modest investments projects can be carried out that lift people’s spirits and inspire them to became involved in their community.

Sunday at 2 p.m. a mural project will be unveiled at the Pomona Downtown Center that was completed by four seniors from the School of Arts and Enterprise before they graduated this year.

Within a one-month period the students approached Campognone and proposed creating a mural, developed the concept and design and completed the art project.

The whole project, which Campognone and her husband funded cost a few hundred dollars, she said.

The mural is intended to serve as a marque for a small theater located within the center.

“In addition to being aesthetically nice, it was functional,” Campognone said.

While the artistic aspect of the project is important there is more to such a project, she said.

“It’s less about the art and more about what it says about the city and the community relationships,” Campognone said.

Pomona has a long history of fostering cultural activities and over time many of those efforts have been completed by residents and business people.

The efforts of the city and the school district are going to benefit all of Pomona, said Vicki Tessier, visual and performing arts teacher specialist for Pomona Unified.

In the future “our citizenry, our students will the opportunity to make more art and to see more art,” she said.

Residents of all ages will have greater opportunities through music, dance, theater or other forms of art to explore Pomona’s rich culture and history, Tessier said.

Future arts programs will do something else.

“It’s giving kids the tools to be able to communicate and tell their stories to the community,” Tessier said.

Although Pomona, like many other communities, is experiencing difficult financial times people are actively looking for ways to grow the various arts related programs scattered across the city, she said.

Through all the coming opportunities Pomona will also be able to show people outside the city, and even some within it, that Pomona has much to offer to future residents, to businesses and visitors, Ashley said.

Picture information: Brass Section Leader Irving Ortiz, 17 of Pomona, works his group during a band camp at Garey High School in Pomona August 18, 2011. Pomona took steps earlier this year to develop a cultural plan for the city and this week Pomona Unified adopted an arts plan for schools. (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)

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