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Sacramento council members, supervisors to help serve up arts fundraiser

By Edward Ortiz

Public servants will step into the role of servers this Sunday at Ella Dining Room & Bar as Sacramento City Council members and county supervisors try a fresh approach to raising funds for the arts.

The benefit, the brainchild of council member Darrell Fong, will help the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission make up government cuts to its cultural grants program. It is the latest example of how arts organizations are adopting novel fundraising models to make up dwindling allocations from state and local budgets.

Yet another example will play out Nov. 10 at Sacramento’s Verge Center for the Arts, where 11 artists have created holes for an indoor miniature golf course in the nonprofit’s S Street warehouse.

“We’re all in a bad situation because of the economy,” said Liv Moe, Verge’s executive director. “I feel that people have to be more creative to get people through the door. People want to see things that are different, fun and interesting.”

Fong said he was drawn to the symbolic nature of elected officials getting their immediate marching orders from the public – for an altruistic cause.

“Events like this are going to play a more important role in funding certain types of organizations like SMAC and the public libraries,” Fong said. “There’s only so much money to go around, a lot of monies are already allocated.”

After a conversation with Rhyena Halpern, director of the Sacramento arts commission, Fong decided something must be done to raise money for the organization.

Since 2008, the commission’s budget has dropped by 62 percent because of cuts by the city, county and state. Halpern is trying to give an injection to the Cultural Arts Awards fund, which dropped by $65,000 as part of cuts for 2012.

The fund provides grants of $1,000 to $25,000 to aid nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in the city and county of Sacramento to meet their general operating expenses.

Recently, former California Arts Council director Muriel Johnson raised $39,000 to make up the cuts to the fund. As of Friday afternoon, 60 percent of reservation slots at Ella, 1131 K St., had been filled for Sunday’s event.

Local restaurateur Randall Selland will be the evening’s emcee, and his downtown Sacramento restaurant is donating staff time as well as in-kind donation on a day when Ella is typically closed.

“We’re the kind of community that supports the arts only in the periphery,” said Selland. “Why wouldn’t I want to do this for SMAC?

“This is the kind of community activism that brings people together. And this time the politicians are not the ones asking for money.”

Selland isn’t guaranteeing that the service in his white linen establishment is going to live up to its usual standards.

“These are politicians … so the hardest thing to get a handle on will be for them to carry the food level and not spill it on customers,” he said. “People think delivering food is an easy thing to do. This will prove that there’s more to waiting tables than just moving plates from one spot to the next.”

Proving that politicos can put ego aside in service to the community, a number of Fong’s colleagues are joining him in serving: Angelique Ashby, Steve Cohn, Kevin McCarty, Bonnie Pannell, Jay Schenirer and Sandy Sheedy from the City Council, plus Sacramento County supervisors Roberta MacGlashan, Don Nottoli and Phil Serna.

At a cost of $250 a person, the Ella event is geared to bigger spenders than the Verge Center’s golf event. Moe said Verge will charge $15 per person, and $40 for four players. Proceeds will go to expand Verge’s studios for artists-in-residence.

The event will include a live DJ, an indoor selection of local food trucks and a free open house for the center at 625 S St.

The Art Golf idea originated with current Verge board member William Otton, who undertook a similar event in Corpus Christi, Texas, when he was director of the city’s Art Museum of South Texas.

Moe believes that opening Sacramento up to what is going on nationally is a good thing.

Ideas from afar, however fresh and promising, are not often welcome here, she said.

“I don’t know why these sort of things don’t percolate in the Sacramento community more,” Moe said. “What do we have to lose?”


Get more information on the events:

• Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, (916) 808-7338, (916) 715-5110,

• Verge Center for the Arts’ Art Golf event, (916) 448-2985

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