DIXON – The city released funds for a newly formed arts and culture group after a debate that all expenses should go through the Dixon City Council.
The council budgeted $100,000 last year to go toward arts and culture enhancements, and there were arguments over whether there should be a formal commission created and appointed by the city or if it should be an informal group not bound by the Open Meetings Act.
With finances, a majority agreed in November that all funding requests go to the council for a final vote.
[ Dixon council clashes over use of arts and culture fund ]
Originally, a private arts and culture group was formed through the Dixon Chamber of Commerce and Main Street, but it met only a couple of times before going defunct because of COVID-19.
That group was reformed this year with seven members and requested to spend $19,200 Tuesday consisting of $3,000 for tables for events, $5,000 for event fencing and the rest for a mural project.
The 12 tables had already been purchased in order to arrive for Saturday’s Blues, Brews and BBQ festival, and a straw poll was taken from council members prior to the meeting about reimbursing the cost.
Councilman Dennis Considine said every expense needs to go through formal council approval beforehand as they originally decided.
“It seems to me we’re changing horses in the middle of this ride in this first year for this arts council,” Considine said.
Mayor Li Arellano Jr. and Councilman Chris Bishop agreed that all purchases need to go through a council vote, at least for the fiscal year, which ends April 30.
The council unanimously approved the funds.
Arellano said he would prefer having an official city group open to the public with formal procedures and approvals.
They need to lock down what the intent, mission and plan of the group are for the future, he said.
There was also confusion with separate grant writer expenses for $800 as the city already has a grant writer contract in place. City Manager Danny Langloss said he would get it figured out.
The group is applying for a $100,000 Our Town grant through the National Endowment for the Arts. It would require $100,000 in matching funds but would double their money if approved, said Nikki Lovett, who’s part of the group and also chairwoman of the Chamber Main Street board. They would request additional funds from the city if they’re successful.
Philip Atilano, group member and executive director of The Next Picture Show, said one of their long term goals is to create 10 arts and culture hubs in the next two years around town, such as at parks and other places.
The hubs would feature sculptures, murals and other artwork, as well as public seating, he said. They’ve also thought about incorporating educational aspects and a theme of “hands” with hidden hands in the artwork for community members and visitors to find.
The group previously spent about $9,000 including expenses for local artist and group member Nora Balayti to paint a mural of petunias at the Meraki Spa Salon building next to the riverfront, said Councilman Mike Venier, who’s also in the group. The mural cost around $3,470, not including equipment rentals, according to city financial documents.
The first expenses were approved by Venier last year and prompted the concerns of having full council approval and transparency.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the mural of petunias cost $3,470.