San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and the Arts

The arts are an important part of everyone’s life, whether they realize it or not. From something as basic as advertisement photography and doodles on cereal boxes, to the refined music of the Symphony and the movement of ballet, arts permeate our lives. They also are a driving force in society and the economy, and this is something that San Diego’s new mayor made clear that he understands when he met with the San Diego Arts and Culture Community yesterday.


On January 24, 2013 Mayor Bob Filner joined representatives from around San Diego at the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition general meeting. The Coalitionmeets regularly to join heads about what the arts are doing in San Diego, how the arts can influence city and county policy, and create an air of collaboration and camaraderie between the city’s Arts and Culture organizations. Yesterday, representatives from groups large and small were in attendance. From the Old Globe to Mo’Olelo, from the Commission for Arts and Culture to Arts Pulse, the room was packed with a veritable cornucopia of culture. California Ballet Company was just one of many in attendance to hear the Mayor speak.

It’s no secret that former Mayor Jerry Sanders was a friend of the arts. His support of the work being done in San Diego allowed the Arts and Culture scene to boom under his administration – even in the face of an economic recession. With his term ending, arts across San Diego were invariably concerned with who would replace him, and whether support for the arts would continue. The first thing on Mayor Filner‘s agenda for his appearance yesterday was to reassure the San Diego arts community that he not only supports the arts, but also understands their importance to San Diego’s prosperity. Mayor Filner told the gathered crowd that he sees an important part of his job as supporting what the arts are doing.

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The Mayor spoke in length about the importance of the arts in education. Mayor Filner is, in actuality, Dr. Filner. The Mayor has a Ph.D in History, was a professor at San Diego State University for 20 years, and served on his school board for many years. In short, the man understands education. Many of you are familiar with S.T.E.M.: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The current trend in school is to focus on these areas in order to provide children with the proper skill sets for success in the real world. Mayor Filner proposes to take this a step forward in San Diego and change S.T.E.M. to S.T.E.A.M. – where the “A” stands for Art. He appears to be well versed in studies showing that a good arts education leads to improved learning and performance in the maths and sciences.

But education was not the only focus of Mayor Filner’s Q and A. He informed those gathered that the political climate is changing.No longer will Arts and Culture organizations have to fight for what they need. Mayor Filner assured  those present that should they need something, all the arts and culture organizations have to do is ask and he would do everything in his power to address their issues. That’s not to say that he has a magic wand. He’ll still be constrained by bureaucratic and budgetary concerns, but he’s in the arts’ court from the start. With increased ability to achieve results comes increased responsibility from the Arts and Culture community. The Mayor asked those present to come together, prioritize, integrate, and synthesize their needs. Only as a united front will the Arts and Culture community achieve great results under Mayor Filner’s administration.

One of the Mayor’s biggest priorities appears to be collaboration with our neighbors across the border. Mayor Filner made clear that he sees our city as the biggest bi-national center in the country. He wants to take advantage of that. The width and breadth of culture in Tijuana is as engaging as that found in San Diego, and the Mayor would like to see more collaboration between Mexico and San Diego. In that spirit, California Ballet Company has invited the dance company Pendulo Cero to join us onstage at our upcoming production of Beyond the Barre on February 23, 2013. This will only be the first of many planned international collaborations. CLICK HERE for more information.

The energy in the room following the Mayor’s Q and A session was electric. There was difficulty in regaining focus to attend to Coalition business and the crowd buzzed amongst themselves with apparent anticipation. The message taken away from the Mayor’s meeting with the Arts and Culture community was that we have an ally in the Mayor’s Office, and it’s up to us to achieve our goals over the next four to eight years. Mayor Filner has big expectations for San Diego’s arts and culture, and he wants to see even bigger results.


Bob Filner mayoral portrait

“A great city has to have great arts and culture. . . we are not yet a great city.”

 — Mayor Bob Filner on San Diego’s support for Arts and Culture


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