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Last week, the city of Sedona held two meetings at the Sedona Public Library concerning the music and arts scene.

The first meeting aimed to discuss concerns about the city’s sound ordinance. City staff brought together venue owners, musicians, performers and homeowners near those venues that offer late-night music. As I wrote in an editorial on July 19, the meeting felt productive and most everyone appeared to depart satisfied a solution between an ad hoc committee would negotiate a compromise that would satisfy homeowners’ desire for quiet and privacy while satisfying performers and venue owners’ desire to perform for audiences.

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamThe next night’s meeting — a City Council listening session about the state of the arts — did not feel as responsive.

More than 150 artists, gallery owners, nonprofit organizers and volunteers, performers and art-loving residents had the opportunity to address six City Council members and city staff. Over two hours, the speakers provided a litany of complaints about the city’s behavior in relation to the arts scene. Speakers discussed city workers confiscating A-frame signs advertising arts events, the lack of low-cost performance spaces in the city, the high cost of renting the Sedona Performing Arts Center, the aforementioned sound ordinance, the vacant Sedona Cultural Park, the death of Studio Live, and most notably, the council’s decision to possibly disband several commissions, specifically the Arts and Culture Commission.

In the city’s defense, the Sedona Cultural Park property is in private hands and currently outside the city’s control. Even so, the dilapidated venue is a metaphor if there ever was one about the state of the city’s art scene.

Most of the other items, however, are well within the purview of the city and our elected leaders. Changing city rules about arts signage, waiving fees for certain arts-related permits and giving leeway through city code to festivals, dedicated venues and arts organizations isn’t hard to resolve, it’s paperwork … and good governance.

In response to the Sedona Performing Arts Center, Mayor Rob Adams suggested attendees take some of their concerns to the Sedona-Oak Creek School District Governing Board. True, the school district does control access to that venue, but the city shouldn’t simply wash its hands when residents stand up and ask the city to act to improve our community.

We elect our leaders to work on our behalf, not pass the buck from one bureaucracy to another. City Council and city staff should take those concerns to the school district and hammer out an agreement which would allow more, less well-funded organizations to use the venue with city assistance. Public and private grants, an intergovernmental agreement or even just dedicated funds would allow the community to take advantage of a beautiful performance hall that should never see a weekend without an event in a city like ours.

Council and staff have a lot on their plates already, from budget negotiations and zoning changes to tax rate discussions — all the more reason to prevent the Arts and Culture Commission from disappearing on Thursday, Aug. 1.

The listening session should provide an ample list of projects. The onus is now on the shoulders of council members — let’s hope they take the lead and demonstrate the vision of “a city animated by the arts.”

Christopher Fox Graham

News Editor

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