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Sedona’s art scene is slowly recovering from the Great Recession, but its biggest impediment might be the city itself.

Residents have gotten their money’s worth from the Sedona Performing Arts Center. The venue has hosted Sedona Red Rock High School plays, operas broadcast live, and film screenings presented by the Sedona International Film Festival, which incidentally recorded its best attendance ever this year.

Assistant Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamThe Sedona Area Guild of Artists has added another tier of artistic professionalism to the local ranks and aims to one day open an art museum paying tribute to artists who have called the city home.

Thanks to the generosity of Mary D. Fisher and those who took up her challenge, she and SIFF Executive Director Patrick Schweiss opened the Mary D. Fisher Theatre this year. It will be used for film screenings and live performances for years to come.

Up the street at Studio Live, the Sedona Performing Arts Alliance — formerly known as the Sedona Performers Guild — opened The Backyard, an outdoor venue, and will soon unveil a new space for the Sedona Youth Orchestra to practice and perform.

Earlier this year, the Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park stage overcame its last major hurdle and will soon be under construction.

Residents obviously like art everywhere. Too bad the city doesn’t. All these projects were spearheaded by enthusiastic residents, not the city, and in some cases in spite of it.

The city of Sedona advertises itself as a “city animated by the arts,” and makes a point of including that phrase in its vision statement. It looks great on a bumper sticker but is lousy in practice.

Surely a city that prides itself on having a vibrant, active art scene wouldn’t permit a 3,000-seat amphitheater to sit fallow for eight years. Granted, the Sedona Cultural Park is privately owned and in escrow purgatory, but it metaphorically illustrates how the city feels about its art scene.

For instance, going into the vote on the Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park, some supporters expected the vote to be a lopsided defeat. It took a lengthy debate by advocates to flip the votes in favor.

The city assumes residents want their art nicely packaged, confined to regulated pockets and above all, at a whisper. Perhaps the vision statement should read, a “city animated by the arts — providing aforementioned art stays within licensed and permitted spaces, ceases at 10 p.m., and maintains volume levels at or below noise restrictions.”

Busking — playing music on the sidewalk — is effectively banned if musicians play without a permit or business license. A bad musician, one harassing people for money, or blocking access to a business is one thing, but a great guitarist or street performer is what winds up going viral on YouTube. Viral is good — it makes people want to visit.

Many residents who’ve attended outdoor concerts in the city have seen uniformed Sedona police officers standing on the fringe armed with a decibel meter after a resident complained about the noise — 65 decibels in commercial areas and 3 decibels inside a residence across property lines, according to Chapter 8.25 of City Code.

Sedona’s finest are only doing their duty, so rather than complain about rule enforcers, maybe it’s time to change the rules by raising the levels or extending the time. Maybe residents within certain noise corridors always get free entry to shows. Most police officers would rather keep streets safe than debate acoustics and resonance anyway.

Art in public places should encourage art in more public places, not merely at City Hall. While putting art in roundabouts is commendable, it’s a token gesture and few of us feel more “animated” by it.

Residents involved in the kerfuffles over streetlights on State Route 89A, noise from planes at the Sedona Airport and in-fighting at Sedona Fire District meetings would better spend their energy debating who should kick off the 2013 Sedona Cultural Park season — then work to reopen the park, hopefully with a little help from a more supportive city.


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  • Jerry Buley

    well written! <br /><br />Behind the scenes, there is a glimmering of hope. The mayor's initiatives regarding a Sedona Art Institute is the first (and welcome) attempt at incorporating art and artists in a plan to help improve the city's bottom line. I look forward to the implementation.<br /><br />Jerry Buley

  • Elmer Ville

    A very well written article! Very informative and inspirational!<br />If all parties addressed here were to collaborate and cooperate, great things could be achieved for the great city of Sedona!

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