Jan 23 2021

OPINIONS: Support for Arts Center Lease

Dear Councilmembers:

The Piedmont Center for the Arts is a rare gem at the center of Piedmont offering the community a local venue for top-notch visual and performing arts.  The Center has been a place of discovery- the discovery of the immense local talent within Piedmont and the surrounding Bay Area, as well as a venue for strengthening our sense of community. As a longtime Piedmont resident and former board member and President of CHIME (now part of the Piedmont Arts Fund), I find the Center to be a most worthy and cherished addition to Piedmont’s cultural life and spirit of community.

Born of local dedication, this endeavor to bring an affordable venue for high quality musical, performing, visual and literary arts to the center of Piedmont, accessible to all, has lived up to its mission and should be supported and protected by the Town.

The Center truly enriches the lives of Piedmonters by bringing a broad array of exceptional exhibits and performances to our very doorstep. Tired after a long week and not anxious to travel into San Francisco for a long concert evening? The Center affords you the opportunity to enjoy a short cultural evening at a fraction of the cost of a San Francisco performance. Want to expose your kids to exciting programs that might interest or inspire them, but don’t want to drag them into museums or travel to long performances? The Center is the answer. Stop by on a walk home from school or a Saturday at the park. Exposure to the arts
does not have to be difficult or out of reach financially.

I strongly urge the City Council to renew the lease for this exceptional community-building and well-run venue.

Diana Meservey, Piedmont Resident


Hello all Piedmont City Council members:

The Center has been one of the most successful public/private projects that has happened in the city where I have resided for the last 26 years, and over the 40 years our firm has worked in it.  At a time when the arts in general are struggling, it’s even more important that we keep this particular flag flying.
If you were to ask the average Piedmonter whether they would consider eliminating an arts institution they would respond with a resounding “No Way!”
Thanks in advance,
Steve Nicholls, Oakland Resident


Please renew the lease of Piedmont Center for the Arts which is a vibrant center that enhances our community. It is lovely that in this downtown area just a couple of blocks there are essential services, the paper, the rec center pool and tennis courts and also the art center, a lovely building. Why isn’t the beautification society involved to make sure the center is with us for some time to come? There are enough bookings requests to last for years. Please do the right thing in the second hearing and give them a lease!
Tabatha Thomas, Piedmont Resident
Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

5 Responses to “OPINIONS: Support for Arts Center Lease”

  1. Steve Nicholls raises the false narrative that PCA is pushing in this discussion of lease renewal. Ask the average Piedmonter and they would say “no way” to elimination of the Arts Center. That question is irrelevant because PCA has provided no explanation why not approving the proposed lease would lead to its closure. PCA could obviously remain open under a different lease with more favorable terms for the community. Read posts on this site by Rick Raushenbush on how the lease can be improved.

    By all means ask the “average Piedmonter” but do so honestly and not with false premises. That hasn’t happened – there have been no open public discussions about the lease of 801 Magnolia as the city held in 2011 and 2013. Residents have been asking for more programs from the city for decades – senior and teen center, reading room, tutoring center – yet there has been no public discussion of these needs during the current lease negotiations. Read the opinion by Steve Schiller on this site to realize how 801 could really serve this community.

    Residents need to contact Council members to ensure that 801 Magnolia is put to its best use for the community. PCA’s dire warnings aside, there’s plenty of time for more public discussion – the lease doesn’t expire until June 2021. Email City Council and and ask that a public meeting on the uses of 801 be held before a new lease is approved. Council members can be reached at citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov.

  2. Garrett Keating is right. It’s not a question of “lease” or “no lease.” The question is how could the terms be improved to expand use of 801 Magnolia for greater community use. Everyone knows there is a dire shortage of meeting space in Piedmont. Where else — besides the Community Center, Veterans Hall, and PD Emergency room — can non-City meetings and events be held? City Council needs to hold a public discussion and take a closer look at the PCA lease.

  3. What evidence is there that the current leaseholders are denying reasonable access to the facility?

  4. Michael – regarding denying access, hard to say. The decidedly classical lineup begs the question whether PCA is discouraging other musical forms. And PCA has said that non-arts activities not inherent to its mission aren’t compatible with the building. I think that is the key point and concern – residents want more diverse programming at 801 yet the lease strengthens PCA’s role as gate keeper.
    What evidence is there that letting others schedule the space would be incompatible with PCA’s use of the space?

  5. The proposed new lease does not allow access to 801 Magnolia (the Art Center) by outside groups except as allowed by the Art Center Board. The scope of bookings has become much narrower than in previous years and appeals to a limited group of residents. Generous blocks of time can be granted to either the current art center board or an open community art commission. Art Center bookings have morphed into predominately chamber music recitals. Why not poetry slams, beer tastings, more jazz, pop and show tunes, country western, bluegrass, contemporary string quartets like Del Sol, one act plays, etc? The possibilities are nearly endless. This is also the perfect space for a daytime senior center and a variety of small meeting needs whose participants would certainly respect any art on the wall and allow evenings for a variety of performance and other uses.

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