Don't tell Johnny Carson, but culture and Burbank are not necessarily mutually exclusive. At least Kate Higgins doesn't think so.
Higgins, director of the newly formed Fine Arts Federation of Burbank, finds it strange that city officials and the Chamber of Commerce promote Burbank as the "entertainment capital of the world." She acknowledges that the city is the home of several motion picture and television studios but complains that it offers little culture for its residents.
So Higgins is trying to get some capital to bring culture to Burbank--plays, sculpture, paintings and maybe even an art gallery. She wants such projects to be financed by developers who build in Burbank. Her group has even adopted a slogan, "I Believe in Burbank," which is on buttons being distributed in the city.
Under a proposal that Higgins' federation has made to the City Council, 1% of fees that developers pay to the city would go to support the arts. Developers could be required to include some sort of art on their development site or contribute to a fund that would finance arts projects and facilities.
Similar ordinances have been adopted in several other cities, including Los Angeles.
"Burbank is basically regarded as sort of a backwoods town, sort of a sleepy bedroom community where there's nothing to do," Higgins said. "That view is not totally unfounded, because there is not much to do here, culturally or otherwise.
"But a city-supported arts program is the fastest way to project a change in the Burbank image and life style. The federation believes that Burbank could change and become a renaissance city which supported the arts."
But the city officials analyzing Higgins' proposal, which was submitted in the fall, have not greeted it with a standing ovation. Officials estimate that, with $500 million to $600 million worth of redevelopment projects being considered by the city, the arts fund could draw as much as $6 million.
"One percent doesn't sound like all that much but, in the overall picture, that's a lot of money," Mayor Mary Lou Howard said. "I really believe that the city should be involved in a program like this, but we have a lot of other priorities. Just to clear up traffic congestion around the Media District where the studios are located, with all the development going on in that area, has the potential of costing us millions and millions of dollars."
City Manager Robert (Bud) Ovrom said officials are also concerned that developers would be asked to carry a disproportionate share of arts sponsorship. "This wouldn't cost the city anything, but how much should the city burden the would-be developers?" Ovrom said. "If we allow this, what else would we allow, and at what point do we stop? This is what we have to evaluate right now."
Higgins said such ordinances have worked in other cities. "There are sculptures and artwork all around downtown Los Angeles, and that is the type of thing we are looking for," she said. "We could develop an arts commission which would survey all the ideas. The city would have the final say in what goes up."