California Arts Council

State of California

Sand City uses arts to re-define itself

Published: 09-19-2013

Small areas have been able to utilize the arts to re-conceive their communities. Sand City is a tiny town of 300 that sits on the Monterey County coast just outside Seaside. It was first developed as the industrial area to build the other better-know entities nearby -- Fort Ord, Pebble Beach, etc.

"It was never really visualized as a community," said Sand City council member Todd Kruper. These were the warehouses and heavy-industrial support system, not a place to live. "It was really just one big concrete slab."

But then artists moved into the warehouse space (some illegally, until rezoning took place for mixed use), and the locals started to dub themselves "SoHo West," comparing the "industrial kitch" buildings of their artistic community to the famed arts area south of Houston Street in New York. A shopping center was developed to attract residents from nearby locales and provide sales tax revenue. The annual West End Celebration features live music, dance and street performances, food vendors, and the creative wares of local artists and artisans.

"We're seeing the creative class as a very important influence for a small city trying to become more mature," said Kruper.

This tiny town is strongly supported and supportive of its artistic base, as sees it as a key to bring in other industries like computer software developers and other entrepreneurs. Private developers have helps significantly, creating living and artists spaces near restaurants and coffee shops, and including a monthly farmers market to encourage social and economic activity. "They are actively re-creating the community that we never had."

While the loss of redevelopment funds hit the community hard, Sand City is looking to the arts to fill in the gap temporarily. One site intended to be a parking garage from redevelopment funding is in limbo, and determining what to do with the site with private development may take years. In the meantime, the space will be used for a temporary mural competition with prize funding that will enhance the area, rather than let the space become decrepit while builders and government figure out what to do with the space.

"We're saying we're not waiting for them," said Kruper, meaning the developers who are expected to take over the space in the future. "We're taking action to build and improve the community and be pro-active."

Article written in February 2013 by Arts Council staff


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