San Benito County artists came together to share their concerns about the challenges artists are currently facing in the county.
The concerns shared were over the absence of a performing arts venue, absence of a space for artist collaboration, a need for equitable and accessible arts education and a county budget for public art programs. Attendees also shared what they envisioned for San Benito County in 10 years—with the best and worst possible outcomes—if these issues were to be tended to or not addressed.
“The [San Benito] Stage Company’s been around since ‘99, and we strive to do four to five shows per year for the last few years,” said San Benito Stage Company’s facilities manager Allen Schneider. “It has been hard to put on those shows not knowing where we’re going to do it, and trying to secure a venue at the last minute.”
Schneider said with the little amount of venues in the county, the choices—and cost options—are limited.
“But you’ve got to put on your show,” he added. “It would be nice to have a permanent location where we can schedule our events when we need to.”
Many attendees also said they felt the arts have been undervalued and unsupported in the county, and many would like to see the county set aside a budget for the arts.
“I think that for me, a priority should be more public support,” said Heidi Jumper, Director of Marketing and Outreach with the San Benito County Arts Council. “I also think that our local cities and our county government need to designate their budget funding for public art programs and our initiatives, locally.”
The best possible outcomes discussed would be that in 10 years there is more collaboration of the arts among towns in the county, the county finds itself to be a popular art community, an arts venue and center is built, the county becomes more collaborative and supportive of the arts, and the county government develops a budget for the arts.
The worst possible outcomes discussed were that Hollister remains a bedroom community, that children raised in the county will not stay in the county after high school, art grants and resources are lost, and the county loses artists and the creative community currently here.
“I just want to make sure that whatever residents do, that they keep it local,” said Sarah Minzghor, who was a parent and helper with Fusion Kids Center. “That we’re supporting the local people who are already here doing stuff.”
The meeting, attended by 12 community members with different artistic backgrounds (music, theater, dance, graphic, paint), was held at The Community Foundation for San Benito County’s Epicenter in Hollister on Sept. 12 as part of BenitoLink’s Community Vision San Benito County listening sessions.
BenitoLink’s listening sessions are a continuation of those done by the Community Foundation for San Benito County. Several notable results followed the foundation’s 2011-12 listening sessions.
- The founding of BenitoLink, a nonprofit news organization serving the residents of San Benito County with local and regional news and information
- The REACH Parks Foundation, which has been central to the development of parks and walking trails in San Benito County
- The Community Foundation Women’s Fund, which has helped women with financial support and educational programs
- Local nonprofits such as the San Benito County Farm Bureau identified the need for leaders with a better understanding of agriculture, and worked to bring qualified team members into leadership positions
RSVPs to attend the listening sessions are required. To RSVP, please fill out this form, or email email@example.com.
The 2023 Vision San Benito County Listening sessions are supported by the Calhoun/Christiano Family Fund and the Community Foundation for San Benito County. There are approximately 20 Listening Sessions scheduled throughout September to hear about issues and solutions from many small segments of the community. BenitoLink is reporting back the results in articles about each session.