The Turlock City Arts Commission has held its final meeting.
The Turlock City Council unanimously approved disbanding the Arts Commission on Tuesday, due to declining membership and a lack of Arts Commission activity.
The Arts Commission’s duties and its few remaining members will be merged into an expanded nine-member Parks, Recreation and Community Programs Commission, effectively immediately.
In recent years the Arts Commission has largely concerned itself with public art projects and hanging art in the City Hall Gallery, due to a lack of funding for larger projects. Most of the commission’s fundraising events were taken over by the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation, limiting the Arts Commission’s capabilities.
“Staff would offer that this change is, in fact, a win, as it comes as a result of the Arts Commission meeting one of its long term goals,” said Turlock Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder.
Since its 1979 founding, the Arts Commission was historically one of Turlock’s most powerful boards, consisting of 25 appointed members who worked to advance all things artistic in the City of Turlock. Turlock’s re-build Carnegie Arts Center exists, in large part, because of the Turlock City Arts Commission’s advocacy.
But after the City of Turlock eliminated the position of a paid city Arts Facilitator in 2009, the commission began a steady decline and tenuous existence.
Turlock City Arts Commission meetings were helmed by Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities Division staff. While interested in the arts, the commission no longer had a dedicated city staff member.
Then-Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze first suggested eliminating the Arts Commission during a 2010 budget workshop, handing over the reigns for all things art to the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation Board. Mayor John Lazar also endorsed the proposal at that time, but it never came to a council vote.
The Arts Commission’s elimination formally came before the Turlock City Council in April 2012, with disbandment recommended by Turlock City Staff. At that time, the Commission had just six members, and had met six times in 14 months.
“There’s a lot of history, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that since we lost our city arts facilitator and we don’t have any money coming in for Arts Commission things – anything at all, we have to raise every penny for everything we do,” said then-Arts Commission Chair Candice Klaschus at the time. “Then the Carnegie was separated from us, and now you essentially have two entities competing for the same pot of money.”
But the Arts Commission was granted a brief reprieve at the time. Instead of eliminating the commission entirely, the Turlock City Council shrank the board from 25 members to seven, with two alternates, a shift intended to help the board reach quorum.
Despite a brief surge in interest and a few new members, the smaller commission remained, ultimately, unable to routinely meet quorum.
In recent years, the Arts Commission has struggled to field enough members to even hold a meeting. Just three members remained on the commission at the time of its dissolution, and the commission has not held a meeting in three months.
The merged Parks and Arts Commission will allow projects to move forward more quickly, Van Guilder said, and reduce the staff time needed to manage two commissions. The merged commission will work to update its goals in the coming weeks and months to reflect its new mission.