SM PIER — City officials have asked the board of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation to look into bringing more diversity to the historic landmark’s entertainment offerings, including the annual Twilight Concert Series.
Meanwhile, those in charge of managing the pier said they are exploring creative solutions on broadening the cultural diversity of the pier. The Santa Monica Pier Corporation is the nonprofit that runs Santa Monica’s most famous destination.
The concerns come on the heels of changes to the board’s makeup within the last year. The Twilight Concert Series has seen somewhat of a transformation since Rum & Humble first took over production in 2011 from King and Co., which managed the series for its first 26 years.
The Daily Press is a sponsor of the concert series and produces its weekly program.
During last week’s council meeting, Tony Vazquez, the elected body’s lone Latino member, expressed concern that on any given day at the pier many of the visitors are Latino and may feel alienated.
In Santa Monica, 13 percent of the population in 2010 was Latino or Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Vazquez said there were some missing voices in the concert series’ lineup.
“When I saw the lineup … , we saw no major [Latino] acts,” he said. “One of them is an opening act for Jimmy Cliff. You’ve had Jose Feliciano in the past. In the past you guys have done a good job with this and had renowned people. And for some reason, this year it just fell through the cracks.”
Mayor Pam O’Connor shared Vazquez’ concern of ensuring a level of diversity in the concert programming.
Judy Abdo, chair of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation Board, said one of the ways it made sure to bring energy to the pier was to hire curators who would be in charge of finding new, exciting acts. She said the board, which has seven members, does not do the programming and found out the actual names of the acts two days before the public did.
“So what their charge was … [is] come up with music that encompassed many different kinds of [genres] and would be attractive to different people than who normally come to the pier,” Abdo said. “We wanted to have more people enjoy the pier.”
She said the current lineup is the one the curators came up with, but stressed it was an “experiment,” and the first year the corporation was trying it with curators.
“The board is coming up with creative solutions on broadening the cultural diversity of the pier, but also every program on the pier,” she said.
Jay Farrand, Santa Monica Pier Corporation administrator, said in an e-mail that this year’s concert lineup is actually the most culturally diverse it’s ever been.
“Not sure where anyone got any other ideas,” he said in an e-mail. The lineup includes Norwegians, Palestinians, African-Americans, Latino-Americans and Jamaicans, he said.
The series of 10 concerts kicked off earlier this month with rock band Surfer Blood and will include the reigning godfather of reggae music, Jimmy Cliff, and newcomer Hanni El Khatib, a Los Angeles-based artist who’s been tearing up the airwaves and festival circuits all year.