Whether you moved to Santa Monica in 1968 or 1998 or 2018, the first night in the City by the Sea likely looked the same.
Like thousands of others who’ve moved here seeking sun, sand and Southern California living, Negin Singh’s first night as a resident began with a walk heading west.
Fresh out of college, she unpacked her bags in her new apartment at 9th and Arizona. A little nervous about the huge leap of faith she had taken after graduating from UC Irvine, she ventured out of her new place and took a walk to the iconic Santa Monica Pier to stick her toes in the sand.
That night just happened to be the now defunct Glow Festival. It was 2008 and the Pier was packed with artists and interactive installations that juxtaposed neon colors against the night sky. For the aspiring artist, it was both exhilarating and reassuring.
“To be a 21-year-old artist their first night in the city and to be at a festival with jubilation everywhere with art and music, I just felt it was exactly where I wanted to be at that exact time,” Singh said.
Nearly ten years later, sitting in front of the carousel inside the historic Loof Hippodrome, the new executive director of the Pier Corporation feels that way once again.
“I think the fact that I’m new helps in this exact moment,” Singh said. In her new role, she is tasked with a big challenge: putting on a newly reimagined Twilight Concert Series in less than a year. Singh believes an outsider’s perspective is exactly what the concerts need. “I get to ask questions that maybe we haven’t asked in a while with a new set of eyes and a new set of ears. I think that the Twilight Series is going to be awesome. I think that we are going to find ways to plug in a more local aspect to it and make it more about the local experience versus ‘hey there’s a party at the beach.’”
Just a month ago, the City Council said the concert series would go on in 2018, despite police and staff recommendations to put TCS on hiatus over cost and safety concerns. In the wake of the mass shooting at a country concert in Las Vegas, Santa Monica’s interim police chief says the thousands of people who sit on the beach during the concerts is extremely concerning and difficult to keep safe.
Singh wants to pivot the focus to the Pier. The concert series will span no more than six nights after Labor Day when kids have gone back to school and the summer tourist season has ebbed. The Council dedicated just $400,000 for public safety, which cost over a $1 million in 2017, with the mandate to suspend the series when the money runs out. (There is no update on whether the City will accept Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s million dollar offer to fund security.)
Since moving to Santa Monica and later living on the eastside of Los Angeles and Culver City, Singh spent eight years engineering campaigns and projects in the arts, technology and cultural sectors. She best known for creating Brokechella (now known as BROKE LA), which grew over the years from 500 disappointed music fans who couldn’t afford Coachella tickets to 8,000 annual attendees looking to find emerging artists.
Singh has rebranded festivals before and she says it’s all about finding the right combination of timing, artists and promotion.
“We’re going to create the right cocktail,” Singh said. “Does it mean moving the hours? Does it mean changing the day of the week? Everything is on the table with the goal of keeping the elements that people love while responding to the world that we’re in right now and the location that we’re in right now.”
The artist says she’s talking to crowd control experts and brainstorming ideas for “creative safety.” For example, focusing the crowd around an art installation and switching the focus of the event to the Pier and away from the sand.
“I really like big experiences when lots of people are going in and sharing in a cultural exchange,” Singh said.
The executive director is just one of several new faces who joined the corporation in January. New members Daniela Martin, Carter Rubin and Gray Bright have joined Abby Arnold, Misti Kerns, Christopher Foster and Allan Lipsky on the board.