SM PIER — Planning is already underway to bring a little Glow back to Santa Monica.

Over a year and a half of organizing and fundraising will take place before the Glow art festival, with its 20 massive installations and over 100 artists, makes its return to the Santa Monica Pier on Sept. 28, 2013.

In that time, the staff at Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Division will work to raise outside donations for the event, which receives $100,000 in public funds, as well as select the artists and try to improve accessibility to the works, said Jessica Cusick, cultural affairs manager with City Hall.

“Not only do we have to select the artists, they have to think about what they’re going to do,” Cusick said. “Fundraising is a big chunk of it, and not short-changing all of the other responsibilities that come through our office.”

2013 will be the third incarnation of the Glow festival, which debuted in Santa Monica in 2008 to mixed reviews.

The art was well-received, but the 200,000 people that swarmed the city expecting a rave atmosphere killed the mood for many who had difficulty getting to the installations at the heart of the event.

“What we’ve been consistently good at is the quality of the art,” Cusick said. “What got better between 2008 and 2010 is the participants’ experience.”

The idea of a signature art festival emerged during the Creative Capital process, a year-long dialogue that resulted in a collective vision for the future of arts and culture in Santa Monica.

It took the form of a “Nuit Blanche,” a French creation that put art on display at night. The phrase translates to “white night,” the French equivalent of an “all-nighter.”

Though the festival was conceived as a biennial event, Glow took an extra year between its second and third incarnations to regroup and fix problems that arose in 2008 and 2010.

“We felt that Glow is amazing, but we’d like to make some improvements to it in terms of access and making it a little easier on the artists who participate,” Cusick said.

The previous two events met all requirements for participants with disabilities, but even the able-bodied found it difficult to negotiate the sand to get to the installations set up on the beach.

Artists found that they needed a logistical switch as well. In the past, each participant set up their creation the morning of the event, which in 2008 closed as the sun came up the next day and in 2010 ended at 3 a.m.

It was a marathon, Cusick said, and left participants high and dry if their piece had a technical issue just before the event.

Glow 2013 will let artists set up their projects the day before in order to get any problems out of the way. While it’s helpful for artists and the city team, it’s also much more expensive because it means more security.

The 2010 show had a $550,000 budget. Much of that was in-kind services and approximately two-thirds of the budget goes to “infrastructure” costs, like police and fire protection.

“The art piece of it is, unfortunately, rather small,” Cusick said.

Allowing the artists to set up the day before makes for a better show, but raises the cost, something that Cusick and her staff of four are still grappling with.

Glow doesn’t have a corporate sponsor, but it does have support within the business and tourism sections of Santa Monica, including the Convention & Visitors Bureau and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., formerly known as Bayside.

Businesses stay open late and run specials that night, and the 2010 event filled hotel rooms, a fact that encouraged staff to move the event from summer to September, when hotel stays were lighter.

Although it’s easy to make a case for the economics of Glow, it’s become a critical piece of the city’s identity, Cusick said.

“We needed a signature arts event,” she said. “We didn’t want it to be just another art show, we wanted it to be a signature event that was uniquely Santa Monica.”


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