SMC — Santa Monica College’s Public Policy Institute (PPI) is inviting Santa Monica residents to experience the intersection of policy and art at the organization’s annual symposium.

“Arts and Citizenship: Affecting Public Policy Through Personal Narrative” runs through May 18 at 1900 Pico Blvd. with new activities available to attendees each day. Organizers said the event provides a unique opportunity for anyone, regardless of their profession or artistic skill, to interact with both art and the individuals responsible for providing public support for it.

“We chose the theme of the symposium to explore how the arts help citizens develop an understanding of themselves and others, and the importance of this understanding in enhancing democracy,” said PPI associate director and SMC political science professor Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein in a statement.

He said Santa Monica is a place that supports all kinds of art but said citizens and decision makers often experience arts projects independently and sometimes without the ability to have a dialogue about the value of the art. The symposium aims to change that relationship by providing a communal arts experience.

“We know that in a democracy and in democratic institutions, people can go and have a conversation with people on the dais, like council, but here’s an opportunity to sit with council men and women, with the people who are in a position at the county level to decide who gets what for arts funding and to see art unfolding,” he said.

Tahvildaran-Jesswein said people often use art as a means of processing their experiences and that a shared arts experience can help people understand the big picture relationships between art and democracy.

“A lot of people recognize the important of art to a democratic society but it’s another thing to see it together,” he said. “To watch it unfold, have a conversation about it and see what we could be doing to enhance art in the community while enhancing democratic values.”

Free offerings during the week include:

Wednesday, May 14 at 7 p.m.: Community Keynote Address by Terry Tempest Williams. Tempest Williams is a “citizen writer” and a voice for social change who speaks out on behalf of taking an ethical stance toward life, and whose personal narrative Open Space for Democracy links directly to the work of the Public Policy Institute. Free. Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall, 601 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (Parking at Civic Center, 333 Civic Center Dr.)

Thursday, May 15 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Community Forum: Who Makes Policy in the Arts? Panel led by Arts for LA Executive Director Danielle Brazell and moderated by SMC Public Policy Institute Director Sheila Kuehl will explore how public policy shapes public access to the arts. Panel followed by audience questions. Free. Reservations required (e-mail with number of guests attending). Humanities & Social Science Lecture Hall 263 on SMC’s main campus, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (Free visitor parking at Lot 6, 14th Street and Pico Boulevard)

Friday, May 16 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.: Student Matinees: Education Outreach: Dance at The Broad. SMC, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, and the City of Santa Monica bring fifth graders to performances by SMC’s Global Motion World Dance Company and the Westside School of Ballet. Free. The Broad Stage, SMC Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (Free onsite parking.)

There will be a paid ballet performance on May 18 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., with receptions at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. of Westside Ballet’s Spring Performance at The Broad. Program highlights works by 20th-century choreographers George Balanchine and Ben Stevenson, OBE, with excerpts from “The Sleeping Beauty.” Reception before each performance is a fundraiser to support the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation Vision for Student Success, the Westside School of Ballet, and the SMC Foundation. Tickets $35 at The Broad Stage, SMC Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (Free onsite parking.)

For further information about the symposium, go to or call (310) 434-3541.

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