La Mesa to form new committee focused on culture diversity, arts

The La Mesa City Council unanimously voted this week to create a commission that focuses on the arts and culture diversity.

The new panel will promote the visual arts, music and performing arts, be attentive to the design of buildings and structures, and consider new technologies related to art and cultural history.

Resident Manuel Gomez said the new panel will “create a measure of commonality that will help bring us together and create constructive change that we so desperately want.”

Mayor Mark Arapostathis said forming a commission takes about 90 days. City staff said it hoped the commission could be up and running in 2022.

He said one of the first orders of business of the commission would be to investigate similar groups and see what they do, learn best practices, consider what would serve La Mesa best and develop a mission statement.

Councilman Jack Shu said that having a group that will seek to specifically enhance the arts and culture in the city will “uplift” La Mesa. Councilman Bill Baber said the commission would increase the vibrancy of the city.

A large bronze sculpture of the Helix snail is one of the pieces of art in La Mesa.

A large bronze sculpture of the Helix snail is one of the pieces of art in La Mesa.

(Karen Pearlman / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The city heard from residents who said they supported paying more attention to arts in the community and providing more outlets for expression.

“The arts provide an outlet for young and old, bring families together, bring life to neglected spaces, build problem-solving skills, promote healthy social connection, nurture identity and cultural expression, encourage critical thinking, improve mental and physical health and is an avenue towards understanding the experience off others,” Melissa Walter wrote in an email.

Arapostathis, who heads up Peter Pan Junior Theater in the city in addition to teaching at La Mesa Arts Academy, recounted the city’s long history with the arts, including the La Mesa Access, React, Teach, & Share Alliance. The ARTS alliance has overseen the painting of utility boxes, the creation of public murals, the “Sundays at Six” summer concert series and more.

Several residents said they hoped the group will emphasize music while others talked up murals and art pieces that could help tell the stories of La Mesa.

Ursula Koenig, part of the Envision La Mesa group that has been working on improving the western part of La Mesa, said the commission would “make La Mesa a unique destination not just for Oktoberfest but for lunch on a Tuesday or every day.”

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