Housing the Arts in Hollister

As the sun sinks into the western horizon, people who have just
finished eating at a downtown restaurant amble up San Benito Street
ready to enjoy a play or a concert at Hollister’s art center. As
they walk, they take note of the stores along the street and make
plans to come back at a later date to do some shopping.
Hollister – As the sun sinks into the western horizon, people who have just finished eating at a downtown restaurant amble up San Benito Street ready to enjoy a play or a concert at Hollister’s art center. As they walk, they take note of the stores along the street and make plans to come back at a later date to do some shopping.

The idea of an arts center in Hollister, drawing tourists to downtown, paints a pretty picture. But before they give it their blessing, some officials want to see the details.

“We definitely need something like that,” said Councilman Robert Scattini said. “But they’ve got to have a program – an agenda, so to speak. If it’s not done right, it will fall through the cracks.”

In April, an informal group of local artists and art lovers was organized by Mike Smith, an art enthusiast who was recently appointed to the county planning commission, and began meeting in an effort to resurrect the idea of an arts center. At this point the arts center is still in a preliminary discussion phase, according to Smith.

But the group is working with the Hollister Downtown Association to organize a concert, possibly to be held in October, at Veterans memorial Building that would feature local and regional music acts and performance artists to give the community a taste of what it would be like to have an arts center. And the idea of building an arts center has gained a supporter on the city council.

“We need to have it,” Councilman Brad Pike said, adding that he thinks an arts center would bring people tourists into the city.

The desire for an arts center is not new. During the late 1990s, the county had an Arts Center Commission, which conducted a study to gauge public support for a local arts center in 2000. The study found overwhelming support for an arts center, said former commission President Ignacio Velazquez, but the feasibility of actually building the center a reality fizzled when the county board of supervisors dissolved its own arts commission shortly thereafter.

Like Scattini, Councilman Doug Emerson and Mayor Pauline Valdivia like the idea of an arts center in Hollister, but they want more specifics about the plan.

“The idea, I think, is excellent, and people would enjoy it,” Emerson said. “To actually do something like that, we’d have to look at details.”

Valdivia said she is interested in seeing how an arts center could benefit downtown Hollister.

“That could be a good part of reviving downtown,” she said. “I can’t say it would be my big priority. But if it comes to fruition, it can be part of the revitalization of downtown”

As Smith envisions it, an arts center would be part of a variety of other tourist draws – such as downtown Hollister, the county’s emerging wine culture and San Juan Oaks Golf Club, which has a county-approved plan to build a 200-room hotel and two new golf courses.

“What I have discovered through talking to the California Arts Council is in order for the arts to be sustained, the arts need to partner with cultural tourism,” he said.

In addition to being a place for performing and visual arts, Smith said he would like to see the center offer programs for boys and girls and hold concerts on the weekends.

“Right now we don’t have much of anything,” he said. “We really need something to draw people here.”

Pike agrees. He said he wants Hollister to be known for more than just the Independence Rally.

“I don’t want to be labeled as a one-theme community,” he said.

Hollister’s Development Services Director William Avera said, depending on the specifics of a plan, there is a possibility that the Hollister Redevelopment Agency could assist with the arts center if it is in the RDA’s project area and it is demonstrated that it will benefit Hollister’s redevelopment.

“It will probably get some support,” he said. “The Hollister Redevelopment Agency is probably prepared to provide land.”

Anyone interested in the arts center can contact Mike Smith at sbcartistscouncil @yahoo.com.

Luke Roney covers politics and the environment for the Free Lance. Reach him at 831-637-5566 ext. 335 or at [email protected]

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