Blumenfield leads effort to save this local arts institution by making it part of his Canoga Park Arts Hub
LOS ANGELES, CA – On December 24, 2018 Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and the City of Los Angeles closed escrow on the Clyde Porter West Valley Playhouse in Canoga Park, acquiring the property to ensure this cultural resource continues to welcome the local arts community. In conjunction with the nearby Madrid Theater and the Canoga Park Youth Arts Center, the purchase of the Playhouse adds another venue to Blumenfield’s Canoga Park Cultural Arts Hub which will serve as an incubator and home for local artists for years to come.
“With the decimation of arts funding in our schools and the decline of accessible theater in our community, I am proud to help transition the West Valley Playhouse into a public asset,” said Blumenfield. “This will prevent the loss of a community gem and ensure that we have local theater for current and future generations. It will also help fuel local economic opportunity.”
Located at 7242 Owensmouth Ave. in Canoga Park, the West Valley Playhouse seats about 150 people and was formerly a Masonic Lodge before it was transformed into a theater in 2000. Blumenfield and his staff have worked over the last year to save the West Valley Playhouse after he found out the building was up for sale and harnessed $1.395 million in excess Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) bond funds to purchase it. These are funds that can only be used for community revitalization efforts and cannot be utilized for issues such as public safety or homelessness. The theater will now be operated by the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and be available to various community theater and performance groups from throughout the region, including the West Valley Playhouse Company.
Danielle Brazell, General Manager of DCA said, "Arts, culture, and creativity are catalysts for economic development, community engagement, and civic identity. The acquisition of the West Valley Playhouse is an essential component of a new cultural hub that will further develop local artists, generate dynamic programming, and serve the residents of Canoga Park as well as the greater Los Angeles region. The purchase advances our shared goal to develop a creative hub that engages the creative spirit of the residents of Blumenfield’s district, while advancing the Councilmember's mission of investing in cultural infrastructure to support the local arts ecology, increase access to art education, and celebrate the unique creative character of this community.”
“On behalf of the Valley Cultural Foundation’s Board of Directors and myself, we are very excited to learn that the West Valley Playhouse will remain open in Canoga Park,” said Nora Ross, Chief Executive Officer of the Valley Cultural Foundation. “Keeping the theater open and providing a location for everyone to enjoy a wide variety of entertainment is beneficial to all. Thank you DCA – LA and Councilman Blumenfield for realizing the need for venues to support the arts in the West Valley.”
The CRA bond funds are required to be spent within the geographic boundaries of Canoga Park and Reseda by 2020, and this Cultural Arts Hub investment is just one of the local projects Councilmember Blumenfield has initiated to ensure the community receives the full benefit of these bond funds that remain following the dissolution of the former CRAs in California.
Since serving in the State Assembly, Blumenfield has worked creatively to support the arts and bring patrons back to the West Valley. In addition to this acquisition, Blumenfield shepherded the revitalization of the Reseda Theater on Sherman Way which soon will be renovated to house a five screen multiplex to be operated by Laemmle Theaters and has initiated arts initiatives throughout Reseda such as the annual Reseda Rising Art Walk and Night Market. Also, he has worked diligently with DCA to revitalize and establish the Madrid Theater as a viable, competitive, state of the art theater for renters, users and audiences. DCA, who operates and maintains the Madrid, is a partner in this effort and has committed to devising fun and meaningful family and educational programming, internships for young people, and outdoor public programming at community events.
The purpose of the Councilmember’s Cultural Arts Hub initiative is to drive community-centric economic development through the arts, akin to the North Hollywood ‘NoHo Arts District.’ These synergistic efforts are meant to draw arts-oriented vendors, artists, and organizations to relocate into the hub and to provide a unique demonstration of how the arts can support small businesses by encouraging patronage at local restaurants, improving public safety by adding pedestrian traffic, and supporting community development in the surrounding area.
Canoga Park is one of the Valley’s underserved communities, eligible for Community Development Block Grants due to a higher than average level of need. Ultimately this Cultural Arts Hub investment will stimulate additional private sector investment that leverages the public’s dollars for arts programming.
Blumenfield stated, “We need to make sure that we have these sorts of artistic homes throughout our City- where artists can try out new plays, where kids can shine on stage for the first time and where our community can come together. By investing in institutions like the West Valley Playhouse, we are investing in the future of our community and encouraging further development in the neighborhood.”
“I couldn’t stomach the idea that our community would lose this important cultural asset. If we had not purchased this theater, it would have been transformed into an office building, a fast food restaurant or whatever the new owner had wanted,” concluded Blumenfield.