Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Met this morning with a member of Richmond city council, and later with the president of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Decided that -- in light of the total breakdown in the financial structure of this city ($35,000 million deficit), an environment of utter chaos has been created -- out of which will come opportunity!

I have joined in partnership with my friend, Jennifer Ross, in her consulting firm, "In Face Consulting." Together we've proposed to take over the Convention Center in the heart of the civic center, and bring it to life in service to the community and to produce much-needed revenue. Learned that the Chamber already has a proposal before the council to do just that, but even after a year of negotiations -- they've gotten nowhere. Today the president and I opened up a conversation that should end with a contract for Jennifer and me to manage the convention center and pull together the arts community (National Arts & Disabilities, wonderful Richmond Arts Center, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, etc.) into one entity.

Yesterday's newspapers carried the news that -- as the first school district in the state of California -- ours has eliminated all sports, arts programming, closed all libraries, and cut out counselors. That makes the convention center and its assets an extremely important engine for creating or re-creating community and making up for the losses our young people will suffer.

Tonight I will attend one of four community meetings where the mayor and council will lay out the budget deficits for the citizens, and take comment. On Thursday, I will tour the assets (as well as the convention center) as preparation for several days of proposal writing for the Chamber to consider. They would be the fiscal agents and rent the facility from the city, while About Face Consulting will create programs, build calendars, work out budgets, do booking and leasing for conventions and seminars, etc. We will operate masters classes in various of the performing arts, and people such programs from the broad range of contacts we both have in the arts community.

Those recent informal pot luck dinners in Berkeley lofts; the visit to Joanna and Zaccho Dancer Theatre, lead us to today's developments. Among that group you'll find Carlos (manager of the Yerba Buena Cultural Center in South of Market in S.F.) and Zellerbach on the Berkeley campus; David who manages the Herbst Theater - also in S.F.; plus friends who are involved in the very troubled Alice Arts Center in downtown Oakland. All are ready to work with us in creating another venue for the artists they bring to town (at their expense). We would involve such artists in both performances (when appropriate and affordable) and as Q&A's for young people of the area weekend matinee sessions. Exciting stuff!

Next week we'll begin to put pen to paper (Jennifer is grants writer and financial wizard while I'm the "visionary" and the "bringing-people-together-person"). We'll meet the following week with the inner core of the Chamber and the members of the city's finance sub-committee of the council.

This feels terrific.

Now, I'm off to look at an apartment for Dorian in a nearby complex -- within walking distance to my condo.

Hold good thoughts!

Betty Lloyd Webber

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