City Beat

Mayor wants ‘raw energy around arts’ in Sacramento. Street performers included

By Ryan Lillis

Rappers, poets perform at Sacramento City Hall

The open mic event was part of Mayor Darrell Steinberg's plan to invest in new arts programs.
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The open mic event was part of Mayor Darrell Steinberg's plan to invest in new arts programs.

A crew of rappers and poets swarmed the Sacramento City Council chambers on Tuesday night and started performing. Council members and a large audience watched. No one tried to shut it down.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants a lot more of those kind of performances around the city.

"What will make Sacramento a true destination city?" Steinberg said in an interview earlier Tuesday. "One of the things is this raw energy around arts and culture."

The City Council on Tuesday night blessed one of the first major initiatives of Steinberg's short time in office: an initiative to support experimental art in Sacramento. A focus of the initiative is a $500,000 appropriation to help arts programs, beginning with a $25,000 grant for the upcoming ArtStreet show next month.

The funding will come from a city-managed innovation fund launched last year by former Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Among the potential changes in store is exploring whether to relax a ban on street performing. The collective that performed at City Hall - Zero Forbidden Goals, or ZFG - has held a series of flash mob-style open mics around the city in recent years, but without a city permit.

Other artists promoted the economic impact of investing in experimental and local art.

"Getting people excited about spending money locally and supporting their local makers and artists and musicians is something I hope we can team up on," said Trisha Rhomberg, who curates an art gallery at the Warehouse Artists Loft on R Street and runs an independent clothing and goods store called Old Gold. "We could really use the city's support."

Steinberg's office will work with local artists over the next several months to experiment with new ways to foster the local art scene. The city will then form new policies guiding a creative economy focused on arts, food and technology. Roughly 50 artists, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs met last week with the mayor to begin forming the plan and will continue meeting in the months ahead.

Steinberg said the initiative would not be limited to the central city and that his office would work with every City Council member to create at least one arts-innovation hub in each of the eight council districts.

Councilman Jeff Harris said the initiative would allow the city, which he said "has been a little stodgy," to be more flexible with allowing experimental art and performances.

"We have to give you that freedom," Councilman Steve Hansen said.