Category Archives: Voice

Creating a City Vision by the People

Understanding The Power of Creating a City Vision by The People
(Citizens, Organisations and Other Stakeholders)

Preface: I was asked to build this process as a first step of how to create and distill a clear city vision by the people. I refer to Laguna Beach (the “City”) as sample because I live there. The City has a cultural history, but since there is no overall direction, creating even the most appealing cultural direction would ultimately be no more than a hit or miss.

The Power of a Vision: I just heard that there are two developers suggesting new village entrance projects (in discussion since the 1960’s), with 350 plus parking spaces each. The City also agreed on a new cultural plan with 41 goals. This plan is similar to the “Vision 2030” document of 16 years ago with almost nothing being implemented. Why does it seem we are not moving forward like we supposed to? This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of a future vision/ direction to all the people that love their City enough to getting involved. Today, we have too many problems to fix that we forgot to look to the future and this keeps us from moving forward. Without an overall vision there is no common ground/direction on which we can all agree. This leads to dividing and stalling a community from moving forward. Who is really ready for another decade of focusing on different ideas guessing to see what sticks, or fighting them?

The Overseen Flaw:  Without a future vision of the City, it seems we are trapped and have lost our ways by giving all attention to current problems, or to what we don’t want. Our motivation comes from fear-choices born of losing our quality of life. A powerless dance that creates a purgatory of uncertainty, indifference and stagnation. I want to motivate and unite all interested stakeholders to combine their efforts to help City Council create a vision that supplies a direction for the future (examples). This includes defining our feelings and the conveniences we would like to experience living in this city in years to come. 

A Wiser Solution: Let’s Step Off the Game Board and Create a New Game. City residents and stakeholders would be wise to present what they want their future city to look and feel like. Present those futures to City Council to have it declare a clear future vision/direction for the City for the next 5, to 15 years. Deciding on an elected future also affects solving our current problems and their priorities now. For example, if the Council decides the City should be a tourist trap then the aforementioned 350 parking spots might not be enough. On the other side, if the City wants to be a culturally relevant player, we might not need this project and could think up alternatives. Do you see how much impact the lack of our leader’s clear vision/direction has? A vision influences the potential of how much time and resources are wasted, what we all do, and how relevant we all can and can not become for the City we love.

Fixing Problems Without Direction: Each Council member usually runs on different platforms, but as a whole, most politicians have forgotten that creating a future vision is the heart and soul of a city’s quality of life. Not choosing is a choice that keeps everyone in limbo, forcing the involved to act by guessing a direction (where there is none).  

An Overall Vision is Declared by the City Council. A vision conjures up feelings of a future that citizens can relate to. It is a people’s’ common motivator, without attached details or execution plan. Only a weak vision needs to be promoted by selling its details or projects. Focusing on random singled out issues got us in many uncomfortable experiences in the past. John F. Kennedy did not give details on how to get us to the moon, but people could align with his vision, understood the direction and created solutions united by this higher goal. Listen to remember the power of JFK’s vision.

The Flow of Execution: Vision – Function – Form.
Vision is a feeling of a direction, people can relate to, that reaches beyond gender, race, lifestyle or political affiliation. It is not dependent on a certain amount of money. Obama’s CHANGE campaign, even though not complete because of the lack of direction (where to change to), most people resonated and united behind the word “change.” Laguna College of Art and Design’s (“LCAD”) vision is to become the “Juilliard of the Visual Arts.” If LCAD raises $5,000 or one million, it will always move toward the direction of its visioned goal, either slower or faster.

A Mission is the Function of a Vision. It is an action plan to execute/fulfill certain goals that support and are aligned with the overall vision. For example, LCAD hires every year three guest Artists from around the world to teach rare master painter techniques to be implemented in LCAD’s curriculum. It creates a fund raiser to pay for the guest lecturers.

Form determines what fits best to the function and vision. Form supports function and the overall vision. For example, Established guest artists teach rare painting techniques is a more suitable form to support LCAD becoming the “Juilliard of the Visual Arts,” than having a creative experiment of a group of students dismantling a car.

History Does Not Feed Us Forever. The City still has a high ”cool factor” but most is a remnant of the past. No matter what the City chooses, I hope I can stimulate your passion to create something outstanding that connects us all in our beloved City. For exemplary execution of a cultural vision physically and online, look at Switzerland’s Zermatt Unplugged Festival  which was 8 years ago nothing but a tiny sky town located halfway to the Matterhorn.

I hope I could help getting a sense of what there is to do. Creating a future vision is not brain science, especially when we keep it simple. All it needs is taking time to think and follow the steps. Even without a final vision we have thought about our City and in this process we gained clarity to do what we all have to do with more insights and impact. Please share if you agree that a vision would support the City’s quality of life.

The next step would be getting together and discuss and clarify this document that everyone interested aligns to its process.

For a the Step by Step Process of a City Vision click here

Download as PDF

Michaell Magrutsche is an Austrian-Californian multimedia artist, creative consultant, art educator and former Cultural Arts Commissioner of Newport Beach living in Laguna Beach on and off since 1988.

Spending Money On Art Without Direction Helps No One

“Money Only Helps the Arts When We first Understand Art’s Function”

Think Before Signing Laguna Beach’s Cultural Plan on March 29.  Money aside, this plan is so intensely generic, it will distract the City further from recapturing its cultural direction and relevance.  The plan specifies 4 goals with 46 sub-goals, which each is a major project by itself. Randomly spending money on art projects without a creative direction usually results in lukewarm artistic expression. Money does not guarantee interesting art, creative direction does.  See the laundry list of goals and sub-goals for yourself on page 22 of Laguna’s cultural plan:

A. The 4 Top Goals of Cultural Plan: Identified by the Cultural Planning Group with help of the City’s Steering Committee, resulting in forty six subgoals (sg) .
Goal 1 with 17sg: Facilitate and enable working artists to have thriving careers based in Laguna Beach. How would this be possible and how do you select the artists that are deemed worthy?
Goal 2 with 20sg: Expand the availability of engaging arts offerings for residents and visitors. We don’t even have a central art’s calendar or cultural app that informs the public with complete list of daily updated events.
Goal 3 with 4sg: Enhance Laguna Beach’s artistic identity and reputation through greater connection with the global art world and multi-disciplinary creativity. How can this be achieved, when Laguna’s own art stakeholders hardly communicate with each other?
Referring to goal 1-3: Instead of providing few selected artists with studios, housing and money, it is more objective to provide free temporary venues, where they can express themselves in relation to their following and reputation. To get a venue, all an artist would have to provide is a driver’s license and fill out a simple 1 page form.
Goal 4 with 5sg: Enhance cultural leadership for Laguna Beach. How do you decide who is a cultural leader and who is the right cultural leader for Laguna Beach?

B. Missing Focus & Direction: A defined vision helps the City exude a certain “vibe.” A vision that the City can support, will similar to align stakeholders to pull in the same direction. Austin, Texas did the same years ago, when it evaluated its strengths and decided on becoming an Art City by choosing to be a music center with the motto “Live Music Capital of the World.” By blossoming into their vision, Austin now supports two classical orchestras, and other art. Without a creative direction/vision it is impossible to strategically spend money on projects that compliment the City. The vision outlined in the Cultural Plan are generic goals that could be applied to any city. Art for art’s sake does not cut it these days anymore.  Without a specific context or overall direction, the 46 selected goals will result in lukewarm cultural expression at best.

C. Laguna Beach Needs To Establish First What It Wants To Be.
a. Another Beach City with beautiful nature, water sports, recreation and art. Primarily, be an affluent community and tourist destination that has a lot to offer, but is not particularly culturally relevant.
b. A Beach City with beautiful nature, water sports, recreation and a specific kind of art-slant like “Laguna The Art Festival Town.” An affluent community and tourist destination that is known for the famous art festivals it presents.
c. A Beach City Internationally known As California’s Art City. A city that offers new and established artists a way to express their creativity, from coffee shop to gallery to festival to beach. A yearlong cultural scene that is alive and interactive internationally, thereby creating an artistic imprint worldwide. (obviously, choice b and c does not exclude or diminish choice a)
d. Other

D. The Result Of Signing In The Current Cultural Plan.  If Laguna votes for this cultural plan, we will end up having a lot of ideas, money will be disbursed. This plan will keep us busy and distracted from what we really need to do; establishing an updated path that distinguishes Laguna Beach from other cities that focus on the arts. Laguna has become a summer tourist destination with festivals. Do we really want to keep pretending Laguna Beach is culturally important with the longing that somehow her spirit will return, or do we want to start a discourse that elevates this beautiful city to a new glory?

E. Art Consultants Are Like Universities. You have to know what you want before you engage them. A university can not teach you what you want, but if you choose to be a lawyer, Yale will do its best that you graduate. The consultants voiced repeatedly that it is not their job to tell Laguna Beach what its vision ought to be, and correct they are. Who in the City ignored that the city has to have a cultural direction first before engaging consultants?

F. About Vision and Funds: If we have a clear cultural direction $500 or $500,000 will get us closer to the determined goal.  It is more important to have a clear purpose than disbursing money to artists or art organizations. For example: LCAD was minuscule first then grew into a respected art college. Last year, Jonathan Burke expressed his updated vision, to become the Juilliard of visual arts. The realization of Jonathan Burke’s vision could be executed with a lot of money or little, but the direction where LCAD is moving toward is clear.

G. Money Does Not Guarantee Better Art, Understanding and Nurturing Its Function Does: In big companies and successful not-profits the vision statement is at least worked over every two years to define the companies function and the direction it is going. The lack of cultural clarity only costs money and creates medial results.

H. Moving Forward With A Clear Vision: How do we know that we arrived at the right direction/vision? When stakeholders and the public follows and the execution of projects harmoniously fall into place, complimenting each other to a greater good. After Laguna arrives at a cultural direction, we can revisit the current cultural plan and integrate previous suggestions that are in alignment. If necessary, exchange the rest with goals that are more aligned to amplify Laguna’s own Voice. Keep in mind, government’s cultural function is to expose as many people as possible to the arts for the least amount of money. It is not to act as the arbiter or curator of which art is worthy or not.

In 2015, I have been asked by Peter Blake of Peter Blake Gallery, Robert Holton of Drizzle Gallery, Michael Roy of LGOCA, and many others to look into the Laguna Beach Art Business and give them my assessment. Michaell Magrutsche is an Austrian-Californian multimedia artist, creative consultant, art educator and former Cultural Arts Commissioner of Newport Beach living in Laguna Beach.

Other Related Articles:

Where Is Laguna’s Cultural Relevance?
What’s Missing From Laguna’s Cultural Arts Plan?
Laguna Beach Digital Cultural Strategy
Draft Laguna Beach Cultural Plan & Appendix 

What’s Missing From Laguna’s Cultural Arts Plan?

Dear Patron of the Arts.

The Laguna Beach Cultural Plan currently misses three major components that are essential to make the arts work for Laguna and revive its cultural relevance.
First, establishing a clear Voice of what differentiates Laguna Beach from all the other art cities and art districts.  A digital strategy of how to best represent Laguna Beach Arts on the web and in the digital world. Here, the proposed multi-purpose cultural facility could additionally act as digital terminal, content-production facility and as uplink of cultural content to support Laguna Beach’s web presence. Thirdly, a communication model consisting of a central mobile phone app linked to a website as interface for collaboration with existing local radio/TV and print. This model increases convenience of choosing and delivering the right programming to the right audience at the right time. This app also allows real time tracking of Laguna’s cultural content providers’ relevance and helps to keep art programming up to date.

1. Laguna Beach’s Cultural Voice?  Why is a clear Voice so important? Technology and digitization have sped up most of our lives resulting in unclear direction and an unforeseeable future. To stay on track, Laguna needs to establish who or what we are and how the City matters, or it risks diminishing its message/branding. Know thyself is more important than ever.  Laguna needs to make a choice about having cultural relevance or stay content being an affluent beach community and tourist destination with art? To avoid such a generic image hold off thinking about new ideas and instead follow the organic flow of image integration. Establishing a clear vision, followed by an executable function, followed by a fitting form. To establish a clear vision is the most thought intensive and intricate work. When done right it can act like a turbo charger, where function and form fall into place. If done haphazardly, the function will show major problems and the form will be unclear like a movie that does not make sense. A clear cultural Voice is essential to build a sustainable function to be on purpose to find content of various art forms that reflect the overall vibe of the City.

2. Digital Strategy Blueprint: Today, No business works without a digital interface. Since Real estate for artists housing is becoming increasingly limited due to Laguna’s high property values, digital real estate is cheap and unlimited. The advantage of a strong digital web platform would allow Laguna Beach not only to be a physical space for the arts, but also matter and be relevant as a well sought-after art-content destination on the worldwide web. Laguna would profit from a 24/7 hour “All Arts All The Time” pipeline to the web. Searchable by date and genre with a Live stream of what’s going on in California’s City of Arts. Artists, art organisations and stakeholders can feed into the system allowing bread crumbing audiences to the world’s famous artists community. The bigger Laguna gets on the web, the stronger the branding and cross promotion and the better for everyone.

3. A Communication Model: Convenience has become a key decision factor to engage or not. Traffic and parking is Laguna’s number one challenge. As the draft of Laguna’s Cultural Plan points out, people still want more art opportunities and thus looking for them outside of Laguna’s city limits. One of the reasons people look for art outside is that like in most cities, citizens are not aware what is offered at home. With today’s technology, a mobile app would allow Laguna Beach to have a complete central source that lists all events, galleries and other cultural activities and remind the audience about upcoming events on time. (more details of Laguna’s mobile app click here) Due to its size, Laguna Beach could be easily served with one central information source for all cultural, hospitality and recreational activities. This cultural mobile app can be part of Visit Laguna Beach’s app and linked and part of a Visit Laguna Beach website. Use social media campaigns to link audiences to website, app and stakeholders. I have proposed this app over a year ago and it is more relevant than ever.


In 2015, I have been asked by Peter Blake of Peter Blake Gallery, Robert Holton of Drizzle Gallery, Michael Roy of LGOCA, and many others to look into the Laguna Beach Art Business and give them my assessment. Michaell Magrutsche is an Austrian-Californian multimedia artist, creative consultant, art educator and former Cultural Arts Commissioner of Newport Beach living in Laguna Beach.

Other Related Articles:

Where Is Laguna’s Cultural Relevance?
Laguna Beach Digital Cultural Strategy
Spending Money On Art Without Direction Helps No One
Draft Laguna Beach Cultural Plan & Appendix 

Laguna Beach Digital Cultural Strategy

Dear Laguna Beach Patron of the Arts,

What We Need To Understand:
We are in a transitional time, moving deeper into the digital age, including the arts. No one knows where we are going. Technology made what we did 3 years ago obsolete for today’s challenges. The following finds are an essential first step for the future of Laguna Beach and the arts:

Laguna’s Core Power: The marketing strength of Laguna Beach has always been its organic growth combining the Arts and its beautiful local. The City can count itself as very lucky. Within a 1.2 mile radius it offers 100 galleries, 3 festivals, museum and plenty of art education. This is convenient, but can also overwhelm, since 1-day visitors can’t visit all the galleries during art walk. To support visitors, an destination like Laguna Beach would profit from a cultural mobile app with an accompanying website and integrated social media links. The app needs to include an updated and complete master directory of all its cultural stakeholders. See New York’s gallery map (without hospitality) as an example

Connect Buyer & Seller: While serving on the steering commission of the Newport Beach Arts & Cultural Master Plan, my own research confirmed that the key is all about connecting the right audience to the right product, now. Now is today’s most important success factor on the web and in world-business. A non-targeted arts exposure counts almost zero and is often dismissed, while delivering the right information to the right people spawns interest. People who want to buy art, don’t want to browse 100 galleries to “perhaps” find what they need. Collectors do not want to be bothered with plein air, when they are looking for minimal abstract. The overwhelm of choices demands help to connect the RIGHT BUSINESSES to the RIGHT CUSTOMER!

Convenience as Sales Force: Another reaffirming trend is that convenience increasingly plays a major role in getting people’s attention, react, take action to buy or visit a certain venue. Except traffic and parking, pretty much everything can be handled over the web connecting buyers with what they want.. By adding a complete and updated event calendar, this cultural app would be the most powerful implementation any city can currently do for its economy. Actually, an app could affect traffic and parking positively too.

Buy Art in Laguna Beach

The App Solution: To enliven the the arts, a complete and updated Master Directory for Arts & Culture available on the web and as mobile app has more impact than any event or venue could generate. Currently, there are numerous lists, but none of them is complete or representative of what Laguna Beach has to offer. This cultural app’s success thrives on the completeness of Laguna Beach’s cultural stakeholders. Lists in magazines lack the functions of interactive of mobile devices such as directions or contact the store before visiting. The key is that the audience can put in their preferences and quickly find what they are looking for with attached map and relevant information. Money can be made by charging any business for special exposure or additional content other than name, telephone number, address and website to stand out on a page.

Follow Up Step: After Laguna Beach has created a central master cultural app, the next step is to implement a complete and relevant events calendar with hospitality options that connects art venues with the special interest clientele. Laguna Beach would be able to sell its unique cultural experiences and helping audiences find and sell them what they are looking for quickly and easily.

Better Experience: The app would improve customer experience and increased audience participation.  If the visitor experiences an adventure that is convenient, discovers and finds more of what they intended, they will return and tell their friends. The best advertising is word of mouth.

Real Data Benefits: Besides an increase in sales and attendance of art events, an app would be a perfect interactive tool to gather more accurate information about the relevance of Laguna’s cultural stakeholders. It would provide a steady stream of information and an arts real-me needs assessment of Laguna Beach visitors, which is more important than anything one can do otherwise for any local business.

Official Interface: I feel that Visit Laguna Beach needs to take the helm of this project, since this app with website are primarily in context with hospitality of the City. Stakeholders have to participate to keep this project relevant. This directory could also be a bases to start a dialogue between stakeholders to smooth Laguna’s cultural events calendar, avoiding double bookings and overlapping events.

Pledge: Finally, this project needs to stand above all personal interests and conflicts, in the spirit of honoring Laguna Beach’s magical whom, that gives so much life to the arts and its audiences. I ask you Ladies and Gentlemen how can we achieve this and who is on board?


In 2015, I have been asked by Peter Blake of Peter Blake Gallery, Robert Holton of Drizzle Gallery, Michael Roy of LGOCA, and many others to look into the Laguna Beach Art Business and give them my assessment. Michaell Magrutsche is an Austrian-Californian multimedia artist, creative consultant, art educator and former Cultural Arts Commissioner of Newport Beach living in Laguna Beach.

Other Related Articles:

Where Is Laguna’s Cultural Relevance?
What’s Missing From Laguna’s Cultural Arts Plan?
Spending Money On Art Without Direction Helps No One

Draft Laguna Beach Cultural Plan
Laguna Beach Cultural Plan Appendix