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create / 2016

Think Tank's Red Tape Removal Program – Untying the Bureaucratic Knots from LA Art Production

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Think Tank Productions, Inc. dba Think Tank Gallery

Our project will join creators with building owners, government agencies, and various advisors to take big ideas and push them through the legal and infrastructure challenges that restrict creativity.

Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

Formally, Space in the Raw, , Semi-formally, the Department of Cultural Affairs' Director of Performing Arts Ben Johnson, , Informally we will engage our ongoing relationships with Council District 14/Councilman Jose Huizar's office, Alcoholic Beverage Control, LA Fire Department, LAPD, LA Department of Building and Safety, our architectural consultant, Commissions Investigation Department, and more.

Please describe your project proposal.

Tapping above-mentioned agencies like the BID, CD14, LAPD & LAFD, ABC, LADBS, & more, we’ll map out the permitting process for creators. Via live workshops & online resources, we will connect arts event producers with city agents, we eventually craft an online system connecting owners of vacant or inhabited buildings to artists that can create vibrant events in underutilized spaces and neighborhoods. This will result in more art establishments and jobs per capita, each of them collaborative.

Which of the create metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Arts establishments
  • Manufacturing activity
  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Jobs per capita

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • City of Los Angeles

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to create?

For 6 years, Think Tank Productions has ridden a wave of massive revitalization in Downtown LA. Succeeding the Arts District & Gallery Row, the epicenter of LA is in the midst of its own cultural renaissance. Councilman Jose Huizar’s Bringing Back Broadway initiative has succeeded in activating many of DTLA’s empty spaces, and the Think Tank sits as co-pilot on that initiative’s landmark event as creative directors on Huizar and CD14’s 65,000+ attendee Night on Broadway festival. The opportunity to activate the dormant theaters and streets with superstars like Reggie Watts and Cirque du Soleil has taught us how malleable the City of LA can be.

We haven’t always been so privileged to work parallel with the City to produce such exciting programming in our neighborhood; the first few years running our venue required we dig for information to get our events compliant enough to expand. As we grew, we began accruing the info and network needed to execute big ideas in the city of Los Angeles, and we see a lot of exceedingly creative talents here who could benefit from such knowledge. We’ve also run across hundreds of inspiring but inactivated spaces itching for those artists.

Because most creatives buckle at bureaucracy, starting with an idea rather than the legal feasibility, the red tape that ties up cultural opportunity can be hard-to-see and act as a landmine that takes a big idea’s legs out from under it before they see the light of day. If more creatives could produce work within City guidelines, they could empower their own practice and employ their collaborators more often; we believe this collaboration is fuel for creation.

Fitting ideas into the laws of various government agencies is hard enough, but in LA it seems that finding those laws is the hardest part. Dialog with LAPD shows that they aren’t trained on the Fire Department’s restrictions, and even the Department of Cultural Affairs has no resource on which permits to get for an artistic venture, nor where to get them. If even the DCA can’t find this info, imagine the plight of low-income creators in and around DTLA trying to figure it out. Our project does this step for them – taking an idea and applying it to the correct procedure, in a concise package that law enforcement, building owners, and artists can easily buy into.

LA is critiqued for its sprawl, but that has ultimately become our greatest artistic resource. Across the city are empty buildings with such character that creators worldwide are chomping at the bit to engage them in a site-responsive manner. Democratization benefitting building owners by bringing positive attention to their property while empowering artists to create in a government-approved manner takes one of LA’s greatest slights – vacant sprawl – and turns it into our biggest strength. Demystifying the permitting process will add more usable and informal spaces for PLAY while increasing the cultural economy for stakeholders.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Success will be measured by the amount of creators reached through our online program, and also by the tangible number of events produced after finishing our in-person program. While our focus is on site-specific art installations (and public art), not live performance, we tend to incorporate performance into every production that we create. These performances are often the most difficult to permit, but most attractive to branded collaborations with corporate sponsors: an important tool in the innovator’s production realm toolbelt.

Our program will prep local directors from A-Z, including media deck creation to pitch to sponsors, press kits, networking with city officials, permitting, location identification, and many more areas. Ultimately, a successful program will generate one or more candidates for a sort of ‘grant’ that functions as the start up capital for one or more productions in collaboration with their creative entity and Think Tank Gallery. This collaboration may also loop in a branded sponsor.

The success of that production, and producing more thereafter, as well as independently produced activations from those who have benefited from our program will dictate our success.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles etc.)
  • Community outreach