July 4, 2019
By Cori Wilbur
Adding a performing arts center to Liberty Station was always meant to be–because the NTC Foundation made it so. Due to their vision, determination and good relationships with valuable state players, they are receiving a 9 million dollar grant to finally make the dream of that performing arts center a reality.
The fulfillment of this vision has been a long, well thought out process to say the least. The NTC Foundation has had their sights set on adding a performing arts center to the Liberty Station Arts District since the early 2000s. However, the culmination has taken a little longer than originally expected. But if there is one conviction that any serious creative holds, it’s that good things happen to those who are proactive.
Alan Ziter, NTC Foundation’s Executive Director, has been in the arts his whole career, although he believes his best skill is knowing how to implement the community’s vision and construct an arts district that people gravitate toward. “[The] goal is to create the theater that all of the actors want to perform in and the theater that all of the audiences like to go to,” he voiced. As far as what the theater will be like, he alluded to more big announcements coming in the near future.
“Clearly things do not happen overnight, this was something we thought about since 2007; sometimes you just have to hold your dreams until the right opportunity comes along, we think this is the right opportunity. Clearly Assembly member Todd Gloria and [State] Senator Toni Atkins agree, and so do the people working with us on our next big announcement to come,” Ziter asserted.
Back when the idea for a performing arts center was still in the planning phase, Ziter said the NTC Foundation slated for a different building to fit the bill. But due to the timing (2008 was when the nation spiraled into the Great Recession) and the fact that the NTC simply did not have the funds to annually subsidize the property, they had to let go of the dream for a performing arts center, at least for the moment. Fast forward to 2017, there was still one large building left to be renovated and the dream had been revived.
In addition to the support of individuals such as Gloria and Atkins, the NTC Foundation holds a record success of restoring 16 other buildings in Liberty Station and preserves good relations with the Mayor of San Diego. These factors helped give them leverage for acquiring the necessary catalyst funds to renovate the building.
Another factor that helped catapult the vision was an initial commitment by Malashock Dance, Jean Isaacs’ Dance Theater and San Diego Ballet to be the first dance groups to move into Liberty Station. On these early partnerships, Ziter said he “believed in their ability as a board to help make this happen and believed in the community’s vision as to what they wanted to have happen.”
The San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition has also been meeting with candidates running next year to make sure they are aware of the need for good arts and culture funding; six out of nine council members have included arts and culture in their budget memos for the upcoming year. Moreover, Mayor Kevin Falconer did not cut funding for arts and culture at his last budget meeting, even though there were a lot of other pressing issues on his plate.
“One thing arts and art organizations need, is space” said Ziter. Not many statements are truer than that one. What is truly remarkable about the Liberty Station Arts District is the area is designed to bring arts and culture into the day to day lives of San Diegans. According to Ziter, the objective is to “encourage them to explore other parts of town with younger artists or more diverse artists” and ultimately, “have art and culture permeate every neighborhood.”
Currently, the NTC Foundation maintains a 55-year long lease with the city on the buildings in Liberty Station, securing an “arts and culture district for generations to come.” Ziter marveled at his ability to look out of his window and know exactly what goes on in each of these buildings. He commended that this destination, once used for naval training purposes, is now an arts district where people are still being trained but in the areas of music, art, dance, theater and photography.
Ziter called San Diego a city of opportunity. “If you want to make something happen here, there are very few obstacles for you to do it. You can get it done,” he remarked. An incredible collection of arts and culture already exists throughout the city. Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Ziter, that array just continues to grow in scope.