The Beginning of the WAV

It was in 2003 that the idea for the WAV was born. Not that it was called the WAV back then. We called it the affordable artists’ live/work space project which, while certainly not catchy, really summed up our goals for the project: it had to be affordable, and it had to provide spaces that were designed to be able to provide artists a place to both live and work. And, it had to be designated for artists forever.

In the early 21st Century, the City of Ventura had fully realized the value of making the community an attractive and viable place for artists to call their home. Development was booming and new homes were being built all over the city. In City Hall, the City Council and other leaders understood that it wasn’t only the climate and the ocean that brought people to Ventura. It was also the fact that Ventura was a unique community. There was a here here. It wasn't like everyplace USA. Ventura had its own vibe, its own culture, and our goal was to make sure that in the midst of the burgeoning development, that spirit would not be lost.

Artists had made their way to Ventura for decades. Paul Lindhard's visionary Art City, which operated both as a stone supply yard and an environment for artists to gather, learn, and collaborate, was in great part responsible for the huge number of artists who called Ventura their home. Visual, performing, and literary artists were transforming the landscape of the community: public art was installed throughout the city, and arts organizations that celebrated these artists – like the Rubicon Theater Company, the Ventura Music Festival, and Focus on the Masters – were proliferating. The ArtWalk, a twice yearly event that celebrated local artists, was in many ways the signature event of Ventura's historic downtown.

But the artists were in danger of being priced out of the market. And City leaders understood that if that happened – if artists were forced to move to communities that were cheaper to live in – the flowering artistic community could, and probably would, expire.

So, the WAV – or rather, the affordable artists' live/work space project – was born.

We started the project on a wing and a prayer. The Cultural Affairs Division at the City worked with the Economic Development Division, and came up with a small amount of money to bring an expert consultant into town to tell us if our goal could be accomplished. Chris Velasco visited Ventura and even though real estate prices were through the roof, making any affordable housing project a challenge, he saw something in Ventura that was worth the Herculean effort to bring such a project to fruition.

From that beginning the project almost died multiple times. It was like nine cats – if each cat has nine lives, that gives nine cats 80 chances before they ultimately die, and we came close to that. The only reason, in my mind, that the project ultimately succeeded is that it achieves multiple goals – it provides artists’ live/work spaces, it provides housing for people transitioning out of homelessness, it provides retail space, it is designed to support the downtown, it has market-rate housing – and because it stayed core to its true mission to provide affordable live/work space for artists but was flexible on so many other fronts.

The WAV is in the first years of its development. It is our hope that this community of artists will keep Ventura true to its authentic, artistic roots, but also expand on those roots and improve the community in ways we have yet to dream of.

As a City employee, I would never pretend to understand the inner workings of the artistic mind. It’s my job and goal to support the ability of that creative mind and spirit to work without unnecessary boundaries, and to celebrate and build on the innovation that ensues.

In a decade, I think we will see how the WAV has magically succeeded in somehow both transforming the community and keeping it uniquely and recognizably what it is: Ventura.

Elena Brokaw
City of Ventura
Parks, Recreation, and Community Partnerships Department