Community Signs On to Support Ryan Smolar as Arts Council’s Interim Director

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Ryan Smolar seeking position of Interim Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach.

Ryan Smolar seeking position of Interim Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach.

Though it’s not a race and the votes don’t actually count, Long Beach change maker Ryan Smolar launched an online petition on Friday, January 24 asking those connected with Long Beach arts to recommend him as Interim Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach.

Within a day, the petition Smolar launched on gained a cross-section of support from community leaders like Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Assoc. Executive Director Blair Cohn, City Council Chiefs of Staff John Edmond and Michael Clements, Long Beach Cinematheque and Zombiewalk Festival Organizer Logan Crow, Long Beach Press-Telegram Columnist Tim Grobaty, downtown activists Eric Gray and Loara Cadavona, ArtExchange Resident Artist Margie Darrow, We Love Long Beach Founder Scott Jones, provocateur John Morris, theatre and film critic Greggory Moore and even a Macaw named Pepper.

About launching the petition, “I think the Arts Council is most successful when it works closely with the community,” said Smolar, “and I wanted to demonstrate to the Arts Council Board that I am connected, I am knowledgeable, and I get things done.”

“I have been at the frontlines of Long Beach arts for 10 years,” said Smolar, “I love the people, I love the organization, and I love Long Beach.”

Smolar has worked for the Arts Council for Long Beach since 2009 in various roles including marketing, project development and event production, designing project budgets, fund development and coordinating staff under direction from former Executive Director Craig Watson and current Executive Director John Glaza.

“Craig Watson and John Glaza both led the organization through major transitions,” said Smolar. “I have been there through all of it, I have learned a lot from their leadership, and I want to see this organization continue to grow from their work.”

Smolar is best known to the greater Long Beach community for leading projects like downtown’s University by the Sea festivals, which re-opened the historic Jergins Pedestrian Subway in partnership with Downtown Long Beach Associates and Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau; producing “Book by Authors: North Long Beach Anthology” community writing/art project in partnership with Connected Corridor; creating events website with DOMA Properties; writing for the Gazettes Newspapers; creating Bixby Knolls’ superhero the Knolls Ranger with BKBIA Executive Director Blair Cohn; and spearheading the Goods Gallery, a temporary art gallery made out of cargo containers constructed in partnership with Mike Donelon, MHP Structural Engineers, the Port of Long Beach and the former Long Beach Redevelopment Agency.

But Smolar is not all right-brained. He believes local artists strengthen the local economy. Smolar works as a small business advisor for the Long Beach Small Business Development Center. “Artists are small businesses,” said Smolar, “and I have gotten to work one-on-one with authors, painters, musicians, designers, art retailers and even a ballerina at the Long Beach SBDC.”

Public comments left on the petition spoke mostly of Smolar’s “visionary” and “inclusive” style and can be read in their entirety here.

Petition comment excerpts:

“I believe Ryan has the experience and relationships to connect the Arts Council for Long Beach to all Long Beach communities; including under-served areas like North, West, and Central Long Beach.” – Thor Carlson, former President, Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association

“He gets it. We need to rethink our plan. Arts are an intricate importance for a thriving city. With RDA gone we need to make art important in LBC.” – John Edmond, Chief of Staff, Councilmember Dee Andrews, City of Long Beach

“This is the best thing I’ve seen for the Long Beach Art Scene in a long time. Ryan Smolar is a great friend and would be an awesome leader for the Arts Council for Long Beach. He’s got a great attitude, he’s very open to new ideas and knows how to get things done!” -Rick Frausto, Long Beach Artist

“Ryan has proven to be a long time supporter and activist in the betterment of Long Beach living. ” -Markus Manley, Founder of WE Labs

“Speaking as a former board member, I believe Ryan Smolar is the perfect person for the job – permanently!” -Lovetta Kramer

“Ryan would bring an incredible amount of enthusiasm, passion and innovation to the Arts Council, and his knowledge and experience in the Long Beach arts community is paramount.” -Se Reed, owner of {open} book store

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the energy and excitement Ryan Smolar has brought to Long Beach with the various projects he has brought to life with his fertile mind and love of the city!” – Thom Wasper, Long Beach Photographer

“Ryan is definitely the guy who can push the ACLB forward and has a great vision for it.” – Blair Cohn, Executive Director, Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association

“Ryan is a worldly and creative individual with his ear to the ground. He knows what the people want and even what we need but don’t know it yet! He would make for a great leader in this realm. He’s enjoyable to be around, and with my experience I’ve learned that a welcoming individual can foster a wealth of creativity. He’s also accessible to artists, whom he probably already knows as he has his finger on the pulse… He’s also knowledgeable about other successful arts programs implemented around the world that he could help bring to the great city of Long Beach.” – Victoria Wells, former First Fridays Coordinator

“I can scarcely imagine the amazing opportunities. Ryan is a consummate collaborator and community enthusiast who is a true “Do-er.” Beyond happy to put my name on this – this would be a dream. ” -Logan Crow, Festival Organizer


4 Responses to “Community Signs On to Support Ryan Smolar as Arts Council’s Interim Director”
  1. pablo picasso says:

    Maybe I’m just confused, but I thought an INTERIM manager or executive position is made PRECISELY to AVOID a big public process. You just get someone in there who can hit the ground running WHILE a public process like THIS ONE is used to find a PERMANENT replacement.

    Having a big public process defeats the whole purpose of an INTERIM position.

    An interim position is generally filled by someone who is already doing much of the work of the position in the absence of a permanent individual. An interim position goes to someone who worked directly with that position before it was vacant, someone who can jump right in.

    This whole thing is weird.

  2. Petition says:

    Here’s a link to the petition on

  3. Ryan Smolar says:

    Hi Pablo,

    Thank you for your comments and sorry to be such a pest! I just wanted to reach out to Long Beach and ask change makers, artists and institutional leaders to tell the Arts Council for Long Beach that I would be a great leader for the organization at this time.

  4. wassily kandinsky says:

    Like I said, interim appointments, as a standard practice, go to current employees who are known well to the people doing the hiring, know the job, and dont need vetting.

    Does that describe you?