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By Breeana Greenberg
Laura Smith Hatch, Dana Point’s newest Arts and Culture Commissioner who was appointed Tuesday night, hopes to hone in on the city’s culture, collaborate with local nonprofits and expand existing music festivals and events.
City Council voted to appoint the ardent volunteer, attorney, and mother of two to fill the vacant seat after former Commissoner Todd Wallin stepped down from the position in mid-April.
Councilmembers interviewed six applicants for the role during its June 7 meeting and voted, 3-2, to approve Smith Hatch’s appointment to fill the vacancy, with Mayor Joe Muller and Councilmember Richard Viczorek voting for Marco Scognamiglio.
Smith Hatch, who works full-time as a trial and litigation attorney, previously served as president of the Junior League of Orange County, a nonprofit that focuses on women’s leadership. More recently, Smith Hatch joined the Dana Point Women’s Club and the Lantern Village Association.
“I’ve spent most of my time out here in California really serving the broader community of Orange County, and one reason in particular that I applied for this opening is I would now like to give my time and talents to the City of Dana Point,” Smith Hatch said.
“I am deeply committed to the growth and prosperity of the city and cultivating and preserving our arts and culture here, as well as making the city a special place for both residents and visitors,” Smith Hatch continued.
Growing up in Pensacola, Florida and attending law school in New Orleans—two cities known for their rich culture and music—Smith Hatch hopes to bring her experience to her position on the commission.
Councilmember Michael Villar asked Smith Hatch what she saw the commission’s role was in expanding and celebrating the culture of Dana Point. Smith Hatch answered that the city’s culture lies in its past and its present, hoping to hone in on the city’s history and legacy in future events.
“I think our culture is a broad sense of it all,” Smith Hatch said. “It’s the indigenous cultures that lived here initially. It’s the European settlers, the Tall Ships Festival, it’s R.H. Dana. It’s also, we go to the architecture, and it’s Sydney Woodruff and the Doheny homes and the legacy of the Lantern Village, and Killer Dana and our surf culture.”
“I think we have this incredible historical culture that’s our past that we can celebrate, but then there’s our new culture,” Smith Hatch continued. “We’re the World Heritage Site for whales; that is incredibly impressive. We’re a top destination for fishing … we are at the start of what’s considered the most beautiful drive in America.”
As a commissioner, Smith Hatch hopes to collaborate with local nonprofits to expand existing events around the town and create new ones.
Working as a leader in a nonprofit, Smith Hatch said she’ll bring a level of expertise in working with other nonprofits. She hopes to use her experience with grant writing and event planning to expand the Arts and Culture Commission’s outreach.
Touching on the many nonprofits in Dana Point that focus on arts and culture, Smith Hatch said she’d like to align with them to cultivate youth-based programs that would introduce children to the arts and educate them on its history.
Part of her goal, she added, includes “encouraging local businesses and stores to display local artist work to serve as ‘galleries’ for them, providing more opportunities for music, interactive arts, and performing arts events in our local parks, and lending a hand in securing grants and endowments for the city’s arts and culture projects.”
Councilmember Jamey Federico commented on the “amazing group of candidates for this position,” noting that there are too few positions for those offering their time and talents to the city.
“A bunch of amazing candidates are not going to get selected for this seat tonight, but I think where things get done in this world is in the nonprofit world,” Federico said. “Our nonprofits in town are absolutely amazing.”
Federico encouraged the candidates to get involved with nonprofits such as Dana Point Arts Alliance, Dana Point Entertainment and Arts Council, Sister Cities International, Music Preserves Foundation, REDO Market, and Lord of the Strings, to name a few.
“For all of you, if you really want to make an impact in this town, find one of those that pulls at your heartstrings, and you all … are amazing and can have a huge impact, and that’s, I think, where you do it,” Federico said.
Smith Hatch’s term as Arts and Culture Commissioner will last three years, expiring in June, 2025.
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at email@example.com