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Anthony Small

By Anthony Small

Vibrant arts and cultural activities have a vital and unique ability to build a more connected community and must be included in any plan for resilience and economic recovery from COVID-19.

Active cultural participation helps build a thriving community and is vital to Dana Point, Orange County and, indeed, our country’s future. According to the annual Otis Report on the Creative Economy, Orange County’s arts and creative sector account for more than 4% of Orange County’s gross economic product, and the arts, on a larger scale, generate nearly $1 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Richard Stein, President & CEO of ArtsOC, the county’s officially designated local arts agency, shared these thoughts: “It’s not just artists, dancers, and musicians. The arts community creates jobs (90,000+) and generates economic revenue for skilled trades and independent contractors, as well as small businesses like suppliers and restaurants frequented by their audiences.”

Stein continued, “While the economic toll from job losses, canceled performances, and reduced support is certainly being felt across Orange County and threatens the future of the sector, I believe post-COVID, we will experience a real renaissance in the arts.”

The Renaissance in Italy began in 14th century Florence on the heels of “The Black Death,” a seven-year pandemic of bubonic plague.

“We are already seeing evidence of a 21st century arts renaissance through the resilient work of artists and our community amidst our current pandemic,” Stein said. “I also believe that the financial hardships experienced by many will be replaced by an economic resurgence for the creative sector due to pent-up demand—the hunger we all feel for what the arts deliver.”

Leading the way to recovery, by example, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s 5th District Small Business Relief grants now include nonprofits and arts-related businesses, and our own City of Dana Point Mayor Jamey Federico and City Council have recently directed the city’s Arts and Culture Commission to assist in Doheny Village beautification and public art efforts.

Dana Point Harbor, Chamber of Commerce and Festival of Whales organizers are ready to rock with live music, a virtual Splash Dash run, art fair and other activities for the 50th Anniversary Dana Point Festival of Whales.

The Festival of Whales Harbor Music Series will have safe, socially distanced live music at the Dana Wharf Plaza, El Torito/Harpoon Henry’s Plaza and near Coffee Importers on Saturday and Sunday, March 6-7, from noon to 3 p.m. It will feature local musicians and many talented young artists from the nonprofit Community Outreach Alliance (COA), which educates the public on healthy options and activities for teen/young adults to help young people stay away from the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Musical performances are one of COA’s healthy activities, and that ROCKS! COA artists include Keith Comer, Olivia Ooms, Gabby Neeley, Corey Angeli, Sage Escalante, Ava Domini, Bierman Brothers, Noah Novick, Grace & London Meredith, Avery Brostrom, Mike O’Bryan and yours truly. For more info, visit and on Instagram @coa.entertainment.

Art spaces including The Fish Tank are also doing their part to support local arts. Thank you to The Fish Tank for all their help with my video submission for Amanda Shires’ “Our Problem” project, which is bringing awareness to women’s health issues and reproductive rights. For more info, find her Instagram @amandapearlshires or visit



Shires shared these thoughts: “The issue of women’s rights and reproductive health affects us all. Music has the power to bridge gaps and bring people together, and I hope that ‘Our Problem’ reminds you that we are all in this world together and that we can be there for one another no matter what. You are never alone and I’M ON YOUR SIDE.”

The Fish Tank is a local multimedia venue that enables the community to come together and celebrate its creativity, heritage, and cultural achievements. It’s designed to host small private events and is equipped with multimedia tools to showcase art and music, create podcasts and record stories. Longtime Capistrano Beach business owner and resident Larry Robinson is excited about the possibilities. You can reach him at and learn more at or on Instagram at @fishtankcapo.

Wendzelle, a pop recording artist originally from San Clemente, is also helping lead the community toward recovery. Wendzelle has released a new single called “Make Up Your Mind,” with 50% of the profits from streams/sales going to benefit Laura’s House, the biggest domestic abuse shelter in Orange County. The single already has more than 25,000 streams. For more info, visit or on Instagram at @wendzelle. You can also support Laura’s House directly at

Anthony Small is the Executive Director of Music Preserves Foundation, a City of Dana Point Arts and Culture Commissioner and a singer-songwriter. Small and his family have lived in Dana Point for 23 years.

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