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New group fundraising for an Encinitas arts center

ENCINITAS — Broadly speaking, Encinitas Friends of the Arts (EFA), a newly formed nonprofit, wants to elevate arts throughout the city. That mission statement might not turn heads.

But increasingly, the group is gaining attention because many believe it’s fulfilling a needed role: fundraising for a city-owned arts center.

“Residents are very excited — they believe we ought to provide more opportunities for artists,” said Naimeh Tanha, the president of the organization.

Tanha explained that currently artists can perform or showcase work at locations like the Encinitas Community Center and Encinitas Library, but overall there’s a shortage of artistic venues in the city.

This need is especially acute when considering the space needed for local dance and performing arts groups, she added.

“These big performances have to go to Carlsbad, Oceanside or even La Jolla,” Tanha said. “We don’t have a stage that’s the appropriate size.”

Per capita, Encinitas has the second highest concentration of artists in the county, according to a 2012 study from the nonprofit Americans for the Arts. Tanha said that’s another reason EFA is dedicated to helping an arts center take root. But where?

Many residents have long said the Pacific View site should be transformed into an arts center. And because the city recently agreed to pay $10 million for it, the spotlight is now on the 2.8-acre property.

However, Tanha noted the council is still a ways away from determining what should be done with Pacific View (the council is expected to address how the purchase should be funded at its May 21 meeting.)

Instead of Pacific View, EFA funding could go toward converting a vacant pad at Encinitas Ranch Town Center into an open-air theater — and that’s just one alternative.

“Ideally, that would be wonderful if Pacific View could be an arts center,” Tanha said. “But we’re not limiting ourselves to Pacific View.”

Councilman Tony Kranz likened the group to Friends of the Encinitas Library and a related Cardiff organization.

“Those groups raise money for purchases that are outside the budget,” Kranz said.

Kranz cited the Encinitas Ranch pad as an example of why EFA is necessary. Several proposals to build a theatre there have failed over the years because initially the price tag seemed daunting.

“When you get private donations, it makes a project much more feasible,” Kranz said.

On that note, Tanha said the group recently administered a survey at the Encinitas Street Fair asking residents how a public arts center should be funded. Of 120 surveys, about 90 percent of respondents stated a mixture of public and private money should be used.

Several months ago, the council asked the Arts Commission to assist in developing a city-owned arts center.

That direction motivated Tanha, who is on the city’s Arts Commission, and two other commissioners to create the group.

“We wanted our role to expand, so we formed the group,” Tanha said.

Beyond fundraising for venues, Tanha said the organization would also support arts education and other causes, adding that EFA already has a solid member and volunteer base.

To donate, volunteer or become a member, visit

“Across California and the nation, Friends of the Arts groups have been very successful in giving back to their communities,” Tanha said. “We want that to happen in Encinitas as well.”

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