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John Dow: A champion for art

Founding member of the Santa Clarita Arts Commission has a long-standing passion, love of art

Posted: February 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.

John Dow, chairman of the Santa Clarita Arts Commission, with the "Western Tiger Swallowtail" sculpture, by LT Mustardseed, along Bouquet Canyon Road near Central Park in Saugus. (Jonathan Pobre/The Signal)

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John Dow, of Newhall, is chairman of the Santa Clarita Arts Commission. He is a founding appointee, named by Mayor Bob Kellar to the commission in 2009.

Dow and his wife, Michelle, moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1994. Their son Jackson is a fifth grader at Wiley Canyon Elementary School.

Despite his on-stage acting debut with the Canyon Theatre Guild in a recent production of “Miracle on 34th Street,” Dow doesn’t aspire to be “discovered” as the next great leading man.

Dow also owns a beautiful baby grand piano that sits proudly in his living room.

“I might fool around on it, but no one has actually accused me of being able to play that piano,” he said.

Dow is a frequent visitor to museums and owns several pieces of visual art — including a paper sculpture by renowned artist Reinhard.

Yet, he doesn’t paint or sculpt.

However, Dow is one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s most fervent supporters of art.

“Michelle and I purchase art that has some kind of connection to our life,” he said.

Dow grew up in Fresno, the son of educators.

His parents both moved into education administration with his father becoming assistant superintendent of the Fresno County school district.

“I was involved in the normal things that kids do, Pop Warner football, Little League baseball, tennis. I was very athletic-minded,” he said.

In addition to athletics, Dow said that art and music were also a big part of his family life.

“I remember when I was 3 or 4 and my dad has this ‘stereophonic’ record player that was about the size of an icebox,” he said. “I remember being so intrigued that you could stack records on top of each other and they would drop down after each one was finished. I remember thinking that was the coolest technology.”

After Dow graduated high school, he moved to Los Angeles and obtained a bachelor’s degree in corporate finance and economics at the University of Southern California.

He quickly found work in corporate finance at Security Pacific Bank, which was later gobbled up by Bank of America.

Dow switched career gears and became a consultant.

He moved on to Anderson Consulting, which now goes by the name of Accenture.

He owned his own boutique consulting firm and now is a national sales director at Experis, which provides labor and project solutions for IT, health care and finance and engineering companies.

In an interesting turn of events, his only client is Accenture — his previous employer.

Throughout his professional career, Dow always found time to support the arts.

He became the marketing director of the Santa Clarita Symphony, as well as president of the board.

The Symphony closed in 2009, a victim of the foundering economy.

“I said then, it’s not going away, it’s just on hold for now,” he said. “My belief is that this city can and will support and benefit from a professional symphony.”

Most important to Dow is getting the word out that art is not just for the well-off or for artists.

Art is for everyone.

Dow also makes a compelling case that supporting the arts is important for a healthy and vibrant community.

“The arts are vitally important for a number of reasons,” he said. “The arts help drive economic development. Santa Clarita is in a battle for business, for talent, for homeowners to buy, live and shop here. The arts is big business.”

He points to Concerts in the Parks and the third Thursdays Senses events in downtown Newhall as replacements for the “village green.”

“Those events are where people can come regardless of economic status, or class, and they can participate. In our digital age where we sit in front of screens, it is important for people to connect with each other and their community.”

Dow also said the public may not be aware of the talent that resides in the SCV.

“We have such a phenomenal of community of artists and musicians here that I don’t know that people are aware of,” he said. “We have visual artists, live music artists, performance artists.”

In a recent presentation to the Santa Clarita City Council, Dow offered up compelling facts about the importance of art to Santa Clarita.

Dow said the city of Santa Clarita participated in a national study conducted by Americans for the Arts.

“This study, titled Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, is designed to measure the impact of the non-profit arts on communities and the nation,” he said.
“The study measured economic impact is based on two primary factors, what arts organizations spend and what attendees spend when going to arts events.”

Santa Clarita participated in the first study 10 years ago, which offered a baseline to compare progress.

The study reported that in 2011 the total economic impact of the arts in Santa Clarita was $11.4 million, said Dow.

“This is a significant increase since 2001 when the total was just under $2 million,” he said.

Dow said improvements made to the arts in Santa Clarita in the past 10 years were responsible for the significant revenue increase.

“The Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons was not in existence in 2001,” he said. “Several of the local arts organizations that currently exist were either not operating 10 years ago, or did not have nonprofit status and therefore were not a part of the last study.”

In addition to direct economic impact Dow said the study also identified the contributions of volunteers.

“This is something that I believe all of us in Santa Clarita were aware of, which is the crucial role that volunteers play in our community,” he said. “Volunteers contributed almost 30,000 hours in 2011, which was the year the data was collected. This equates to over $600,000 of contributed time, which is a testament to the dedication and commitment of Santa Clarita’s citizens to the arts and to local non-profits.”

Dow feels strongly that everyone can support the arts. He advocates five actions that supporters can take:

n Go. See a performance or attend an event.

n Share. Tell you friends.

n Volunteer. Lend a hand to help out a local arts group.

n Support. Make a donation.

n Advocate. Encourage people to support the arts.

Dow also advises residents to view the public art pieces that have been installed throughout the SCV.

He said the recent installation “Western Swallowtail” by LT Mustardseed has garnered national attention.

“I love the fact that people are talking about that piece,” he said. “If art is done well it creates a discussion.”

Dow also invites the public to attend Santa Clarita Arts Commission meetings that are held at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month.

“The Arts Commission exists to support and serve the community,” he said. “I would love to hear what people want from an arts perspective in this community. Tell us what you want more of, what you want less of, that’s what we’re here to do.”

For more information about the Santa Clarita Arts Commission and a map with a self-guided tour of public art visit www.santa-clarita.com.

mbuttelman@signalscv.com

661-287-5590

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