New Mission Viejo arts plan leaves after-school program without a home

MISSION VIEJO – For a number of years, the Thomas R. Potocki Conference Center has played host to cultural arts programs and an after-school program for middle school students.

But among the recommendations in a proposed Cultural Arts Master Plan was one to turn the center into a full-time visual arts space. That would leave Outta Bounds, a nonprofit organization that provides after school programs to Newhart Middle School students, without a home.

On Tuesday, Mission Viejo City Council members faced what they called a difficult decision regarding the fate of the center.

After listening to speakers from both sides for more than two hours, the council voted 4-1 to approve the arts master plan and effectively turn the Potocki Center into visual arts center, where artists can display their works and hold classes.

Councilman Greg Raths asked the council to table the item, saying he believed the city should find a way to allow both sides to continue sharing the center.

“We would suggest that you take what’s working and make it better,” Scott Ramirez, executive director of Outta Bounds, told the council. “Cultural Arts and Outta Bounds should work together to create a shared solution at Potocki for the residents. We’ve been asking for a solution like this since 2015.”

Members of the cultural arts committee complained that they’ve been unable to expand services at the center because of space taken up by Outta Bounds on weekday afternoons.

“We are a large community,” Marillyn Brame, Cultural Arts Committee chairwoman, said. “We cannot grow if we do not have more space.”

Mayor Wendy Bucknum called it a “very tough decision.”

“That’s what we’re up here to do,” she said. “We make tough decisions, we try to balance everybody and we will find a solution for our middle schoolers.”

The Cultural Arts Master Plan aims to take a strategic approach to fulfilling the need for cultural arts programs and services in the city,…

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