By Daniel Larios
August 15, 2014 – The City of Santa Monica will soon be employing a French Knight as its Cultural Affairs Manager.
Jessica Cusick, who has held the post since early 2005, was named on Thursday a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres – or Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters – by the French Minister of Culture and Communications. She will receive the medal from the Consul General at a private ceremony later this year.
“This medal recognizes the admiration that France has for Ms. Cusick’s work and her efforts on behalf of French culture,” said Axel Cruau, the French Consul General in Los Angeles. “I am very happy that we were able to thank her and express our gratitude.”
Notable recipients of the award include Ray Bradbury, Tim Burton, Jude Law, George Clooney, Van Morrison, Bono, Ringo Starr, Michael Caine, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
“I was beyond delighted, because it came as a complete surprise,” Cusick told the Lookout. “It’s always wonderful to find out you’ve won an award, but when it’s a complete surprise, it’s even better.”
“Jessica Cusick embodies our City’s commitment to excellence in the arts,” said City Manager Rod Gould. “We are delighted by this recognition of her efforts and achievements on behalf of Santa Monica’s arts community.”
Cusick is being honored for her distinguished career in the arts, her current work as Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Santa Monica and for Glow, an all-night art event in Santa Monica that features local, national and international artists, Cruau said.
Glow is inspired by Paris’ Nuit Blanche, the first and most developed of the all-night art events that are now taking place across the world.
Glow, which drew more than 200,000 visitors in its first year in 2008, has consistently featured a French artist in its program. The event, Crau said, “illustrates her passion for weaving the arts throughout public space.”
Cusick said that “the almost magical transformation of a familiar public space, Santa Monica Beach, illustrates how creative collaboration can inspire and engage an entire community.”
“I think art has the ability to make cities a better place,” Cusick said. “Artists allow us to see things differently, to have a new understanding and a new perspective. Art brings us together.
“I feel the presence of the arts in a city is very important. We’re lucky in Santa Monica because it’s a very artist friendly city.”
Since 1957, France has awarded l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (The Order of Arts and Letters), one of France’s most distinguished titles, to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.
The award is given out under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Culture and Communication.
Cusick, who received her degree in art history from the Sorbonne in Paris and a Master’s from New York University, has been Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Santa Monica since early 2005, where she has overseen significant expansion in the City’s support for artists and the creative sector.
In addition to Glow, Cusick oversaw the adoption of a comprehensive cultural master plan, an artist fellowship program, and Beach=Culture at the Annenberg Community Beach House, as well the addition of the arts and culture to the City’s commitment to sustainability.
She is also president of Cusick Consulting, which specializes in cultural policy and community development through the arts.