Arts funding protected in state budget |

Arts funding protected in state budget

Submitted to The Union

Nonprofit arts organizations employing hundreds of thousands of artists in community engagement programs across the state can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment as Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the 2020-21 budget with funding for the California Arts Council, keeping the state arts agency intact.

Facing a $54 billion state deficit, lawmakers were forced to make some tough choices on where to fill revenue holes, make difficult cuts or to roll back new programs, a news release states.

“We are grateful to Governor Gavin Newsom and to the Legislature for recognizing the value of state funded arts and culture programs in California by protecting the California Arts Council budget at $26 million in ongoing funds,” said Victoria Hamilton, board president of Californians for the Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness and resources for arts and culture. “It’s a small but vital amount of money for the arts in California and represents the state’s investment in equitable funding opportunities through a competitive grants program that reaches under-served communities in every county and almost every legislative district in California.”

The California Arts Council recently adopted a new strategic framework that prioritizes flexibility and collaboration with an emphasis on racial equity. Public funding for the arts supports broad public access to the arts for all Californians.

Public investment in the arts is more critical than ever as the public health crisis has almost entirely shut down the ability for the arts sector to earn revenue. In a recent study conducted by Americans for the Arts with 880 California respondents, 96% of arts organizations reported canceled events with millions of dollars in losses, and only 57% are confident their organization will survive the crisis.

“Cutting funding for the arts would decimate arts organizations and artists across California for generations to come and would do nothing to solve the state’s financial crisis,” said Julie Baker, executive director of Californians for the Arts. “In fact, if the Legislature receives sufficient federal funds to backfill budget cuts and make additional investments in California’s economic recovery, we would urge them to consider a significant increased investment in community arts programs and the creative industries. Between (Assembly Bill) 5 compliance costs and the continued inability to gather due to COVID, our sector has been disproportionately impacted and needs additional assistance.”


The data shows that California is leading the nation in creative economy output, but still falls behind in terms of public investment in community access to the arts. Even with the $10 million increase in 2019, California still ranks 26th in the nation for arts funding, investing only 71 cents per capita. As the creative economy represents 7.1% of California’s Gross State Product, ahead of both agriculture and transportation, a meaningful investment in public funding for the arts makes good business sense. The arts ecosystem in California is vast, generating $650.3 billion per year with 2.7 million, or 15.4%, of all jobs in California.

Arts, culture and creativity not only play a vital role in the economy, they also deliver solutions to some of the most pressing issues as evidenced by successful California Arts Council programs such as Arts in Corrections, which has reduced recidivism in California state prisons. Funding for the California Arts Council supports programs that help veterans suffering from PTSD, improves public safety and reduces crime, improves health and wellness, prevents homelessness, creates a sense of place and connection, transforms neighborhoods, increases graduation rates, and inspires civic dialogue. According to Californians for the Arts, for California to be “The State of the Arts,” increased investment is needed in order to maintain the infrastructure of our cultural institutions and celebrate, recognize, center and uplift the Black, Brown, Indigenous and diverse cultures of California.

Baker added, “As we face a public health and financial crisis, as well as continued fear and uncertainty of what lies ahead, we look to the arts and artists for comfort, for our sanity, for distraction, for hope and for guidance. Artists and arts organizations are our second responders in a crisis, they communicate our shared experience that speaks to us in a way that brings us together in our common humanity. The continued public financial investment in the arts is critical to our entire state.”

Source: Californians for the Arts

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