We’ve moved!

Big news: CAC’s blog publishing has been relocated to Medium! The platform’s modern design and comprehensive capabilities give us the freedom to tell more in-depth stories, deliver content more creatively, and to bring more voices and guest features into the mix. Not to worry, this WordPress isn’t going anywhere any time soon; but we have taken the time to migrate all of our old content from here to there, so if you head on over now, you won’t miss a beat. Click here to follow us on Medium.

Meet the CAC Staff, Part 3

This week brings the final installment of our Meet the Staff blog series. Unlike Part 1 and Part 2, which introduced staff specifically from our Administrative and Programs areas, these 10 employees are responsible for a variety of CAC work functions.

sandersonName: Stephanie Anderson
Title: Arts in Corrections Program Manager
Stephanie oversees the activities and contracts for our Arts in Corrections initiative, which brings rehabilitative arts programming to the inmates at every state correctional facility. Her day-to-day work is a testament to the power of the arts and serves as a big source of motivation for her: “Individuals who have gone through struggles in life and were able to overcome them, as well as those that have yet to overcome their challenges, inspire me to want to do more in this world.”
Another way she gains perspective? Through a telephoto lens. Stephanie recently bought herself a camera and has been putting it to good use with her newfound passion for photography. When she’s not taking pictures, she’s spending time with her son, Silas, occasionally indulging in some chocolate and/or Mexican food.

LBarcenaName: Lariza Barcena
Title: Administrative Analyst
Lariza’s the staff liaison to our Council members and gives admin support to our executive staff. She’s also a walking passport to multicultural delights! Lariza was born and raised in Italy, and her parents are Filipino. Her upbringing helped her become fluent in four different languages—Italian; Tagalog; English; and Ilocano, a Filipino dialect. She can converse in Spanish and French, too! It’s second nature to Lariza to immerse herself in all this big blue marble has to offer, and she does—by plane and by palate, traveling and sampling the local cuisine wherever she goes.
She’s also a talented dancer, trained in ballet, jazz, Filipino folklore dance, and hip-hop—her current love. She performs at sports games and other major events along with her crew, Boogie Monstarz, whose founder is one of the original Jabbawockeez!
Her guilty pleasure? No such thing. “I don’t feel guilty about them! Ha!”

ABCName: Anne Bown-Crawford
Title: Executive Director
You had an opportunity to get to know our director when she was first appointed by Governor Brown, but why pass up the chance to dig a little deeper? First, the job: As our director, Anne is responsible for agency administration and implementing the mission and the strategic vision of the CAC.
Now for the woman behind the work: Anne balks at the idea of choosing a favorite color. “An unfair question for an arts-immersed person!” she argues. But she doesn’t hesitate to declare her love for her five children, or her two dogs, Sadie and Kali. Anne grew up in Chicago with her four siblings, where activism was deeply instilled in her by her father, an ardent community organizer, still networking to this day. Her mother was a special education teacher. It makes all too much sense, then, that she would find the perfect hybrid of these two labors of love in her work here at the CAC, championing creative expression and lifelong learning for all as the centerpiece for healthy and happy communities.

kbrownName: Kimberly Brown
Title: Public Affairs Specialist
Kimberly—or Kim—is our communications coordinator, handling CAC’s press and outreach efforts (she may or may not have written this blog).  While not an artist herself, Kim has always had a deep love for the arts and their role in understanding the nature of humanity. She studied art history in college, has played host to a variety of gallery events, and served as a volunteer docent for galleries and museums. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to be able to meld my professional skills and my personal passions through my work here at the California Arts Council,” she says.
Beyond art, her interests are all over the map—old-school soul and R&B, etymology, perfecting the baked potato—matching up well with her favorite quote, from playwright and provocateur Oscar Wilde: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

cfitzwaterName: Caitlin Fitzwater
Title: Director of Public Affairs
Caitlin comes to us from the East Coast. Raised in rural Western Maryland, she attended college in Baltimore and then gave into the allure of New York City, as so many young theater people are wont to do. Caitlin worked in nonprofit theaters in the Big Apple for several years before following another passion and bringing her talents to the world of public radio. She then made a pit stop in Washington, D.C. before California, Sacramento, and the CAC came calling in 2013. She’s been managing our communications, marketing, partnerships, and public events ever since. Recently, she took on her newest role as mom to her son Finn, now just 8 months old! She enjoys spending her free time in support of her husband’s woodworking business and traveling whenever possible—including a trip to Italy in the not so distant future.

akiburiName: Ayanna L. Kiburi
Title: Deputy Director
As Deputy Director, Ayanna serves as primary advisor to the Council and to our director, and is responsible for oversight of administration and program operations. Her background in public health gives her a unique perspective that allows her to hone in on strategies and opportunities where the arts and well-being intersect.
Ayanna was raised in the company of art and artists. Her father, part of the San Francisco Artist Guild, regularly took her on his travels to sell his work. Ayanna finds her own creative outlets through kinetic work, using her hands and body to dance, sing, and sew. She admires dancer Judith Jamison “for her story of triumph” and her rise to leadership as Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.
Ayanna’s name is derived from Swahili. She took this name, along with her other family members who adopted their own Swahili titles, during the Black Power Movement of the 1970s.

kkowthaName: Kala Kowtha
Title: Information Technology Specialist
Kala was born and raised in India, and came to the U.S. for graduate studies in the 1990s. In that time, she’s met her husband, gotten married, had two kids, and become our go-to for all things tech. Kala enjoys her work here at the Arts Council because she gets a better understanding of the arts and, by extension, “a better understanding of the abstract in people.” She’s inspired by the good in others, and urges everyone to consider being an organ donor, having donated a kidney herself 18 years ago to a family member in need.
One last fun (and fitting) fact she shared with us just recently: In Hindi, Kala means “art.”

llittlefieldName: Laura Littlefield
Title: Associate Governmental Program Analyst
Laura is our newest staff member, handling administrative work for internal operations and serving as our Small Business Liaison. She’s also a voracious reader, and will happily take any recommendations sent her way. Laura grew up in Humboldt County, and met her would-be husband there while working at a mom-and-pop restaurant as a high-schooler. The couple just celebrated their 20th anniversary last month! And their love of art was not to be left out of the celebration of their love for one another: Her and her husband made a visit to the small town of Mukilteo in Washington to see a piece of art at the local library, “because for years now it has served as a metaphor for our relationship and the ways we make each other better.”


Name: Kristin Margolis
Title: Director of Legislative Affairs
We’re an active bunch here at the CAC, but Kristin is the clear frontrunner for the most FitBit steps acquired in any given day. As our liaison to the Capitol, she racks up the miles on the pedometer with her near-daily trips to the dome to talk with Assemblymembers, senators, constituent groups, and the governor’s office, keeping tabs on relevant legislation and spreading the word about the benefits of the arts.
Kristin’s favorite fruit—cherries picked fresh from the tree in her yard—should be ripening in the springtime sun as we type. When she’s not enjoying them a la carte, she’s baking them into a pie—one of her beloved hobbies, along with skiing and painting. If you’ve called her office, paged the Capitol, barked up the local fruit trees and she’s still nowhere to be found, she’s most likely fitting in some family time with her two teenage sons, playing basketball, swimming, or cooking.

wmoranName: Wendy Moran
Title: Graphic Designer
Wendy’s our resident graphic designer, making the rest of us look good by way of her bold colors and polished aesthetic. Her favorite artist is Milton Glaser, who she admires for his clean lines and simplicity that have no doubt inspired her work. Glaser once said, “There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” Wow is a word that’s always on our lips with your creations, Wendy!
Wendy’s got a side hustle as keeper of the office candy dish. Sweets are her favorite treat, and she benevolently assuages fellow staff’s sugar cravings with an oversized apothecary jar well-stocked with goodies. Plus, she frequently surprises us with pastries in the morning. Wendy, you spoil us!

And with that, you’ve gotten to know each and every one of the staff here at the California Arts Council. We’re here to serve! Don’t hesitate to reach out to whomever best can address your needs.

Blog bite: California Proud in D.C. at Poetry Out Loud Semifinals

Alexis, you made us proud last night. California proud.

At the Poetry Out Loud National Semifinals yesterday in Washington, D.C., your presence captivated and your voice did not waver. You fully embodied the words of your recitations as you unleashed them, one by one, into the Lisner Auditorium.

Your chosen poems—“If They Should Come for Us,” by Fatimah Asghar, and “The Mortician in San Francisco,” by Randall Mann—both bold and beautiful works, aligned so perfectly with your desire to leverage the arts for social change.

“The arts give me the courage to express my values with an activist’s voice in the midst of the fear and ignorance residing on both sides of the ‘fourth wall,'” Alexis told us.

At a time when the world is waking up to the value of our young people’s voices, we couldn’t have been more confident in our judges’ decision to send you to the mic to represent our state’s creative and conscious youth. You gave us, our nation’s capital and the whole country a rousing look into what you believe, who you are, and who you are going to be.

Your performances left a strong and lasting impression on everyone watching, including those who moved through to today’s final round. You are—unmistakably—our champion.

And you’ve made us California proud.

Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia is the 2018 California Poetry Out Loud state champion. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. For pics, videos, and more from California Poetry Out Loud, visit www.arts.ca.gov/initiatives/pol/index.php. For information on the national initiative and competition, go to www.poetryoutloud.org.

Featured photo by Tia Gemmell.

New data reveals arts and culture contributions to California’s bottom line

We’ve been reveling in some arts stats that came out last month: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts released new figures that paint an insightful picture of America’s creative economy. For the first time, the data reveals not just the national impact, but also break down the commercial force of the arts in each of the 50 states.

The Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account tracks the yearly economic impact of arts and cultural production from 35 industries, both commercial and nonprofit. It reports on economic measures: value-added to the GDP, employment, and compensation at both the state and federal level.

In 2015-—the most recent data in the ACPSA report—the arts employed 4.9 million workers across the U.S. and contributed $763.6 billion to the national economy. That represents a nearly 40 percent growth in GDP contribution since 1998. In that same time, consumer spending on the performing arts nationwide has nearly doubled.


And now for the part you were waiting for—California’s creative industry. It’s good news. It’s very, very good news:

  • The arts added $174.6 billion in value to California’s economy. That’s 7.1 percent of the state’s overall GDP, and comparable to the contributions of the construction, agriculture, and transportation industries combined.*
  • Arts and culture production employed 705,506 people in California paid $80.2 billion in compensation,  making up 4 percent of the state’s employment and 6 percent of the state’s compensation.

We’re sure you’re still wondering, how’d we measure up when compared to other states?

  • 1st among all states in ACPSA value added
  • 7th among all states in ACPSA value-added growth
  • 1st among all states in ACPSA employment
  • 7th among all states in ACPSA employment growth
  • 1st among all states in ACPSA compensation
  • 1st among all states in ACPSA compensation growth

Well done, California. We like this look on you. 😉

The numbers look slightly different than those gathered by the Otis Report on the Creative Economy of California, a report supported by the California Arts Council. Dates and defining of terms and parameters vary from one report to the other. But the story told by the ACPSA numbers is the same, and one we art lovers know by heart: Art means business, and business is booming. And in California, where creativity is at the core of our identity, it’s important that we demonstrate that value—while continuing to grow our economy—by making a conscious investment in our artists.

Want more of the juicy details? Go on and mine that treasure trove of data for yourself. For all national findings, see this arts data profile. For all state findings, see this arts data profile.

*From the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Data Dashboard.

(Featured photo: Creative California Communities grantee Flyaway Productions.)



Blog bite: 2018 Poets’ Prize awarded to California’s poet laureate

A cause for celebration: California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia’s 2016 book, 99 Poems: New & Selected, has been chosen as the winner of this year’s Poets’ Prize. The award, administered by Lake Forest College, is presented annually to the best book of verse by an American author published within the two years prior.

99 Poems: New & Selected features 12 new poems juxtaposed with work spanning Gioia’s career, most notably examining life’s more solemn experiences of death, time, mortality, grief, love, and family.

“I’m deeply pleased to have the book recognized by this fine award. It is a pleasure to be prized,” Gioia said in a statement.

Gioia also won a Poets’ Prize in 1992 for his book The Gods of Winter, making him the first recipient in the prize’s 30-year history to be honored on two separate occasions for different works.

He will be recognized at an award ceremony and reception on May 18 in New York.

From all of us here at the CAC, congratulations!

As California’s poet laureate, Gioia’s been on the road as “poetry’s public servant” and making a visit to every county in California. To see pictures from Gioia’s travels and learn more about past and upcoming events, visit http://capoetlaureate.net.



Support arts education before Tax Day

With each passing day, we inch closer and closer to this year’s tax deadline of April 17. We have reached peak procrastination.

If you’ve yet to file, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Nearly a quarter of Americans wait until the last two weeks to take care of their taxes.

You’re also not too late to do your part for keeping creativity inside California’s classrooms.

The latest data from Create CA shows that while participation in the arts among our students has improved, there’s work left to be done. And those who need the social and academic benefits of arts instruction the most—low-income students, English-language learners—are the ones most likely to go without.

In order for California to take home the A-plus for arts access on its report card, we need equitable access to quality arts education programs for all of our students, statewide. No exceptions.

They say taxes are one of two things that are certain in life. The California Arts Council’s Keep Arts in Schools Fund is one small way to help make creativity in California’s classrooms a sure thing, too.

Between now and April 17, make a donation of $1 or more to the Keep Arts in Schools Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund. 100% of your tax-deductible contribution is applied to arts education programming supported by the California Arts Council.

You’ll be helping grantees like About Productions bring mentoring to Pueblo Continuation High School in East L.A., helping students to create their own scripts based in the history of their community. Or Yolo Arts bring its ceramics program to elementary schools in the rural towns of Woodland and Esparto.  And you’ll help Thingamajigs teach music and innovation to students in Oakland, building instruments from everyday materials while showing students how math, physics, and design are used in their creation. And so many more.

Every dollar counts. Here’s how to donate.

P.S. If you’ve already filed, that’s OK! We’re sure you’ve got some pals who like to put things off. Help us spread the word.

California Poetry Out Loud: And the winner is…

“And our winner for this year is …”

Council Chair Nashormeh Lindo smiles before making the big announcement, as a bevy of excited high-schoolers break into a spontaneous drum roll on the Assembly floor.

The 2018 California Poetry Out Loud recitation contest has come down to this moment.

CA - POL 1
2018 California Poetry Out Loud State Champion Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia.

“… Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia!” Lindo finishes with enthusiasm.

The reaction of the room speaks volumes. As cheers erupt on the floor and spread to the gallery above, it’s clear Alexis was a fan favorite, winning the approval of her peers as well as the judges. In a venue like the historic Assembly chambers, where decisions are made each day by representatives of the electorate, the occasion feels fittingly democratic.

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, administered by the CAC, Poetry Out Loud offers teens the confidence to make themselves heard, with poetry as their medium. Contestants get the chance to better understand and connect with the work of the masters through their own unique interpretation and delivery.

CA - POL 5
Runnerup Sage Innerarity.

Over the course of the two-day final competition, Alexis captured the hearts and minds of her observers, reciting three poems with style and precision: “If They Should Come for Us,” by Fatimah Asghar, “Chorus Sacerdotum,” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville, and “The Mortician in San Francisco,” by Randall Mann.

The Orange County senior from Mater Dei High Shcool explains her relationship with poetry as a tool to promote social change on a civic level and within the world of art itself. “The arts give me the courage to express my values with an activist’s voice in the midst of the fear and ignorance residing on both sides of the ‘fourth wall,'” she said.

Sacramento County senior Sage Innerarity of Pleasant Grove High earned the prize of runnerup. Nicholas Panyanouvong, a sophomore at James C. Enochs High in Stanislaus County took third place for the second year in a row.

CA - POL 6
Third Place Winner Nicholas Panyanouvong.

Poetry Out Loud is a statewide combined effort—this year involving the participation of 46 counties and 261 schools, the encouragement of 783 teachers, and the dedication of 30,000 students. It takes a panel of knowledgeable judges, a cadre of CAC Council Members and staff, a guest appearance from California Poet Laureate and POL founder Dana Gioia, and the backing and encouragement of countless legislators—just to name a few.

But the county finalists are no doubt the stars, and not only for their onstage presence. Their enthusiasm for one another out of the spotlight is all the more extraordinary, as heard in that volcanic moment on the Assembly floor.

“That’s what I love so much about Poetry Out Loud,” explained Chair Nashormeh Lindo. “It is the young people’s camaraderie and genuine support of one another that makes it so much more inspiring. It makes me hopeful, seeing their authentic humanity and respect for one another.”

Alexis will go on to represent California in the national finals next month in Washington, D.C., on April 23-25. We’ll have all the details for you to tune in and watch coming soon.

Congratulations to this year’s winners, and to all the county champions!

For pics, videos, and more from the final event and the state POL program, visit our online HQ for all things California Poetry Out Loud: http://arts.ca.gov/initiatives/pol/index.php.


(Featured photo: The 2018 Poetry Out Loud Champions in the Assembly chambers at the California State Capitol. From left to right: CAC Deputy Director Ayanna Kiburi, California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, Third Place Winner Nicholas Panyanouvong, Runnerup Sage Innerarity, California Poetry Out Loud State Champion Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia, CAC Chair Nashormeh Lindo, CAC Vice Chair Larry Baza. All photos by Tia Gemmell.)

CA Poetry Out Loud: The final countdown

It’s been a beehive of activity at the CAC office this week, with staff buzzing around to put the finishing touches on the upcoming main event—the 2018 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals taking place this Sunday and Monday.

In just a few days, champions hailing from high schools all over California will compete for the state title, which includes a $200 cash prize, $500 toward literary materials for their school, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a chance to win the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest.

It’s two days jampacked with excitement, all thanks to some incredible poetry brought to you by some very tenacious teens. Through the Poetry Out Loud program—created by the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the CAC—these awesome orators have discovered not just the power of words, but the power within themselves to bring them to life and give them character.

Join us on Sunday, March 18, at 4 p.m. for Round One at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. Then we’re inside the Assembly Chambers of the state Capitol bright and early on Monday at 8 a.m. to complete Rounds Two and Three, where the third-place winner, runner-up, and California Poetry Out Loud 2018 state champion will make themselves known.

View the event page and check out the event program for more details, including a special presentation from Poetry Out Loud founder and current California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia.


The event is free and open to the public both days, although space is limited. Can’t make it but still want to see what it’s all about? Tune in to Assembly TV on Monday morning to catch Rounds Two and Three as they are broadcast live from the Capitol: www.calchannel.com/live-webcast.

The CAC will be busy on its social media networks during the event, too, of course! Check out our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds for regular live updates, and join the conversation using #POL18.

(Featured photo: The 2017 state finalists in the Senate chambers at the California State Capitol.)

They are the champions: 2018 California Poetry Out Loud

In a little over two weeks’ time, nearly four dozen high-schoolers from across the state will join together in a partial takeover of downtown Sacramento. They’re headed to the Capital City to step up to the mic—competing at the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals.

This will be the 13th year that the California Arts Council has administered Poetry Out Loud and produced the state finals. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (and the brainchild of our current California Poet Laureate, Dana Gioia, during his time as NEA Chair), Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. California’s POL is the largest event of its kind in the U.S., and has held steady in the top tiers of participation and growth since its inception.

This year’s competition series encompasses 46 counties, 261 schools, and 783 teachers, reaching nearly 73,000 students statewide.

The excitement starts with Round 1, on Sunday, March 18, 4 p.m. at the Crest Theatre. Students will recite one of three selected poems for judges to evaluate and score. Then it’s off to Round 2 the next morning at 8 a.m., in the historic Assembly chambers of the Capitol building. A small group of competitors will move on to a third and final round the same morning. One winner will be chosen to represent California in the national finals, April 23-25 in Washington, D.C.

But each teen is already a champion in their own right, having beat out their peers first in their classroom, then at school, and finally at the county level.

Click here for the list of 2018 California Poetry Out Loud county champs.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners – you have made us California proud! We can’t wait to see what you all have in store for us at the finals.

The 2018 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals are a free event open to the public, although space may be limited. For more details about the two-day final event and the state POL program, visit our online HQ for all things California Poetry Out Loud: http://arts.ca.gov/initiatives/pol/index.php.

(Featured photo: The 2017 state finalists in the Senate chambers at the California State Capitol.)