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40th Anniversary Celebration: Welcoming Remarks from Annette Bening

On Wednesday, January 27 the California Arts Council celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a special event at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, hosted by former Council Member Annette Bening. Below is a selection from Bening’s opening remarks.


 

 

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California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia and Annette Bening at the California Arts Council 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. January 27, 2016. Credit: Tia Gemmell Photography

We have come together tonight to celebrate the arts – to honor the countless ways in which creative expression enriches our lives as Californians – whether through community transformation and social prosperity, cultural exchange or individual discovery, or lifelong learning for all generations. As we just saw in the beautiful film that shared a few stories from across our state, the importance of the arts cannot be overstated.

And we’ve come together to consider a question: Why should government support the arts? Why indeed…Of course it is the government’s role to serve its citizens, and as the film we just saw illustrates, the California Arts Council surely does that. But there is a larger purpose to public support of the arts, which is why, for as long as mankind has had governments, governments have funded the arts. Ancient civilizations are endlessly fascinating, but why is that? Without the paintings and the sculpture, the architectural marvels, and every art form from pottery to poetry, what would we know today about ancient Egypt? About Greece, or Rome, or Babylon … the list goes on and on. Art, it has been said, is the signature of a civilization.

To me, arts and creativity are an essential part of what makes us human. As an actor, I tell stories – stories that move audiences to reflect on, and empathize with, people who may be very different from themselves. Movies transport us to places far and near, real and imagined. There’s nothing more human than that. It is imagination—expressed in art—that lifts us out of the everyday and connects us to a larger world. As a member of the California Arts Council I spoke up for the rights of our state’s young people to experience the transformative benefits of arts education, as I did. And as a Californian, I personally take pride in the creativity that makes our communities such wonderful places to live.

The California Arts Council is a special agency. From its beginnings in 1976 to today the Arts Council has demonstrated why government support of the arts is so important. Public support is what brings the arts, with all their power to heal and inspire, to rural communities, towns large and small, blighted neighborhoods, struggling schools, prisons and hospitals, and everywhere the arts can make a difference – from Skid Row to symphony hall. The arts are an invaluable policy asset and prosperity generator for California. The creativity of our state sets us apart and gives California a special place in people’s imaginations. California’s scenery is matched by its spirit, and on this stage tonight you will see a sampling of what I mean by that.

Through the years, the work of the California Arts Council has demonstrated that beyond the arts’ sometimes intangible, inherent value to society, and beyond their value as the signature of who we are, the arts help the state succeed – through economic growth, education, tourism, health and public safety.

This has been the case from 1976 to today, and it will continue to be so for the next forty years.


 

Annette Bening is a four-time Academy Award nominee, two-time Golden Globe-winner, and a recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Award. She served as a member of the California Arts Council from 2004-2008.

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Video Series: My Creative CA

We recently traveled across California to film some of the inspiring people making an impact in their communities through art and creative expression. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be sharing a new video here each week. Here’s a sneak peek that was previewed at our 40th anniversary celebration at the historic Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.


As our host Annette Bening stated on stage at the Crest Theatre, “From its beginnings in 1976 to today the Arts Council has demonstrated why government support of the arts is so important. Public support is what brings the arts, with all their power to heal and inspire, to rural communities, towns large and small, blighted neighborhoods, struggling schools, prisons and hospitals, and everywhere the arts can make a difference – from Skid Row to symphony hall. The arts are an invaluable policy asset and prosperity generator for California. The creativity of our state sets us apart and gives California a special place in people’s imaginations.”

From the role of art in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) to preserving traditional and folk arts, this video shows the wide reach of California Arts Council’s grantees and partnerships to advance arts in California for everyone.

Featured California nonprofits include:

The videos were produced by Los Angeles-based, For Example Media.

‪#‎MyCreativeCA‬ ‪#‎CAarts40‬

Governor Brown delivering his State of the State address on January 21, 2016

Governor Jerry Brown: National Arts Leader

by Craig Watson, Director, California Arts Council

Not often (if ever) can you sing the praises of an elected official who took specific action forty years ago​ to create an enduring legacy—and then see that same person, in the same role, provide a current update to the story! But the California Arts Council will always be tied to Governor Jerry Brown…then and now.

Brown raised eyebrows during his first tenure as Governor by filling virtually every seat on the new Arts Council in 1976 with working artists. Whatever that first Council might have lacked in administrative acumen, they more than made up in artistic vision and passion. The early years were marked by fascinating discussions, ardent beliefs, and ultimately the creation of internationally-regarded, innovative programs serving Californians all over the state.

Fast forward to today and again Governor Brown is at the helm and in the limelight. Serving now an historic fourth term, the Governor was recognized today for his arts support by Americans for the Arts and the US Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC. He has been awarded the 2016 National Award for State Arts Leadership.

A Well-Deserved Honor

Governor Brown was chosen for this award for several important reasons:

Last year he signed a $7.2 million permanent increase to the base funding of the California Arts Council…this after signing a previous year one-time increase of $5 million.

In his most recent budget, he also signed off on $2 million earmarked for an inter-agency agreement between the Arts Council and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to build on pilot programs begun in 2014 which now represent the most robust Arts in Corrections work in the nation.

Governor Brown also signed exciting new legislation giving the California Arts Council authority to develop and implement a statewide certification and support program for Arts and Culture Districts. The Governor, having previously served as the Mayor of Oakland, knows firsthand the important economic development potential of the arts when targeted investments are made in cultural development. He tested this notion in a highly visible way by creating the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) while Mayor. OSA is now a national model for arts and community development.

Forty Years and Going Strong

As the California Arts Council gets ready to celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2016 with a sold-out kickoff celebration at the historic Crest Theatre in Sacramento on January 27th, we know that Governor Brown is a true champion for the artists and arts lovers of the state. In his own words:

“Government investment in the arts is critical to support the expression of new ideas and cultural diversity across our society. The arts and creativity play a key role in ensuring California remains a vibrant, thriving state to live in and visit…our state’s artists and creative communities are among the many features that make California so unique.”

Thanks, Governor. We couldn’t have said it any better!

Top photo: Governor Brown delivering his State of the State address on January 21, 2016


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Craig Watson is the Director of the California Arts Council. He can be reached at craig.watson@arts.ca.gov.