Announcing a Major Expansion of our Arts Education Grant Offerings

By Josy Miller, Arts Education Program Specialist, California Arts Council

The California Arts Council is thrilled to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2016-17 Artists in Schools grant program! Due to an increased investment by the Governor and the Legislature this year, we’ve been able to craft a major expansion of our arts education funding opportunities, including new grants to support dedicated afterschool and summer programs, field trips and assemblies, and early childhood arts learning.

A longstanding investment in California’s young people

Initiated in 1976, the Artists in Schools (AIS) program is one of our longest standing grant programs. For forty years, our Council has invested in school-based residency programs that offer high quality arts education to California students by California teaching artists. In many cases, these programs have been the sole opportunity for students to experience dedicated arts learning at school. The Artists in Schools program underscores the critical role the arts play in students’ development of creativity, overall well-being, and academic achievement.


Current AIS grantees include San Diego’s Malashock Dance, whose Math in Motion program teaches students dance technique and choreography using mathematical concepts as tools. The City of San Fernando’s Mariachi Masters Apprentice program connects Grammy Award-winning musicians with underserved middle school students, incorporating artistic and historical instruction to preserve traditional mariachi music. Luna Kids Dance not only implements comprehensive K-5 dance education programs in multiple Oakland public schools, they offer a Professional Development program for classroom teachers in order to extend the impact of the teaching artist residencies.

Click here to see descriptions of all our current Artists in Schools grantees!

Growing resources, growing support

Last year, we awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to 144 organizations that employed 580 teaching artists to provide arts education to more than 43,000 California school children in grades K – 12. When notice came of the increased investment in CAC programs this year, our Council stood by the desire of the Legislature and of California residents to “improve the state of arts education in California schools,” articulated as a top priority in the agency’s statewide listening tour in 2013. This year, our Council approved an additional $400,000 in grant funding to support the arts education expansion, bringing our investment to upwards of $1.7 million for the new grant cycle.

What’s new?

This expansion will increase support for arts education in a number of ways. First, the maximum grant award for organizations operating school residencies through the AIS Engagement program will increase from $12,000 to $18,000, significantly extending the capacity of these programs.

Secondly, while the Artists in Schools program has historically focused its funding on in-school residencies, the new AIS Extension grant program will support afterschool and summer arts education opportunities, both in community settings and on school campuses.

Additionally, the new AIS Exposure program will provide support for arts organizations to perform or present at school assemblies, and to host field trips to professional arts venues. While the CAC certainly maintains its commitment to and belief in sustained, sequential arts education, many of us also remember the first time we experienced professional-caliber art – in a theater, in a recital hall, in a museum, or with a guest appearing in our very own classroom. And for many of us, our lifelong, passionate commitments to the arts are a direct result of those first tastes of its transformative power. The Exposure program will assist the world-class arts organizations of California in providing these opportunities to thousands of young people this year.

Last – but absolutely not least – as part of the arts education expansion, we are extending our support to programs that work with our youngest Californians. All of this year’s programs will be open to application by organizations that provide arts education to children in their first five years of life (PreK). A growing body of research demonstrates that many of the most egregious and irreparable contributors to achievement gaps have already been established by the time children enter kindergarten. The California Arts Council is determined to support arts from the outset, and to do our part to ensure the benefits of arts-rich lives to each and every Californian.

The California Arts Council and our staff are delighted to share news of these expanded opportunities and hope that you will visit the Artists in Schools landing page on our website for more information and to apply!

Make sure to join us for a live webinar on December 8th, 2016 at 11AM PST, when the programs staff will review the goals of the Artists in Schools program, the requirements of the various funding strands, and the application process. Please register for the webinar here.

And remember, Artists in Schools is just one of fourteen grant programs we’re offering this year! Be sure to check out the full lineup of opportunities.

Josy Miller
is the Arts Education Program Specialist at the California Arts Council. She can be reached at

Top photo: Cal Arts Community Arts Partnership
Center photo: P.S. ARTS

Giving Back to Those Who Served

California is home to nearly 2 million Veterans – more than any other state – accounting for 8.3% of our nation’s veterans. Our Council prioritizes the needs of veterans, and has seen firsthand how engagement with the arts and creative expression can benefit the quality of life for those who have served our country, and their families.

Soon entering its third year, our Veterans Initiative in the Arts grant program is uniquely designed to support nonprofit arts organizations, local arts agencies, and veterans’ assistance agencies ability to serve veterans, active military, and their families through local arts programming. This year, we supported 33 projects and invested more than $300,000 through these grants.

The work of our grantees is making a difference in communities across California. Today we’re proud to showcase a few stories illustrating the power of arts and creative expression to support, encourage, and in some cases, heal, our former servicemen and women.

DIAVOLO – Architecture in Motion

Currently, DIAVOLO dance company is offering Los Angeles Veterans a one-of-a-kind immersive dance experience. After nine DIAVOLO movement workshops for Veterans, the company chose eight Veterans to be a part of their engagement experience. During a period of four months, these eight individuals rehearse at a professional dance studio three times a week under the direction of DIAVOLO Artistic Director, Jacques Heim, and Institute Director, Dusty Alvarado. DIAVOLO company dancers are also present, offering a true, professional dance company experience.

diavoloDuring these rehearsals, the eight Veterans are trained, educated, and encouraged to create material that allows them to express themselves in new ways. The final product of these rehearsals is a showing of a piece, but the process of getting to that point is at the core of this program.

Chris was active duty in Iraq 10 years ago. Following his service, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department. He has since then resigned on medical leave. Constantly struggling with PTSD, he has sought after doctors and therapists. After two weeks in our studio, Chris called Institute Director, Dusty Alvarado and said, “I’ve never felt more calm and more at peace in the past 10 years than when I am dancing with you guys.”

Alvarado shared that the entire organization of DIAVOLO has become a part of this experience. “The Veteran participants see this, are honored by it, and take even greater pride in the work they are doing here. We are showing up and saying ‘this is important to us. We want to highlight you guys in the best way we know how… through dance.’ We have created a safe place for these individuals where their voices can be heard.” Alvarado hopes this place helps them feel more grounded and more comfortable as they work on making the transition into civilian life.

The work of DIAVOLO is known to be intense, highly athletic, and daring. They are considered “warriors of dance.” Alvarado shared, “It only made sense that we would one day work with Veterans—intense, athletic, daring individuals. We did not take it easy on our Veterans. We pushed them past their own limits to what only we knew they could achieve.”

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

For several years, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) has implemented ArtOASIS, a program supporting the recovery of military personnel from the symptoms of combat-related stress. The partnership joins MCASD with Combat Arts San Diego to serve more than 75 active duty troops each year who are enrolled in the Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support (OASIS) program of the Naval Medical Center San Diego.

mcasdCombat-related stress is an issue of great concern for the social and economic health of San Diego County—home to the largest concentration of military personnel and their families in the nation. Through ArtOASIS, more than 75 active-duty military enrolled in the OASIS Program at the Naval Medical Center experience regular outings to the calming environment and gardens of the Museum, evidence-based recreational therapy rooted in the arts, and the opportunity to have their artwork displayed in the museum galleries.

Education Curator Cris Scorza shares that ArtOASIS teaching artists have witnessed service members giving substance and voice to feelings and thoughts through different artistic media with positive effects. “The art classes provide a relaxed, non-clinical environment where they can relax and talk as peers. The art making process itself gives them the ability to control, articulate and externalize their negative experiences in a constructive way.”

Cris has seen personnel who have come into the program with prior art experience who have flourished in that setting, as well as personnel without any prior experience be surprised at how beneficial the creative process is. One special case was Carl, who at the beginning of his participation Carl was withdrawn. In his military service, Carl made bombs and received many awards for this skill. But in his time in treatment, he began to wonder how this skill would serve him in the future. Many of the participants shared this anxiety. What will follow military service? How will they restructure their lives? Responding to such questions was an essential aspect of the program.

sdmcaAs the teaching artists began to connect with Carl and showed him that they believed in his ability to have a future after the military, he began to gain confidence. Toward the end of the project, Carl was asking questions about drawing and writing as an option for his future and for sharing his story. He became excited about developing new skills. The art practice was just a vehicle for conversation. The true outcomes of this project were the personal connections the troops and artists developed, which allowed them to open up about nurturing innate talent, sharing personal narratives, and planning for civilian life.

As an added component, one OASIS graduate is serving as a teaching assistant with the mentoring of ArtOASIS teaching artists. He teaches from a place that is collegial with an understanding of the military approach. He has introduced tool-based art making to the new participants—a method that is both familiar and highly empathetic. ArtOASIS will continue to support graduates becoming teaching assistants as a way of demonstrating that both art and teaching are viable careers as service men and women transfer to the civilian world. ArtOASIS teaching assistants are paid an hourly rate and can translate the skills and teaching experience acquired in the position to work in other settings.

Yuba Sutter Arts

In the town of Marysville,  veterans and local artists collaborated to create a large-scale, community art installation telling the story of the veteran experience:

Alameda County Arts Commission

With California Arts Council support, the Alameda County Arts Commission is providing a series of art activities integrated into events and counseling groups at the Oakland Vet Center that serves Alameda County Veterans. The goals are to provide Veterans with opportunities to express themselves in a supportive environment, develop art making skills, engage in community building, and strengthen partner and family bonds. The project includes displays at veteran service and civic venues.

Program Coordinator Violet Juno feels this work is important because there is such strong positive response from the Veterans community about incorporating art and the creative process into their services. “The Veterans, their readjustment counselors and Veteran service organization staff are very interested in partnering together to explore how the arts can support Veterans in their readjustment journey,” Violet shared. “This project creates a way for the Alameda County Arts Commission to provide support and expertise to this important part of our local community.”

Veterans participating in the program share that they find art making to be meditative, healing and empowering. One female Veteran participated in a workshop with her two teenage children and shared “We liked this. It’s therapeutic! We’d like to do it again.” Another young female Veteran added that “this art experience helps me get out of my comfort zone, meet people, and try new things.” And some participants have enjoyed using personal strengths from their military service in the art making process. “I like the teamwork needed for this project. I like the camaraderie and seeing what we can accomplish together,” a male Veteran, age 67 shared.

Our 2017 Veterans Initiative in the Arts program will open for applications on January 18, 2017. Click here to learn more about the program.

Storytelling: Essential to the Human Spirit

Today, we’re proud to release the findings of an extensive evaluation of our support of nonprofit media organizations, specifically as it relates to arts and culture coverage and related projects. The report, Nonprofit Media Coverage of the Arts in California: Challenges and Opportunities, is the first of its kind — assessing the status of California nonprofit media organizations’ engagement with arts and culture, and the funding of such activities.

Foreword: Nonprofit Media Coverage of the Arts in California

By Caitlin Fitzwater, Communications Director, California Arts Council

Storytelling is essential to the human spirit. Stories move us, but beyond that they inspire action, deepen understanding, build bridges, and foster change. Storytelling, arts, and culture go hand in hand.

Public media is a key source through which storytelling is made available to all. With no cost for consumption, a radio can be all one needs to be transported and to stay informed. At its best, public media is embedded in communities, fostering the sharing of stories that are authentic to local cultures.

The California Arts Council, our state arts agency, recognizes these contributions as vital to California’s cultural ecosystem. Perhaps that’s why public media emerged as a grantmaking priority in 2013 when a one- time infusion of new state arts funding allowed our Council to “dream big” for the first time in a decade. Seeking to utilize one-time funding for programs that could show significant impact, the California Arts Council developed the Arts on the Air public media program.

KQED - KQED Producer Matthew Williams films artist Wendy MacNaughton at her drawing table.JPGThis pilot grant program was a high priority for the Council. But key to a productive investment is ensuring that grants are effectively serving the field and meeting the actual needs of California’s communities. After all, there’s little point in investing in something if you’re not getting it right. This is precisely why our Council prioritizes evaluation. Rigorous assessment takes many different forms, and in the case of our investment in public media, we wanted to discern, not assume, the true needs of the field. We wanted to deepen our knowledge of public media in California today as part of our assessment, and to foster new relationships along the way. That is why, after two years, the Council suspended the pilot program for a year to evaluate its effectiveness and impact.

In this case, our central evaluation activity was the convening of a California Arts and Public Media Summit in Oakland on June 23,2016. The field participated in the summit robustly and enthusiastically. And the project yielded great results: networking opportunities, relationship building, this report – and perhaps most importantly, better informed programming decisions for the California Arts Council. The public process has always been central to our work, but it is increasingly critical as we develop new programs with growing state arts funding resources. Public input is in our DNA as government funders. It is a crucial vehicle for involving all Californians in the investment of public resources.

The following report contains a summary of activities and input from public media experts and thought leaders across our state and the nation. We express our deepest thanks to all who participated. While this report is indeed informing the work of our Council right now, it’s not just for us. We hope the findings will be a helpful resource and conversation starter for all parties who are invested in the success of the public media field and its engagement with California’s cultural communities. Perhaps it goes without saying, but times are changing – and staying in touch with those doing the work on the ground is paramount to any funder or stakeholder’s success.

Our Council is embracing the evolution of our programs, welcoming change, and capitalizing on the realities of doing good work in a 21st-century California. We are all excited for what’s to come, and are grateful to have continual opportunities to build our knowledge together with our state’s vibrant and diverse communities.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaalaaaaajgrinjc1zjm4ltk3oditngy4ms1imtg0lwuzzmq3ndczztljywCaitlin Fitzwater
is the Communications Director for the California Arts Council, a position she has held since June 2013. Previously, in New York City, Caitlin served as the marketing manager for New York Public Radio, developing campaigns for nationally beloved radio programs including Radiolab and Studio 360. She also managed marketing efforts for the Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons Theater. Caitlin was a 2012-13 Executive Fellow at the Devos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC. She can be reached at

Photo Credits: Documania and KQED Arts

Our “Grant Season” is Officially Underway!


It’s the most wonderful time, of the year! And no, we’re not talking about the holiday season…

As of today, six of our grant programs are now open for applications — with eight more opening in the near future. As a result of increased state arts funding, this year we’ll award more grants than we have in 13 years as we support projects in fourteen unique grant programs. In fact, we may award as many as 1,000 grants this fiscal year… that’s more than triple the number of grants awarded annually in the past! 

The California Arts Council invests in California nonprofit organizations via competitive grant programs, administered through a multistep public process. Program details including availability, application deadlines, guidelines, and more can be found at


Do you want to make a difference in your community? Do you want to build and grow a sustainable organization? Do you want to give back through culture and creative expression? Well, at the California Arts Council, we’re here to help!

Open Programs

Learn about all our grant programs at The following grant programs are currently accepting applications as of 11/16/2016. 

ARTISTS ACTIVATING COMMUNITIES: Up to $18,000 for artist residencies in community settings.

ARTISTS IN SCHOOLS: Up to $18,000 supporting students’ overall well-being and academic achievement through arts engagement. New categories offered this year! 

CREATIVE CALIFORNIA COMMUNITIES: Up to $50,000 a year for small and mid-sized organizations and up to $75,000 a year for large organizations to support collaborative creative placemaking projects. Now a two-year grant program!

LOCAL IMPACT: Up to $18,000 for arts projects in underserved communities.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND CONSULTING: $1,000–$5,000 for capacity-building professional development or consulting projects for arts organizations.

STATEWIDE AND REGIONAL NETWORKS: Up to $30,000 to support culturally-specific, multicultural, and discipline-based statewide and regional arts networks and services organizations.

Sign-up for our Informational Webinar

Join us for an informational webinar on Thursday, December 1st when we’ll provide an overview of all of the California Arts Council’s 2016-17 grant programs, highlighting some changes and new additions to our grant offerings. Our programs staff will review the application process, provide some tips for grant writing success, and answer questions from the public. Click here to register.

Spread the Word

Offering a record number of grants means that we’re seeking a record number of applicants! This year we hope many organizations new to the California Arts Council family will consider applying for a grant, and we need your help to spread the word about the many opportunities for state arts funding. Here’s a flyer we encourage you to share. Complete details on open programs and upcoming deadlines can be found on our website at