State of the arts: Joint Committee on the Arts assembles voices on creative economy and creative space issues

The California Arts Council was at the state Capitol on Wednesday as artists, arts agencies, organizations and advocacy groups gathered for a seat at the table of the Joint Committee on the Arts. Joint Committee Chair Senator Ben Allen and other committee members listened intently and asked questions as various panelists expressed their views on the state of the arts in California.

At the top of the agenda was the newly released Otis Report on the Creative Economy of California, with special attention paid to the addendum white paper addressing the need for safe and affordable live-work spaces for artists. The turnout and the passion was so great, we’d thought it best to let the attendees speak for themselves, with a sampling of quotes below. You can check out the full hearing in the Senate media archive.

On the Otis Report:

“The [Otis Report] challenges the existing understanding that the arts are side activities to the ‘real’ economy. … It asks the question, what would it look like to put the economic output of creativity connected industries front and center in our economic and political initiatives?”

“It’s my hope that cities and counties throughout California can leverage the Otis Report to encourage further investments in art education, economic development and cultural planning.”

“If we could touch the invisible or some of the soft statistics, these statistics would be even higher and more productive for you to look at, I think, as a major, major engine of the economy.”

Bruce Ferguson, Otis College of Art and Design

“Artists don’t conform to the way that the government likes to collect statistics. I would say that the numbers in here are undercounted.”

“Activities based on creativity are essential components of a robust, healthy and growing economy.”

Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation

On the value of the arts:

“The question is, how can we in the United States immerse ourselves so fully in arts and culture but place so little value on artists, when other countries place their arts and culture in higher regard?”

“Part of why California has been able to be the economic juggernaut that it is – the sixth largest economy in the world—has so much to do with the creativity that exists here, and the fact that so many business want to be in this creative place. For that, I am eternally grateful to our creative industry, our creative economy.”

Senator Ben Allen, Joint Committee Chair

“Being someone in education now for the past 25 years, I can tell the difference when I walk in the school whether there is a robust arts program or not. Without seeing the classrooms, without seeing what’s on the walls, there’s a feeling in the way the kids bounce through the halls.”

Donn Harris, California Arts Council Chair

“All of these different groups now understand what we as the arts sector can do, and it has fundamentally changed our relationship with the city. … This one project, with each of these agencies, it helps meet each of their discreet missions. And that’s magical. And that’s one of the things that you can do when you use the creative process to address a problem.”

“These programs matter. Arts matters. It has powerful potential to change our communities.”

Michelle Williams, Executive Director, Arts Council Santa Cruz County

“Certainly cities and developers have been using artists for ages to stimulate growth, so we need to find ways of protecting them as well.”

Teri Deaver, Vice President, Consulting and Strategic Partnerships, Artspace

“If this is what we value, we need to put a little more wood behind the arrow.”

Ron Vidal, Oakland artist and firefighter

On artist displacement:

“We really do have a challenge. There are a lot of artists out there that are struggling to do their work, and do it in a way that doesn’t break the bank. But ultimately, how do we do it in a sustainable way? …. Nobody should have to choose between having a roof over their head and having a place to make a living.”

Senator Ben Allen, Joint Committee Chair

“The community is feeling it. It’s a very public conversation. It’s a challenge for organizations like Self Help Graphics who are undercapitalized, and have historically been undercapitalized, to continue to support the community in a moment where they’re under so much pressure. It feels like a very personal attack on the community, this idea of displacement and being pushed out due to high rents.”

Betty Avila, Associate Director, Self Help Graphics and Art

On artist housing:

“Controlling real-estate, or art space, is critical to the long-term sustainability of the arts. No space, no art. No art, no good.”

Ron Vidal, Oakland artist and firefighter

“Our first obligation, especially at a state level, is to enact legislation … that will allow a sustainable model for our low-income live-work communities.”

John Strauss, Oakland Warehouse Coalition

“What can we do to ensure that we have affordable housing? One is preserve what we have currently. There is a lot of displacement happening—can we extend rent stabilization and tenant protection rights to artists that are living, perhaps, in nonconforming, nontraditional housing situations in light industrial areas? Can we create special use permits in areas that have existing communities that can be put toward safe spaces that are in some of these more industrial areas?”

Teri Deaver, Vice President, Consulting and Strategic Partnerships, Artspace

“The energy, activity, and economic development created by [the Warehouse Artist Lofts] community of mostly low-income artists has exceeded even my own expectations.”

“We created a platform for artists to build a community and to do what they do best—image, create and inspire.”

Ali Youssefi, Vice President, CFY Development Inc.

On the aftermath of the Ghost Ship fire:

“The wider DIY community across America is under threat.”

Sinuba Solomon, Oakland artist

“We’re past the raw impact of the [Ghost Ship] fire. It was immediate, it was visceral. … But now we’ve moved into committees and proposals and policies and rules, and so now it’s about enacting change based on, what is the way forward, as opposed to the urgency of the response.”

Ron Vidal, Oakland artist and firefighter

“Regardless of how aggressive the city is, we have some very reactionary landlords who go after the tenants in no uncertain terms. So we’ve had this wave of evictions. … The Oakland warehouse scene is dying.”

John Strauss, Oakland Warehouse Coalition

On safety issues:

“If you don’t have a safe place to be in, you can’t function as an artist. … I mean safety from eviction, safety from fire, safety from crime, and economic exploitation, and long-term affordable work-live.”

Thomas Dolan, Oakland architect and artist

“There’s this issue of life safety people keep talking about. It’s like, of course we want to be safe, but there’s this other form of safety that’s just being able to exist as yourself, completely free. Representing your gender, representing your race, representing your history.”

Sinuba Solomon, Oakland artist

Lastly, an eloquent and simple summary to a complex problem, from the author of the Otis Report’s addendum on the artist housing crisis, Artspace’s Teri Deaver:

California’s creative economy is booming (and it’s our duty to help it stay that way)

In case you missed it: Some big deal data was dropped this morning.

For the last four years, the California Arts Council has supported the generation of a report, developed by Otis College of Art and Design and its research partner, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. The Otis Report on the Creative Economy of California takes a deep dive into California’s creative industries; more specifically, into their impact on our state’s economy.

Artists are often an overlooked contributor to our state’s GDP. But it’s no coincidence that California leads the nation in creative jobs and stands alone as the sixth largest global economy in the world. And this year’s figures back up that relationship, putting the money where our muse is.

A snapshot of some relevant findings:

  • California’s creative economy generated 747,600 direct jobs, nearly 270,000 more than the second ranking U.S. state for creative occupations, New York.
  • From 2010 to 2015, direct wage and salary employment in California’s creative industries increased by 88,600 jobs to 747,600, an increase of 13.5 percent.
  • Creative occupations often require high levels of education or skills training, with close to 50 percent of those examined requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Property taxes, state and local personal income taxes, and sales taxes directly and indirectly generated by the creative industries totaled $16.7 billion across all of California.
  • The total income reported by arts-related nonprofits in California was $7.8 billion.

So, what do all these numbers mean? It means the arts matter—for wealth as much as health. It means California is awesome—skilled, diverse, imaginative, altogether unique. It means that creativity is an enterprise in and of itself, woven into the fabric of doing business in our state, not as an accent for an already flourishing economy.

It also means that in order to maintain our position as the nation’s nerve center for creativity, we need to invest in our artists that give our state its identity. With rising real-estate costs, an artist’s ability to secure an affordable, appropriate and safe place to live or work presents an enormous challenge. The Ghost Ship fire in Oakland was a harrowing reminder of the reality facing California’s artists, often sacrificing safety for the sake of their work.

This year’s report features an addendum tackling the issue of artist housing, offering solutions for the future. It’s our duty to support the workforce that supports us, and keep the welcome mat out for the creatives to come.

Check out the full report, including the addendum, at www.otis.edu/otisreport.

California Arts Council tours Chicano Park

Underneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge lives an amazing display of color and culture.

After our public meeting in San Diego on Tuesday, Arts Council members and staff took some time to explore a highlight of the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene—Chicano Park. Steering committee members Tommie Camarillo, Victor Ochoa, and Josie Talamantez, along with park artists Mario Chacon and Irma Patricia Aguayo, served as our gracious tour guides.

Chicano Park stands as a cultural and political stronghold for San Diego’s Chicano community. In 1970, as neighborhood gathering spaces were being lost to rigorous development, residents of Barrio Logan held their ground, staging an occupation of the area for 12 days before city officials conceded. Just three years later, a large-scale art project was organized, paving the way for what is now the largest collection of outdoor murals in the world. The vivid hues and evocative images range in size and subject, but all share a story of human experience—and empowerment.

It’s been a national symbol for Latino activism nearing 50 years, but the 7.4-acre park earned its rightful place as a National Historic Landmark just this year. And with fewer than 200 of the 2,500 registered landmarks tied to minority ethnic groups, we were honored to offer our full support for the national designation.

To have such a knowledgeable group share this rich cultural icon with us was a real treat!

As an added bonus, we were delighted to be there as our partners at the Latino Arts Network of California presented Josie Talamantez with her Maestro Award, recognizing her commitment to work in the community. Among many other accolades, Josie is the founder and chair of the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center, a member of the Royal Chicano Air Force, and—we’re proud to say—a former CAC staffer for more than 20 years. Congratulations, Josie!

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A beautiful day at Chicano Park!

A year in the life of an Arts Council grant

We know the grant process can sometimes feel … a little long. There’s somewhere close to six months’ time between application availability and approvals, with a whole lot happening before, after and in between.

Whether you’re new to California Arts Council grants or you’ve been here before, join us on a journey through the seasons to demystify the grant process, phase by phase.

Phase 1. A grant (program) is born. It’s late summer: The California sun is shining, the air is warm, and your grant is, more or less, still a twinkle in the eyes of the Arts Council. The state budget for the fiscal year has just been finalized, and our Council members and CAC staff are taking a long look at last year’s program priorities, making improvements upon existing programs—or establishing new ones, if funds allow. As the leaves start to turn, the Council and staff spend the next couple months developing and updating everything you’ll need to succeed during the application process.

Phase 2. There’s an app for that. This is the part where you—the applicant—come in! Once everything is in order—nearing the end of the calendar year—the grant programs are announced. Guidelines and applications are posted to our website, along with deadlines and other useful documents and significant dates. You are now free to start putting together your primo application package, with approximately 6-10 weeks to get it done.

This is also the time when we provide extensive technical assistance to applicants. Our knowledgeable programs staff host webinars, post FAQs, respond to your emails and answer your calls pertaining to the application process. We really, really urge you to take advantage of these opportunities for guidance—especially first-timers—we can’t stress enough the value this can have in helping you to get answers to any questions you may have in order to create a complete and effective application.

Phase 3. Crunch time. Around early spring comes the final scramble before deadlines. Ask any final questions you may have of our staff, and be sure you have all the required components of your application accounted for.

And while you’re all tenaciously assembling your apps, we are (also rather tenaciously) recruiting panels of experts to guide the review process—bringing us to Phase 4.

Phase 4. Read, rank, recommend. Things get pretty quiet on your end around this point, wondering and waiting—but there’s a lot going on over here. The rest of the spring belongs to our peer review panels. Groups of three to five panelists, experts in their respective fields, meticulously pore over each grant candidate’s application, scoring them based upon our ranking guides. Once that’s done, it’s time for some serious math. A Council committee and staff analyze in depth how to distribute funds equitably, taking into consideration the funds available, the number of applications, and their ranks. Their recommendations are submitted to the Council, who vote on the final grant awards.

This is actually the phase we’re in right now, with applicants for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The Council will be reviewing the panel’s recommendations during their upcoming public meetings on May 9 and June 7.

Phase 5. Funds in the sun. It’s summer—again! The sun is shining, the air is warm, and your grant has been approved! You’ve received a letter notifying you of the award, and sign your grant agreement. Keep in mind that based on ranking, most grantees receive only a percentage of funds requested, and you must still be fully able to commit to your proposed project given that amount.

Congratulations! It’s finally time to put that hard-earned money to good use, enriching the lives of Californians by connecting them with the arts and cultural experiences.

And if this wasn’t your year, don’t be discouraged! There’s still good news for your organization. All applicants receive detailed notes on the panel’s analysis of their application—so even if you didn’t get the grant, you do get valuable input from our expert panelists to help you learn from the experience and better your chances for next year.

Note: This specific timeline applies to most but not all CAC grants. All follow this process, but deadlines may vary for some programs.

Levi Lowe represents California at NEA Poetry Out Loud Semifinals

High school senior Levi Lowe approached the microphone. Standing tall under bright lights, in a low and steady tone, he began:

I am wondering what became of all those tall abstractions
that used to pose, robed and statuesque, in paintings
and parade about on the pages of the Renaissance
displaying their capital letters like license plates.

The 17-year-old made Sonora High School and California proud last night, performing on the national stage of the Poetry Out Loud competition for a second time (his first was in 2015). The National Endowment for the Arts program inspires students’ interest in poetry while increasing self-confidence and developing public speaking skills.

At this year’s semifinals, held at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Levi recited “The Death of Allegory” by Billy Collins and “Chorus Sacerdotum” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville. With conscious gestures and telling looks, he conveyed his authors’ meanings through action as well as words.

Though he won’t be moving on to the finals this evening, it was no easy feat to have made it this far. To earn his place in the national contest, Levi first had to beat out more than 35,000 of his fellow students here in California, the biggest state poetry competition of its kind nationwide.

“To win—not once but twice—with such a large number of students in such a highly competitive event is a testament to Levi’s talents for spoken word. His delivery is captivating and we are proud to have been represented by him,” said Ayanna Kiburi, Interim Director of the California Arts Council.

Well done, Levi!

Students honor legacy of Armenian culture through art

On Monday, California Arts Council staff had the privilege to join legislative members in remembering the Armenian genocide. The California Armenian Legislative Caucus marked the 102nd anniversary at the state Capitol with a universal refrain of “never again.”

“Armenian-Americans have not only survived, they have thrived and enriched the fabric of our communities,” Senator Scott Wilk stated.

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Salinas High School senior Hanna Hitchcock received first prize in the 2017 California Armenian Legislative Caucus Visual Arts Scholarship competition. Second and third place winners Bora Wie and Gavny Vardanyan were also recognized.

High-school students lent their voices to the conversation by commemorating the tragedy through essay and visual art submissions, with scholarships awarded to the top three students in each category.

The visual arts contest—currently in its first year—challenged students to create two-dimensional drawings, paintings, photographs, digital illustrations and graphic design that centered on a theme of “Human-to-Human Interaction.” Members of the CAC staff assisted in judging the submissions.

At the event, Arts Council Interim Director Ayanna Kiburi highlighted the value of art in education, as well as in shaping and preserving the story of the Armenian people: “Artistic and creative expression allows us all to express our humanity, to keep cultural traditions and histories alive within our communities, and to connect deeply with each other, as Californians,” she said.

File your taxes, Keep Arts in Schools

Alyse is a student at Elizabeth Freese Elementary School in San Diego who loves to dance.

Her favorite subject is math.

California Arts Council grant recipient the Malashock Dance Company is there to make sure both of Alyse’s passions stay strong.

Malashock’s Math in Motion program, explains managing director Molly Puryear, was developed in response to student’s creeping doubt of their mathematical abilities as they grow. Through dance, MIM teachers offer kids a tangible, kinetic connection to math, boosting their confidence to self-express and solve equations.

“Dance and math are my two favorite things, so being able to combine those two together makes me really happy,” said Alyse.

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Alyse (right) and fellow students show off their moves during their Math in Motion course.

As an arts supporter, we know you get it. You understand the relationship between the arts and academics, and the importance of programs such as Math in Motion. Yet less than 40 percent of all California students currently receive any kind of arts education in school.

If you have yet to file your taxes this year, consider making a tax-deductible contribution on your state tax return in the amount of $1 or more to the Keep Arts in Schools Fund. Donations from the fund are critical to our efforts to increase arts education statewide, and every dollar counts. Just look for the fund in the Voluntary Contribution section of state tax returns. All donations directly support our arts education grantees – we don’t hold on to a penny here at the State.

This year, thanks in part to contributions from the Keep Arts in Schools Fund, we are able to expand our arts education grant programs to reach even more students than ever before. By making a contribution, you’re making a difference. You can help more grantees like the Malashock Dance Company bring arts experiences to more kids like Alyse.

After all, we’re in need of creative math whizzes like her for many tax seasons to come.

Visit the California Arts Council Keep Arts in Schools page to learn more.

Fact vs. Fiction: Government Arts Funding

This morning, President Trump submitted his administration's first budget request to Congress. The proposal calls for an elimination of all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in fiscal year 2018. If this budget is enacted, the elimination of the NEA would have dire consequences for every state, especially California where the NEA awarded nearly $9 million in direct grants in 2016.

Guest post authored by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). Click here to view a PDF of this national arts advocacy resource at www.nasaa-arts.org. 

A vigorous democracy periodically debates the role of government and the ways the public sector can best support the prosperity and well-being of its citizens. When those questions turn to the role of government in supporting the arts, make sure the discussion is fueled by the facts!

Fiction: Eliminating the arts will help the government balance its budget.

FACT: The arts return $22.3 billion in revenue to federal, state, county and municipal governments. A strong arts sector makes it easier for our government to balance its books.

Fiction: Cutting government arts programs will save a lot of money.

FACT: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) receives a mere 0.004% of the total federal budget, less than 1/2 of one hundredth of one percent. Appropriations to state arts agencies constitute just 0.04% of state general funds expenditures, less than one half of one tenth of one percent. Arts cuts will harm communities without achieving real savings.

Fiction: All Republicans want to cut the arts.

FACT: The last time a Republican President occupied the White House (2001-2008), federal appropriations to the NEA increased by $40 million. Republicans held the majority in both houses of Congress for four of those eight years. Support for the arts is pan-partisan. Republicans and Democrats alike have track records of supporting the arts because they know it’s wise economic policy and is popular with constituents.

Fiction: Government support for the arts primarily benefits the urban elite.

FACT: Government arts support ensures that rural communities and low-income groups get their fair share of the educational and economic benefits offered by the arts. 40% of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods. While 15% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, more than 25% of all state arts agency grants go to these communities.

Fiction: Arts organizations are dependent on public dollars.

FACT: Government funding is typically a small slice of the funding pie. For instance, funding from state arts agencies composes only 2.1% of total grantee revenue (source: NASAA analysis of annual statistical reports). However, these small investments pack a big punch: arts organizations use public dollars to generate earned income, secure private contributions and leverage local matching funds. Every $1 of NEA support leverages $9 in matching funds.

Fiction: The private sector will pick up the bill if government arts funding is cut.

FACT: A solely private funding model would leave many American communities behind. Philanthropic giving in the United States is geographically disproportional: rural areas receive only 5.5% of all grant making, a figure that has declined over time. It takes a mixture of both public and private funds to realize the full power of the arts for all Americans.


NASAA is the membership organization serving America’s state and jurisdictional arts agencies. They are a national, not-for-profit, nonpartisan association that provides research, advocacy, training and networking for state arts agencies and their constituents. Their work is evidence-driven and grounded in the principles that the arts are essential to a thriving democracy and that the public, private and nonprofit sectors all have vital roles to play in American success. To learn more, visit www.nasaa-arts.org.

Pictured above: Pasadena Conservatory of Music receives arts education grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council to support arts education programming Title I schools.

Guest Post: They Call It Legacy

By Donn K. Harris, Chair of the California Arts Council and Executive Director, ArtsCenter, San Francisco Unified School District

Perhaps it’s our age, and I won’t out my esteemed colleague and friend Craig Watson here, but I am sixty-one years old, and the word legacy seems to be cropping up everywhere these days. It’s often used to describe someone’s motivation for an act they committed, as in, ‘They’re thinking about their legacy.’ Few of us get the luxury to to do that, as the world swirls by at such a hectic pace that we’re lucky if we get to the end of our time with an organization and can stop and breathe for a minute and say: ‘That was a good time. We left our mark.’

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Donn Harris and Craig Watson at the State Capitol.

Craig Watson, the Director of the California Arts Council for the past 5 ½ years,  who is leaving the agency effective March 31, has left his mark.

He  has left it on all of us who have worked with him. He has left his mark on the California Arts Council itself, on California – and on the United States. That’s not coming from me. No less an authority on the national arts scene than Barry Hessenius placed Craig Watson on the 2015 list of the 50 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts in America. That in itself is a legacy-maker, and here are some of the factors that went into Craig being placed on that prestigious list:

  • The agency’s budget, counting all revenue streams, went from $5 million in 2013 to almost $25 million in 2017. That’s a quintupled infusion, and the way the CAC was able to craft new programs and hire staff and keep the back office sane is a testament to teamwork and good administration. 
  • The new programs themselves – for veterans, independent artists, large-scale partnerships, cultural districts, public media, juvenile justice, adult incarceration facilities, turnaround arts schools, Common Core education initiatives, the support of newly formed cultural organizations, and research projects – represent almost a tripling of program offerings – a staggering feat. The breadth of the new arts programs, their visibility and influence, is unmistakable. From food and dishware artistry in the north to youth photography programs on the Mexican border, the CAC has become more than relevant – we’re the creative lifeline for many communities. 
  • If any time an artist puts a brush to canvas or a bow to strings represents a statement of sorts, any leader in a state as large as California would have a hard time pointing to a theme or a unifying principle to the work produced. Given that, the thematic coherence to the last four years of arts production funded by the CAC is impressive, and reflective of our state’s priorities:
      • Work extolling our bounteous natural resources and physical beauty: …with many projects having to do with water conservation, also valued by the governor. The artistic Renaissance surrounding the restored channels of the LA River is only one example of this significant movement; the Santa Cruz River walk is another, and the Mokelumne (90% of Oakland’s drinking water!) was the basis for a 2014 Amador County Arts grant. 
      • Partnerships and collective action: Creative California Communities, Cultural Pathways, Cultural Districts – the power of the individual becomes an exponential factor in these well-crafted programs. Our State and Local Partnership Network puts the County Arts agencies in charge of their local creative product. 
      • Social Justice and Equitable Outcomes: Arts in Corrections, Juvenile Justice, Artists in Schools, Veterans in the Arts: a clear theme of compassion, vision and a brighter future. Almost all of our grants go to low-budget organizations, many are store-front non-profits, making the CAC the main supporter of grassroots arts activity in the state – keeping traditions alive and starting new ones.

In 5 ½ years, building on a strong but underfunded and understaffed base, Craig went about the business of carefully reconstructing a framework and a culture that had been worn down by economic difficulties and competing priorities.  When a $2 million one-time windfall came to the CAC for the 2014 cycle through the efforts of Council members, the signal that the Council was roaring back became clear. New programs emerged, new energies were unleashed, and that was followed by a significant increase to our base funding, and then more one-time funds. Barely able to appreciate the accomplishments, Staff and Council worked tirelessly to do right by California and to exemplify the vision of the Governor and the Legislature with an artistic output and collective action worthy of the State of California.

When Craig’s final day comes about at the end of this month, we will not be saying goodbye to our colleague and friend. His influence, his deft hand at all matters sensitive and subtle, the fantastically talented and devoted staff he has brought on to serve us for decades to come – these will be constant reminders of what Craig accomplished on our behalf. And his vision will surely surface in other ways: the arts community in California will pull him back for something.

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Donn Harris and Craig Watson with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and NEA Chair Jane Chu at Youth Radio in Oakland.

I was fortunate enough to work with Craig for three years beginning in my first Council term, with two years serving as the Chair of the 11-member Council. We are not an easy bunch, and Craig handled us deftly. He got what he could out of each of us, and had his tenure been longer he would have elevated us even more. We traveled together, made decisions together, expanded the reach of our message, stumbled through a challenge or two, learned from each other (more me from him), and have come to this place where a transition is in the making. We will have time to reflect and celebrate. We will have time to close out this chapter and to appreciate the accomplishments that took place with Craig at the helm.

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CAC Council and Staff selfie from a recent planning retreat.

In closing, I would like to pay Craig Watson the ultimate compliment. Always in the limelight, with every action scrutinized, analyzed, critiqued from angles that were so unique and unexpected that we were often in amazement if not shock, Craig managed to maintain grace under intense pressure, kindness when others may have offered something less than that, cool professionalism when many would have retreated or overreacted. And behind closed doors, when discussions were necessarily private or confidential, when so often we hear the preface: ‘Off the record . . .’ followed by some not-for-prime-time statement, I can unequivocally say that Craig Watson never headed in that direction. What he said in those moments was the same thing he would have said had he been at a podium before hundreds of people. It’s called doing the right thing – a rarity these days.

Leaving on his own terms, taking his time to wind down and prepare the CAC for his successor, able to appreciate the accolades that will come his way – we should all move on so gracefully. Even in his departure, Craig Watson has set an example for us, and we could do no better than to appreciate his tenure, celebrate his time as our state arts leader, and be inspired by a man who can say to himself, “job well done,” and know that we agree with him fully.


donn_harrisDonn K. Harris is the Chair of the California Arts Council and Executive Director, ArtsCenter, San Francisco Unified School District.

Ten Grant Programs Accepting Applications Now

As California’s state arts agency, we invest in California-based organizations via competitive grant programs, administered through a multi-step public process.

This week, we began accepting applications for five additional grant programs: Arts & Public Media, JUMP StArts, Research in the Arts, and Veterans Initiative in the Arts; plus our Accessibility Grant, made available through our partnership with the National Arts & Disability Center.

You might have heard the great news… as a result of increased state arts funding, we expect to award as many as 1,000 grants this fiscal year — that’s more than triple the number of grants awarded annually in the past!

Program details including availability, application deadlines, guidelines, and more can be found via the grant program links below and at http://arts.ca.gov/programs/.

Open Grant Programs

The California Arts Council is accepting applications for the following grant programs as of 1/18/2017:

ACCESSIBILITY GRANT PARTNERSHIP: Enhancing opportunities for participation in the arts by people with disabilities

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 supporting PreK, field trips, afterschool and summer programs!

ARTS & PUBLIC MEDIA:  Up to $15,000 to support nonprofit media coverage of and engagement with arts and culture in California.

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!

JUMP STARTS:  Up to $30,000 for collaborative arts education projects for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

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

RESEARCH IN THE ARTS:  Up to $50,000 to support original research on the value and impact of the arts led by California-based researchers.

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

VETERANS INITIATIVE IN THE ARTS:  Up to $10,000 for arts projects for veteran communities.

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 http://arts.ca.gov/programs/.