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.

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.

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.

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/.

Cultivating safe, healthy, livable, & vibrant places through Creative California Communities grants

By Shelly Gilbride, Programs Officer, California Arts Council

Join our programs team for a CCC webinar on January 19, 2017 at 11 am.

Three years ago, the California Arts Council launched its pilot creative placemaking grant program, Creative California Communities (CCC). What began as a one-year experiment has now become one of our most competitive grant programs.  As a result of overwhelming demand, our Council increased its investment in the CCC program to $3.4 million and expects to fund 30 to 40 projects in 2017. We’ve also made some important changes to the program in an effort foster equitable access for organizations and projects of all sizes, and we’re accepting applications now.

The CCC program is centered on the belief that arts and cultural activities are imperative to healthy communities and that artists are central activators who can manifest positive change and foster vibrant, peaceful neighborhoods. Investing in creative placemaking is about cultivating safe, healthy, livable, vibrant places – creative communities that are as structurally sound as they are creatively welcoming.

What is creative placemaking?

Creative placemaking is a big, complex concept that positions artists and arts organizations at the center of community development strategies. Simply put, creative placemaking utilizes artists and arts and culture activities to make a place better. Our friend Jamie Bennett, the Executive Director of ArtPlace America and the ambassador-guru-champion of creative placemaking , wrote a great blog last year explaining the concept. Taking a cue from that piece, here are the basic elements of creative placemaking in our CCC grant program:

  1. A place-based orientation: creative placemaking happens in a definable place – a block, neighborhood, community, town, or city – where people live, work, and play
  2. A need, desire, issue, or priority to be addressed, one that is identified by the people that live, work and play in a place
  3. Artists/creatives and their processes are at the center of activities addressing the issue
  4. Cross-sector partners commit to addressing the issue through creativity and the arts – artists and arts organizations work with developers, government agencies, health care institutions, engineering firms, etc. – to create change
  5. Progress in addressing the issue is measureable and assessed through the lifecycle of the project

Projects funded through our CCC program extend beyond the walls of arts organizations and fully embrace a comprehensive community-engaged process.

What does successful creative placemaking look like?


The National Endowment for the Arts just published a comprehensive book, How to Do Creative Placemaking, with examples of successful creative placemaking projects from across the country.

Here in California, successful CCC grantee projects are as diverse as the state itself. In the rural Tahoe region, Trails and Vistas is partnering with the Donner Land Trust on a series of events to raise awareness about open space and to promote trail use in one of California’s fragile but most beloved outdoor environments (pictured above). A Reason To Survive (ARTS) is addressing nutrition and food deserts in National City, using artists to create a health-focused gathering space in an affordable housing complex and to help redesign small neighborhood food markets to meet CA healthy food standards. StartSoCo in Sonoma County is working with the Sonoma County Community Development Commission to infuse arts and cultural activities and creative use into the redevelopment plans for a vacant shopping center.

Common elements in all of these projects include:

  • Applicants, partners and artists with deep experience in the community
  • Organic partnerships built over time and based in shared goals or missions and that extend beyond the scope of the immediate project
  • Projects using existing assets within the community

How has the CCC program changed?

 There are a few major changes to the program guidelines this year based on feedback that we received.

  • Recognizing that real change takes time, this program now has a 2-year grant period beginning this year. CCC projects can occur from June 2017 through June 2019.
  • In an effort to be equitable to organizations and projects of all sizes, we have split the program into two categories based on organizational budget. Smaller organizations (with annual income under $750,000) will compete for funding with organizations of a similar size, and the same goes for larger organizations.
  • Creative placemaking projects can succeed at any scale, but projects shouldn’t drain an organization’s resources in an unsustainable way. To that end, organizations cannot apply for more than 20% of their annual operating income.

We’ve evaluated and refined the CCC program based on the most up-to-date research and thought leadership on creative placemaking. We recognize that not all arts projects fall under the goals of creative placemaking, even large-scale projects. If your project does not meet all five criteria listed above, another one of our grant program guidelines might be right for your project. But, if this type of work sounds like a good fit for your organization’s community goals, check out the complete details and guidelines on our website and join our programs team for a CCC webinar on January 19, 2017 at 11 am. March 6, 2017 is the deadline to apply.

Shelly Gilbride
is the Programs Officer at the California Arts Council. She can be reached at shelly.gilbride@arts.ca.gov.

Featured Photo: First Voice, San Francisco

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 josy.miller@arts.ca.gov.

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.

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 http://arts.ca.gov/programs/.


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 http://arts.ca.gov/programs/. 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 http://arts.ca.gov/programs/.

Serving the Field, Gaining Insight: Reflections from a Peer Review Panelist

By Jenny Wei
School & Teacher Programs Director, Palo Alto Art Center

As if spring isn’t a busy enough season for those of us who work with schools, this year I added serving on a California Arts Council grant panel for the Artists in Schools program to my to-do list. Eighty-one applications and three days in a Sacramento meeting room later, I am certain it was a good decision.

I wanted to be part of the peer-review process because it was clear that it would directly connect to my work at the Palo Alto Art Center and it would give me insights and experience to help my career.

For so many museums, grants provide vital revenue that, combined with individual gifts, enables us to serve our audiences. I have been involved in the receiving-end: finding funders, writing requests, and delivering final reports. But by being part of a peer-review panel, I felt I could take my grant-development skills to the next level. Our panel reviewed many applications, so I saw first-hand what was helpful to reviewers (like organizing information in bullets or adding notes to clarify your budget spreadsheet) and what stumbling blocks kept programs from fully telling their stories.

It seemed that in every proposal there was a tiny tweak that would add value to the Artists in Schools program I oversee at the Palo Alto Art Center. Ask partner schools to post a link to your program’s website—of course!  Send parents e-mail invitations to events in addition to paper invitations—why didn’t we think of that? I felt as though reading the grant proposals was like crowd-sourcing smart ideas from across the state.

As a wake-up call, I was disappointed to realize that my organization’s artist compensation was at a lower rate for our area. This was important for me to see, and I felt empowered to take my new perspective to our leadership to address this issue.

Aside from these specific tweaks and adjustments, I came away with two takeaways that were front-and-center for me:

  • There is no one way to be an outstanding applicant. We found great examples of programs working with completely different age groups—high school groups creating full-fledged productions and kindergartners showing the first glimmer of creative accomplishment. Also, as I didn’t grow up in California, I was intrigued by the diversity of California’s communities and the programs finely-tuned to serve them.
  • California’s teaching artists are doing awesome things for schools. It was energizing to think of each grant award both serving students and helping the livelihood of a teaching artist. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful educators in our communities!

Of course, I am also eager to rewrite a few sentences in our own grant applications to make our proposals just a little bit clearer for future panelists.

From the small program tweaks to the career experience, I took so much away from volunteering for my California Arts Council panel. Think about signing up next winter when the Arts Council issues their call for panelists. I’m sure you will also find it a rewarding experience.

JennyWeiJenny Wei is the School & Teacher Programs Director for the Palo Alto Art Center where she oversees the Cultural Kaleidoscope school outreach program. She came to the Art Center with a background as a museum educator, with several years and several positions at the Smithsonian Institution (most recently, the National Museum of American History) and one year teaching elementary students as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Yilan, Taiwan. She received her BA in Art History and Masters in the Art of Teaching in museum education from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Featured Photo: Student artwork on display at the Palo Alto Art Center

A Heartfelt Thank You

By Shelly Gilbride and Josy Miller

Spring is panel season at the California Arts Council, and as of June 3rd, spring has given way to summer and panel season has officially come to an end!

Over the course of the past three months, the California Arts Council has held 14 peer review panels to rank almost 1,000 applications to the Council’s grant programs. 64 panelists traveled to Sacramento from across the state, a group of individuals that included renowned scholars, educators, arts managers, and consultants, National Heritage Fellows, and exceptionally talented musicians, dancers, theatre practitioners, visual artists, street muralists, media artists, and poets.

Each panel convened for between two and three days at our offices in Sacramento. Our lovely (but windowless) conference room became a vibrant hub of intelligent and rigorous conversation about our grant programs, and about the challenges and opportunities currently facing artists and arts organizations in California. Sometimes discussions were heated, sometimes academic and esoteric, often humorous and joyful, but all of them were extraordinarily thoughtful.

We are profoundly grateful for the collective experience that we shared in through facilitating and witnessing all 14 of these panels. Each panelist read and reviewed applications independently before coming to Sacramento—sometimes as many as 80 each—and we were repeatedly impressed with the synthesis and analysis that each shared.

Something special happens when smart, insightful, generous people come together to work towards a common goal. The collective, in-person experience is what we who believe in the power of the arts truly cherish—the sharing of perspectives that allow discussions to evolve and to deepen, and ultimately to cohere in ways that move us all forward as a collective body.

We’re looking forward to our Council meeting in Richmond on June 16 where the Council will review the panel recommendations for our final six programs. Thank you to all 64 panelists who shared in the peer panel review experience this season, for your support of the creative, artistic work of Californians across the state!

Pictured above: The second of three panels for our Local Impact program. From left: staff member John Seto with Jennifer Laine, Valerie Janine Gutwirth, Joseph S Lewis, Donnie Matsuda, M.D., Ali Kenshaka

Shelly Gilbride is the Programs Officer for the California Arts Council. She can be reached at shelly.gilbride@arts.ca.gov.

Josy Miller is the Arts Education Program Specialist for the California Arts Council. She can be reached at josy.miller@arts.ca.gov.