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/.

Year-End Highlights

As California’s state arts agency, we have a passion, vision, and affection for the places and people of California – for our artists, our communities, our many cultures – and we take pride in working hard to serve every part of the Golden State.

2016 was a difficult year for many – tragedy, violence, natural disasters, and uncertainty impacted communities across our state. But in many ways, this was also a year full of hope, light, and growth for the arts in California… made possible by the artists, community leaders, local citizens, and elected officials who took action to support the California Arts Council (CAC), and who recognize the importance of the arts and creativity for the success, well-being, and heart of our state.

Here are just a few milestones from 2016:

Celebrating 40 Years

Our agency was established by Governor Brown and came into being on January 1, 1976. Governor Brown created the CAC on the basis that the arts are central to the lives of Californians. Over the past forty years, we’ve awarded more than 30,000 grants with a total investment of $368 million in our state’s artists and communities. Read more >>

Record Number of Grants Awarded

In 2016, we awarded $8.7 million in grants to California nonprofit organizations under ten unique, competitive grant programs. 712 grants were awarded for programs supporting arts education; underserved communities; veterans and their families; local economic development; arts and community development; creative placemaking; and arts service organizations. Read more >>

State Budget Increase

The 2016-17 state budget includes a $6.8 million one-time increase for our grant programs benefiting diverse communities across California. In 2017, we will invest $15 million in communities across California by awarding up to 1,000 grants through 14 unique grant programs. Read more >>

New Data on California’s Creative Economy

For three years, we have commissioned the expansion of an LA regional creative economy report to measure the entire state’s creative sectors. This year’s report revealed a sector economic output of $374.5 billion accounting for roughly 1 in 10 jobs. Read more >>

Arts in Corrections Program Expansion

As part of the state’s multi-tiered investment in public safety, our Arts in Corrections program provides critical rehabilitative arts services to California’s incarcerated population and is made possible by an interagency partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). In 2017, the program will expand to reach all  CDCR adult institutions. Read more >>

State-Certified Cultural Districts

We’re currently completing an extensive public planning process for the future California Cultural Districts program. The program, launching in 2017, will assist Californians in leveraging the state’s considerable assets in the areas of culture, creativity, and diversity. It will support communities where a high concentration of cultural resources and activities are central to local identity, and serve as a tool for preservation in order to fortify and protect local socio-economic diversity, cultural diversity, and ethnic diversity. Read more >>

Featured Grantee Photo: Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir

Guest Post: Empowering Student Voices through Digital Media Engagement in our Schools

By Sibyl O’Malley, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, California Alliance for Arts Education

 “There is a student named Art in your classroom, your school, your district, she can be the click of comprehension, the moment you master the concept, as long as we give her the chance. Today, she writes of the world she would like to see tomorrow, a world that is colorful and warm, the perfect weather for anyone to bloom.” —Excerpt from “A Student Named Art”, 2016 Student Voices Campaign First Place

Last year, hundreds of students took part in the Student Voices Campaign, an annual video advocacy campaign started by the California Alliance for Arts Education that offers a real-world opportunity for students to learn about and impact school policymaking. Through the Campaign, students across the state spurred exciting changes in their schools, including the expansion of arts programs, the hiring of new teachers, and the addition of gender neutral bathrooms.

In California, students are guaranteed a voice in planning and budgeting for their school district. The Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, requires that districts consult with students, parents, teachers and community members each spring to create an official plan for the coming years. The Campaign invites students in grades 7-12 to create videos that respond to the prompt, “What’s your vision for your school?” and share them with their local school board.

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The 2017 Student Voices Campaign launched in November, and we’re excited to release for the first time this year the Student Voices Campaign Classroom Guide. The Guide allows teachers to use the Campaign as an interdisciplinary service-learning project in the classroom, with lessons that can be scaled from periods of a few weeks to several months over the course of a school year. The Guide is recommended for teachers grades 7-12 in any subject area. Download the Guide for free at StudentVoicesCampaign.org.

Program Elements and Resources

To support participation that is widespread as well as rigorous, the Alliance has produced:

  1. Classroom Guide: The Classroom Guide is structured as an interdisciplinary service-learning project, with elements of civic participation, creative expression, media production, and community engagement. The Guide uses National Arts and Media Arts Content Standards as well as Common Core Anchor Standards.
  2. Activate Student Voices Guide: This 10-page resource was created in collaboration with Arts for LA for arts organizations that wish to embed the Student Voices Campaign civic engagement processes in their existing programs for youth.
  3. Student Leadership Lab:The lab supports, documents and shares examples of effective leadership and creative advocacy among a cohort of students. Students use Campaign videos to undertake further advocacy in their community, in school board presentations, one-on-one meetings with school leaders, and student-led learning events.
  4. Arts Now Student Voices Summit:This student empowerment event, the culmination of the Campaign, will bring together students, teachers, and stakeholders from around the state to screen Student Voices videos, participate in student-led advocacy workshops, and explore the possibilities and practical steps of a career in the creative sector.

Partners

The California Alliance has expanded the program this year with support from the California Arts Council. Partner organizations for the 2017 Campaign include some of the state’s most influential arts and education leaders, including Adobe Project 1324, Alameda County Office of Education, Arts for LA, California Arts Council, California State Summer School for the Arts Foundation, Center Theatre Group, Get Lit – Words Ignite, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, Clarence E. Heller Foundation, Inner-City Arts, Performing Arts Workshop, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Venice Arts.

2016 First Place Video


2fb34b8Sibyl O’Malley is the Director of Communications and Community Engagement at the California Alliance for Arts Education. She can be reached at sibyl@artsed411.org.

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

By Shelly Gilbride, Programs Officer, California Arts Council

REGISTER NOW! 
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?

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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.


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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