Arts and Culture Budget Report, 2015-16

The 2015-16 budgets passed by the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, and the State of California all include good news for arts nonprofits. While there is much work yet to be done, there are many milestones to celebrate with funding for the arts on the rise across the state. The majority of arts funding increases are a result of restorations to cuts we saw during the Great Recession.

This budget season, the work of advocates over the last fifteen years focusing on the transformative benefits of an arts-inclusive society and economy and how the arts helps individuals and communities thrive were part of the legislators’ talking points. We heard it repeated back to us that in places like Los Angeles, the arts constitute a significant part the economy (accounting for 1 in 7 jobs). In addition to the benefits of a creative economy, we were reminded that research shows incorporating the arts into classrooms often results in improved academic performance and higher test scores. This year was proof that when the economy improves and the pro-arts argument sticks, we are able to move in the right direction.

Focusing on the local level, the City of Los Angeles will see a strong increase in grant money for the arts. Specifically, the city anticipates a 12.2% budget increase for the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), which helps advance the social and economic impact of the arts in Los Angeles through the various grant programs for artists and nonprofit arts organizations. The City of Santa Monica will also experience growth, with an increase of 50% to its grant funding. Alongside spending increases for the DCA and The City of Santa Monica, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) – the nation’s second largest school district – will see more funding for arts education, including a $7.8 million increase in base funding to the district’s already $18.6 million arts budget over the next academic year. The district's arts funding increase is due in large part to its use of the Arts Equity Index--a tool that gives each school a performance grade for its arts education, ranging anywhere from nonexistent to excelling.

At the county level, arts funding grew modestly. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a new grants program through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission (LACAC) allocating $1.5 million, over the next three years, to non-arts organizations providing quality arts programming. The LACAC plans to announce guidelines for the new program in September.

The largest restoration to arts funding is at the state level. In June, legislators and the governor approved an $8.3 million permanent allocation – up from $1.2 million – from the state’s general fund to the California Arts Council (CAC). The CAC awards grants to nonprofit arts organizations across the state. Over the years, the CAC suffered severe underfunding when it went from a regular $30 million/year budget to a $1.1 million/year budget in the early 2000s. With a $1.1 million federal grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and $2.5 million in projected revenue from arts-supporter license plates, the CAC’s budget will likely reach $11.9 million for the 2015/2016 year— the largest increase in nearly a decade.

Arts for LA commends city, county, and state elected officials and legislators for their growing recognition and support of the arts; this is a moment of celebration for those who are leading the way towards restoring the budget and making investing in the arts a top priority. While there is still much work to do, we are delighted to see progress being made and look forward to maintaining this upward trajectory towards a steadily increasing investment in arts and cultures.

–Brandon Gonzales, AFLA Communications Intern