Advocacy Is Leadership

Executive Director Danielle Brazell blogs about how identifying problems isn't enough—leaders must collaborate to create solutions as well.





What do Arts for LA, Arts for All, the Blue Ribbon Committee for the Arts in LAUSD, the Otis Report on the Creative Economy, Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles, ExperienceLA, The City of LA’s TOT Ordinance and the Arts Census have in common?

Each of these major initiatives was started by an individual asking a critical question. The question led to a conversation. Others were invited to join the dialogue and together they developed a call to action to address a critical gap in our local arts ecology. In time, this call to action grew into a major initiative.

The leaders involved didn’t have “start a major initiative” as a bullet point in their job description. The issue didn’t have a funding opportunity tied to it and each of these initiatives didn’t happen over night. In fact in some cases it took over a decade for the idea to germinate and begin to grow. No—these leaders saw a problem and did something about it.

Over seventeen years ago, a group of executive arts leaders got together to address a proposal by then-Mayor Richard Riordan to consolidate the Department of Cultural Affairs into the Department of Recreation of Parks.

This group did not have a stake in the game. The organizations these leaders represented received nominal grants from the City, not enough to hurt their individual programming.  But they realized that eliminating the Department of Cultural Affairs would hurt the arts and cultural delivery system and adversely affect communities who had little or no access to arts and cultural experiences—including some of our city’s most vulnerable communities. 

This group took an unprecedented step into the political arena.  Not only did they collectively take a position to oppose the proposal, they developed a strategy to lobby members of city council and, through their efforts, killed the proposal. 

Over the next decade, the group called themselves the “Ad Hoc Committee of Executive Arts Leaders” and met on a semi-regular basis to address critical issues facing our field.  Through these conversations, questions were raised about the next generation of arts leaders, how to create a joint marketing program, what was happening with arts education in the 81 school districts, what was the economic data to support the argument that art and creativity drive our region’s economy.  Leadership emerged for each of these critical questions. We now have a stronger arts ecology because of it. 

Several founding members of the “Ad Hoc Committee of Executive Arts Leaders” became the steering committee that formed Arts for LA.  Many of the initiatives mentioned are still involved with Arts for LA as board members, strategic partners and organizational members. 

As arts and civic leaders, we know all too well it’s not enough to identify the problem; we must collaborate and create solutions together. In these challenging times for cities and school districts throughout our region, it’s vital we put our creative thinking skills to these critical issues and mobilize our communities to effect positive change. 

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