In A Constant State of Becoming: My First Year as an Arts Advocate




In A Constant State of Becoming: My First Year as an Arts Advocate

Abe Flores blogs about his first year with Arts for LA









Bob Dylan said that we never arrive; instead, “we are in a constant state of becoming.” As I approach thirty, I find comfort in the thought that my vision for my family, my community and myself will always be slightly out of reach and constantly evolving. The concept motivates and eases me as well as encapsulates the theme of my past year, especially my work with Arts For LA’s advocacy team initiative.

The past year has been one of the most fulfilling in my life, beginning with my start at Arts for LA and concluding with finishing my Masters in Public Administration. In between, I convened local arts stakeholders in four cities, lead workshops in advocacy best practices in three cities, liaised and supported arts advocacy teams in five other cities, surveyed candidates running for local office on their position on arts and arts education, attended small meetings in LA’s great cultural monuments (Disney Hall, LACMA, the Getty, Music Center, MOLAA), collaborated on two rallies to support arts & education and coordinated arts advocates to provide public comment at City Council. I also met dozens of inspiring, intelligent, socially conscious individuals (the arts & education fields are rich with them) who taught me not only new facts but also new ways of thinking and seeing our community and myself.

Never did I plan on doing what I am doing. How did I get a job whose nexus lies between arts, education and politics (my passions) and has me working in KUSC’s offices, full of music aficionados who can recount the history of western civilization through music (how awesome is that)?  This job is a long way from my first job out of high school: McDonalds - the best this solid “C” high school student could get at the time. Working at McD’s was eye opening. My first 49 cent Cheeseburger Tuesday (the day people ordered their week’s worth of burgers, little league teams wreaked havoc in the play area, the drive thru lane spilled into the street and people gave me attitude because their order of 100 cheeseburgers was not instantly ready) mayhem and the purple shirt & hat (which clashed with my pink hair) convinced me to end my burger career and get my butt into community college. Then I transfered to Long Beach state, received my B.A in Political Science, go my first real job, had a kid - prompting me to go to Grad school, got my second real job, got laid off two years later amid the financial crash, worked on a school board campaign, interned for the LA County Arts Commission's Arts for All initiative then got hired at Arts for LA (interesting how a whole decade can be reduced to a sentence).

At first I thought I was just lucky to get the gig at Arts for LA, nearly a decade after my foray into fast food. Now I see it a bit differently: As Seneca said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I was prepared for this job and after some serendipitous opportunities I became part of a movement to increase access to arts in schools and communities. 

My primary duty is to lead arts advocacy workshops that serve as the first step to organizing arts advocacy teams whose purpose is to effectively advocate locally for the retention of arts programs and infrastructure by increasing visible support for the arts and addressing issues affecting the arts. I work primarily in eight cities (those listed below), all which are making great strides in advancing the arts and none of which had disproportionate cuts to the arts this past year.

A quick recount of the past year:

  • Paramount USD continued to increase its arts education offerings through its work with the Music Center.
  • Montebello USD secured another year of their Bluepalm K-1 dance program.
  • Culver City USD’s strong commitment to arts endured with its programs & the hiring of arts advocate Patricia Jaffee as their new Superintendent.
  • Santa Monica-Malibu USD’s arts programs continued to reach more students with expanded offerings, and SM High’s Jazz Band placed first in the advanced division at the Western States Jazz Festival.
  • Burbank USD saw the arts advocacy team come under the wing of the Burbank Arts For All Foundation which hired its first Executive Director and continued to work diligently to further the district’s Arts Education plan.
  • Pasadena USD was awarded the “Golden Bell 2010 Award" by the California School Board Association for their My Masterpieces Arts Education Program that utilizes and collaborates with the city’s rich cultural assets.
  • Long Beach saw the Executive Director (ED) of the Arts Council for Long Beach, Craig Watson, hired as the new ED for the California Arts Council (giving all of us a great ally at the state level) and the completion of the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Funding Arts & Culture whose reccomendations will be introduced formally to the City Council in the near future.
  • The City of Los Angeles first saw a recommendation by the Chief Administration Officer (CAO) for the complete elimination of the Department of Cultural Affairs that was quickly followed by a statement sent to Arts for LA by the Mayor’s office confirming his commitment to the arts and his opposition to the CAO’s recommendation. City Council agreed, and the Mayor’s recommendation passed.
  • LAUSD crafted and passed their 10-year Arts Education Plan and received generous funding from the Wallace Foundation for its arts education programs.
  • LA County Arts Commission’s Arts for All initiative was recognize by American For the Arts as a national model, launched a great new website and continued to enter new schools districts & assist them with crafting arts education policies and plans (they are now collaborating with over half of the County's 81 school districts).

What a year! And next year looks to be even better. We are all moving forward, accomplishing great things and placing new objectives ahead of us in our effort to achieve our vision of all students and communities having access to the arts. And when in ten, twenty or thirty years – all students receive the same education regardless of socioeconomic status and all communities have a thriving arts ecology, our vision will evolve and our communities will continue to “become.”