California Arts Council Listens to LA County Arts Leaders

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 12:06pm

Photo: microphoneThe California Arts Council welcomed guests from throughout Los Angeles County to a special “listening session” focused on helping the state art agency craft a strategic plan to guide its growth and development.

About seventy-five people attended the session at the Wells Fargo Theater at the Autry National Center of the American West, which capped the CAC’s regular meeting.  In kicking off the session, Council Chair Wylie Aitkin stressed the plan was focused on those served by the Council: “It’s about what we can do to work with you, your ideas, your vision for what’s going to make a difference in the arts in California.”

Craig Watson, director of the CAC, gave a brief outline of the Council’s process for gathering feedback statewide and processing results from other opportunities like online surveys.  A finalized plan should be available for review in November if all things go as planned. As for the future of the Counciul, Watson was optimistic.  “We’ve been ten years in the wilderness; let’s not spend another forty years in the wilderness,” he said, referring to AB 580, the bill to restore CAC funding to $75 million, currently snaking its way through Assembly committees.

Vice Chair Susan Steinhauser, in her role as the chair of the strategic planning committee, framed the time for public comment realistically. “I really can’t emphasize enough our plan is going to be as good as the input we have,” she said. "It’s critically important to us we hear from all of you art leaders, thought leaders, and creatives exactly what it is you think we can be doing to deliver the arts to Californians more effectively.”

The first guest to share public commentary on the CAC’s direction was Craig Cheslog, principal advisor to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who stressed the importance of the CAC’s continued work on behalf of arts education for all California students.

Laura Zucker, executive director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, called on the council to “proceed programmatically” with the knowledge funding would inevitably follow.  Zucker pointed to the success of Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s Arts for All initiative, which began implementing arts education policies and plans in LA County school districts on a shoestring budget, now funded by a pooled fund of $2 million annually.

Denise Grande, who directs Arts for All for the LACAC, stressed the importance of continued work on arts education access for all California students through ensuring all teachers have access to training in the arts and by implementing graduation standards that include arts education requirements.

Olga Garay-English of the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Cultural Affairs emphasized the importance of investing arts funding in our idea of “place,” enhancing the ability of cities across California by providing space and resources for artists and creative entrepreneurs to do their work, which she explained draws additional non-public resources into the mix.  “One of the premiere ways we’ve done this is to take up the creative placemaking mantle, joining forces with two of the nation’s leading developers of affordable housing.”

Danielle Brazell of Arts for LA lauded the Council for the artist in residency program for its success in addressing issues that negatively affect communities on the local level.  She gave credit to many who spoke before her at the listening session and reiterated the value of the arts in the lives of students. “The purpose of public education is to level the playing field so that everyone, regardless of your socioeconomic status, regardless of what zip code you come from, you have access to the same tools as the next person attending private school.  That’s what the arts do.  Let’s build on that.”

The CAC will convene several more listening sessions throughout California; more information on dates and locations is available on the CAC’s web site.