Dissolved CRAs' Effect on the Arts

Fri, 02/10/2012 - 12:00pm

Clock Tower Chimes400 Community redevelopment agencies (C.R.A.s) across California closed their doors on February 1st and 73 were located within the county of Los Angeles

These agencies use property taxes and development fees to reinvest in neighborhoods through urban revitalization programs, such as affordable housing, community facility building and open space projects.  The arts community will be impacted as many C.R.A.s were supportive through maintaining percent-for-arts policies, funding cultural events, and providing grants for artists.  There will be a trickle-down effect to city cultural affair commissions and local arts councils as most worked in collaboration with C.R.A.s and were the beneficiates of the percent-for-arts policies.  These policies were used to create public art programs and potentially other cultural programs.

The closures of the C.R.A.s will have varied effects in every city. To learn if your city had a C.R.A., click on this link to view the list of C.R.A.s that were in California as of 2010.  Another way to learn how this will impact your city is to visit the city government’s website and search the site with the keyword “redevelopment” to find what changes may have been made.  You can also learn about the effects on the arts community by clicking on the “arts and cultural” tab or link to be connected to the commission, department or council that provides cultural services for the city.  Mission statements, artist opportunities and cultural events will be updated as the effects of the lost revenue are reflected.

Three examples of how the arts are being affected as the C.R.A.s have been dissolved will be highlighted in this article.  Los Angeles, Long Beach and Culver City have been touched in different ways as their funding sources and governing origins are different.  These stories demonstrate how C.R.A.s valued the artist community as an integral component to revitalize businesses and improve the qualities of life for residents.      

After 64 years, the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (C.R.A./L.A.) has been dissolved in accordance to the city’s council decision on Jan 11th.  The Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles is funded separately from C.R.A./L.A.  and will be minimally affected; however, this loss will affect the community of Los Angeles.  The C.R.A./L.A. had an arts program for over 40 years.  During this time, artists were granted to create over 200 works of public art and the C.R.A./L.A. worked with developers for the creation of a 23 million dollar facility for the Museum of Contemporary Art.    

"Our future is up in the air," Larry Rice, the current  Arts Council for Long Beach board president, told the online newspaper Gazettes, “Public art has been one of our primary programs.  Most of our money for it has come through the contract with the R.D.A.”  In the absence of a civic arts and culture commission, the city has been relying on this non-profit organization to provide residents with cultural experiences and opportunities since 1976.  Now this responsibility will become more challenging as the city will not be able to monetarily support this organization in the same prior capacity.  New fundraising and strategic plans will be the focus for the Arts Council for Long Beach as they assess the abilities to sustain the organization while trying to provide grants for public art, educational classes, professional development classes and marketing services for artist and arts organizations.  

This focus of fundraising and re-evaluating strategic plans has become a common theme for civic art and culture commissions as well.  One example is the Culver City Arts Commission, who is developing a new fundraising plan to host the 17th annual Culver City Music Festival.  This popular event hosts eight free concerts in the courtyard of the City Hall and is scheduled to have weekly performances during July 7 through August 25.  Like many cultural programs in Culver City, the C.R.A. had previously funded this event and with the loss of the C.R.A., this festival is now in jeopardy.  In addition, the C.R.A. housed the percent-for-arts policy for Culver City, where developers could choose to install a work of approved public art or donate the 1% to the Culver City Arts Commission’s Art Fund.  This fund is utilized to award grants, sponsor cultural events, and maintain public art, historic preservation and the commission’s infrastructure.  Without a new revenue stream to increase the Art Fund, the resources may be depleted in the not so distant future and residents may not be able to enjoy beloved events, such as the Culver City Music Festival.   

Arts for LA will continue to provide updates on this issue as they become available.  Below are links to current Media Coverage:

Photo: “Grand Hope Park” by Flickr user Romaryka.  Creative Commons licensed for fair use. This picture is of a CRA/LA commissioned public art piece called “Clock Tower Chimes” by artist Carl Stone.  To find out more about this piece of public art, click this link!