January is when the rubber meets the road, when we are focused on building new relationships, securing alliances, determining legislative and budget priorities, and expanding our coalition. This period of political transition is the perfect time to meet with newly elected officials, while also encouraging new voices to consider running in upcoming races.
Last week the Arts for LA board adopted a new strategic plan for 2017-2022. As we developed the plan, our fabulous committee (members listed below) helped us revise our mission, which now reads:
Arts for LA activates artists and organizations, and leads communities to advocate for an equitable, healthy, creative Los Angeles Region.
This week, I reaffirm my commitment to supporting and defending you and local arts and culture. This starts by reminding all of us of Arts for LA’s core values:
We have less than two weeks till the Nov 8 election. In California, we have 17 state propositions on the ballot, in addition to local measures. To help make the best informed decisions possible, we surveyed candidates in all local elections, and we also endorse Prop 55 and Measure A and M, all of which contribute to greater access to arts and arts education (details below).
The story of America at this moment is fraught with ideology. Most visibly in the political sphere, there has been a loss of civility and respect, in how we treat each other, in how we talk to and about each other. When words are used as weapons and walls are being built, to change the public discourse requires new narratives and ways of connecting to each other. As Tahir Shah writes, "Stories are a communal currency of humanity" (In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams).
A new school year has begun. We all know arts education is central to the development of all children and to ongoing creative engagement for people of all ages. Arts for LA has a strong record of advocating for the equitable distribution of arts education for all students.
Anyone watching the news knows that the fall election season has begun in earnest. There is much to focus on locally, and at a recent meeting with the LA County Registrar-Recorder, we learned that there will be a minimum of 19 ballot measures to consider on November 8.
We are a nation, and a world, in pain. Orlando. Baton Rouge. Minneapolis. Dallas. Nice. Istanbul. This partial list of cities has become a found poem of violence, anger, and despair that catalogues an almost weekly assault on individuals, human dignity, and civil rights.
When our hearts ache with pain, many of us look to the power of art to heal, to help process strong emotions, such as anger and grief. Recently, the Los Angeles Times acknowledged this capacity with a series of articles, "The Culture of Anger," exploring the ways artists are - and are not - processing the difficult world we are living in.
On June 10, 2016, the Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN) held their annual Planning and Land-Use Strategies Summit (PLUS2) geared towards addressing analytical thinking and collaboration around issues related to urban areas, community building, and innovation. Arts for LA co-sponsored the event, and the arts & advocacy were embedded throughout the day. This year’s theme ‘Disrupting the City’ attracted a diverse arrangement of speakers and issues including but not limited to: city planning, food systems, art and gentrification, housing, and architecture. During the summit, each panel emphasized these two themes: to continuously challenge the status quo while leaning on a supportive community that understands the importance of affordable housing in cities.
During the summer of 2015 while planning the second year of ACTIVATE, Arts for LA recognized an opportunity to expand the program to a new audience: students. Based on a “train-the-trainer” model, this program would train those who are already engaged with students on ways to incorporate advocacy training into their work with youth.
In May 2015, Arts for LA had participated in LA Youth Vote, the United Way’s initiative to register high school students to vote, and staff had personally registered students to vote and chaperoned them to the voting booth on May 19, 2015. That powerful moment inspired Arts for LA to consider ways to engage young voices that wanted and needed to be heard.