California Arts Council Gets $7.1 Million Annual Increase


Earlier today, Governor Jerry Brown signed a state budget that includes a $7.1 million permanent increase in funding for the California Arts Council, which will be allocated from the state's general fund. That will bring the total general fund support for the California Arts Council up to approximately $8.3 million, which will become the new baseline for the state's art funding, allowing the council the opportunity to hire two new permanent staff people to dole out the funds through various grants and initiatives. 

That will bring the total 2015-2016 California Arts Council budget up to approximately $11.8 million. The council also receives funding through California's Arts License Plate initiative, the Keep Arts in Schools Fund, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Brown established the California Arts Council, which consists of ten members, in 1975. The largest its budget has ever been was in 2000, when it reached $32 million. But in 2003, general fund support was cut to just $1 million, decreasing its contributions by more than 90 percent. That meant that across the US, California put the least money per capita toward the arts until 2011, when Kansas decided to cut its art budget entirely. In 2013, the budget received a one-time increase from the Assembly's operating budget. And in 2014, it received another one-time increase of $5 million from the general fund. 

"Members in both houses and both parties of our state legislature have demonstrated growing support for the arts over the past several years," Craig Watson, director of the California Arts Council, said in a press release sent out today. "They have listened to their constituents call for greater cultural expression and creativity in their communities, and to research that shows how an investment in the arts can boost local economies, raise student achievement, stimulate community development, increase public safety, and expand tourism, along with many other critical state goals."

The statewide increase comes at a time when Oakland artists and arts organizations have joined together under the umbrella of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition to demand that the city allocate more funding toward the arts. Members of the coalition attended the city council's budget meeting on Monday, requesting that the city re-establish the Oakland Arts Commission and allocate $130,000 from the general fund to create an additional full-time staff position within the city's Cultural Funding Program for the next two years. The city currently has no arts commission and only one employee running the sparse Cultural Funding program. Realistically, chances are slim that the city will increase its arts funding before the 2015-17 budget is adopted on June 30. But the coalition plans to continue meeting and organizing actions to push for an increase in public arts funding. Its next meeting will take place on July 8. 

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly referred to the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition as the Oakland Creative Communities Coalition.