The California Arts Council may be getting a modest bonus this fall, as well as some fiscal security.
Governor Jerry Brown’s revised budget, released last week, provides the council with $6.1 million, a significant $5 million increase over what the governor had recommended in his January budget proposal.
“It’s a modestly wonderful success,” said Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), who for years has been pushing for a bigger state investment in the arts.
“It’s a wonderful success though,” he said, "because the general fund investment to the arts by our state has been so minimal."
Nazarian had proposed even more for the arts council, but at least, he says, the governor’s budget would make the $5 million increase permanent. Late Wednesday a state Senate subcommittee voted to add $10 million in funding for the arts council, a figure almost certain to change as the budget goes to conference committee.
But any increase is welcome news for an agency that’s been starved for funds during the state budget crisis of recent years.
“This would be the first time a permanent increase has been seen in over a decade,” said Caitlin Fitzwater, Communications Director for the state arts council.
Fitzwater said the funds will allow the council to expand efforts designed to stimulate local economies, like Ebb and Flow, an arts project to bring visitors to a neglected section of the San Lorenzo River in the city of Santa Cruz.
“And this new budget allocation,” she said, “will allow us to grow these pilot programs that have already had successful results in our communities.”
Additionally, the arts council may be able to increase grants for other groups active in their local communities, like the African American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco.
“I’m excited," said the company’s Executive Director, Sherri Young. “I mean it’s been too long. It’s been way too long.”
For this fiscal year, Young’s theater company received $12,000, which it uses to bring performances and theater classes to underserved kids.
Local arts advocates say they are pleased with the Governor's proposal, as it makes sense in a state where one in ten people work in the creative economy.
But they also said they'd be happier if California matched the average per-capita arts budgets of other states.
To reach that goal, California would have to allocate more than $42 million dollars a year to the arts.