California Arts Council Announces Record-Breaking Grants Worth $15 Million

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir is one of more than 1,000 non-profit arts groups statewide to benefit from California Arts Council grants in 2016-2017. (Photo: Courtesy of the California Arts Council)

The state’s Arts Council has announced  more than 1,000 grants statewide totaling $15 million. California’s plowing more money into the arts than ever before -- but it’s not clear how long that will last.

The California Arts Council funds programs focused largely on veterans, former inmates and kids. The Council’s Director of Public Affairs Caitlin Fitzwater says this year’s record-setting budget will deliver new programs for pre-schools, as well as field trips, and after-school and summer programs.

"Young people, we know, want to come to school and stay in school in many cases, because they have arts programs," Fitzwater said.

The School of Arts & Culture at San Jose’s Mexican Heritage Plaza serves roughly 70,000 people a year, mostly children and their families. The organization has won two grants this year from the California Arts Council.
The School of Arts & Culture at San Jose’s Mexican Heritage Plaza serves roughly 70,000 people a year, mostly children and their families. The organization has won two grants this year from the California Arts Council. (Photo: Courtesy of Mexican Heritage Plaza)

Tamara Alvarado heads the School of Arts & Culture  at San Jose's Mexican Heritage Plaza, "providing high quality arts education primarily through mariachi music and Mexican folkloric dance." The School is getting two grants, worth roughly $170,000, for arts education and creative place-making in San Jose.

"These are pretty significant for us," Alvarado said.

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Organizations can also ask for more money this fiscal year: the maximum grant request has gone from $12,000 to 18,000.

How long will the good times last?

Brad Erickson, of Theatre Bay Area, explains the Council has been enjoying steady budget increases over the last four years after a long dry spell.

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies ranks states according to arts funding in four different ways, but in terms of total state agency spending, California ranks 40th out of 50 states in per-capita funding, after years of languishing near last place.

But Erickson warns much of the new spending comes in the form of huge one-time payments that constitute close to half of the council’s total budget. This year, that one-time allocation is $6.8 million out of $15 million.

"We still have a long way to go in terms of investing in the arts in the way that other states do," Erickson says.

What happens to the budget next year? It’s anyone’s guess.

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