By Patricia Frischer
I don’t blame you if you don’t want to spend hours and hours at meetings about the arts for the county of San Diego and State of California. I don’t always attend these meeting myself but the last two days I binged for 6 hours instead of Netflix entertainment. I can’t possibly fill you in on everything that was discussed but there are links in case you want to listen to these yourself. If not, here is my cheat sheet.
In both meetings the Passing of Larry Baza was highlighted with many participants paying tribute to this man with words such as bridge builder, listener, risk taker, readiness to work, desire to give and serve, an inspiration, sweet and gentle, a guide, a true leader, a trusted visionary, pillar of the arts community. It was noted how excited he was to become the chair of the California Arts Council and the staff were said to be working through their tears. Most believed that we should pay it forward and continue in the direction that was set by this exceptional man.
Chair’s Report from Lilia Gonzáles-Chávez (now chair)
Colleagues, it is with a heavy heart that we move forward today with the loss of our friend and fellow council member, Chairman Larry Baza. Today I step up as Chair to continue the work of the Council in his absence. Larry was deliberate in his work, he demonstrated a commitment to the Arts Community in his every action as Chairman, and his legacy will be pronounced in our ability to emulate his leadership and continue to act on behalf of ALL Californians to provide opportunity in, and access to, the arts.
There is no greater legacy than that of a life well lived and inclusion of a commitment to the wellbeing of others; Larry left that kind of legacy. As we continue, let us remember Larry’s kind demeanor, his willingness to stand up for what he knew to be right and his respectful interaction with everyone that came before this Council.
Anne Bown-Crawford, executive director
First and foremost, I want to acknowledge the tremendous sense of loss and grieving that surrounds this meeting: the passing of Larry Baza. Larry was a very very dear friend to many of us, including myself. For me he was also a guide and mentor, full of joy, empathy and patience. Larry led with his heart. He was above all else respectful, believing in his bones that every voice matters. He was the very definition of servant leader, and I shall always feel him walking beside me as we move through this work that we are so privileged to be able to do at the California Arts Council.
On Feb 24, Matt Carney of the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition guided us through the San Diego County Winter Regional Conversation and the star turn was by Julie Baker of Californians for the Arts for a Winter Regional conversation. We all know that the Arts have been disproportionately hit from the pandemic. Two thirds of jobs have been lost and 63% of artist are still unemployed. Californians for the Arts is the advocacy group that has made sure that there was an assembly hearing just for the arts. In about 5 weeks, $50M should be coming the way of non-profit arts organizations. These will be distributed in grants of max $25,000 and are earmarked to help for basic survival i.e. food, rent/mortgage, mental and physical health care, etc. The case was made that the arts is a work horse for our economy and needs to be supported. Special attention will be made for racial equity practices. Of course, re-opening guidelines are a priority and money will be there for ventilation systems and testing supplies, etc. There is a push to increase the money spent per person in California from the puny 70 cents to a minimum of $1. Many states spend much, much more than this and California really lags.
To justify that raise, the Arts have to be seen as part of the solution and people have to be encourage to people have come back to the arts. Advocacy for this to happen is a long game. Federal funding might be needed to replace the short term loss in TOT for cities like San Diego which rely on those funds for grants.
We hear time and time again that collaborations have to start happening cross industry and it seems like the new Creative Corp will be pushing to make that happen. The meeting on Feb 25 was a California Arts Council meeting to discuss how this program might move forward. The Creative Corp is all about Public Health Messaging This pilot funded over two year for $15M is a concept designed to mobilize artists and the arts sector for “effective hyper-local, micro-targeted public communication and to help people connect, cope and be well now and in the long term.” In other words, they are mobilizing artists to work with the health industry to get out messages important for survival and eventually to thrive for those in the most at risk and underserved communities. These grants calling for matching funds (perhaps in-kind) will entail some capital investment and infra structure to create jobs. This could come on a federal level or the private sector.
Grants will be given out with small budgets organization equalized to get a fairer share. These small organization make up 60% of the industry but don’t usually get 60% of the grant money. There will be a new tiered system with those above and below $250,000 so this can be tracked. The organizations are also rated but it is yet to be decided if this will be administered through the Regional/State-Local/ partnerships, directly by CAC or from a third-party professional body. The general consensus seemed to be that it should be a combination of all three and that should be a requirement to have multiple participants in the grants. Remember this is a pilot with $5M the first year and $10M the second but possibly more long term funds to be forthcoming. Besides grants for health messaging, there is money set aside for professional training and for PR and marketing.
The BIG Question remains - What are the creative and appropriate health messages and who should make them and how are they seen and believed by those in need?
Finally to go back briefly to the San Diego County meeting. Jonathon Glus spoke about a mapping project that identified county wide effects of the arts funded by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. Felica Shaw, one of the newest members of SDRACC, has been tasked with expanding this advocacy group to include the whole county. To that end, by-laws are being written even though SDRACC is not an official 501 (c) 3 non-profit. They will be working to be more diverse and inclusive. Tara Graviss White is responsible for this second of 4 town halls and notes that the election advocacy work will continue. There will be an April Arts Advocacy promotion. I know I will be sending them information about the new virtual arts page from San Diego Visual Arts Network as well as Encinitas Friends of the Arts thank you to front line workers banners AND the more than $70,000 given out by Synergy Arts Foundation for those artist impacted by the pandemic in 2020. San Diego Stay Strong!