Friday, April 5, 2024

ART Matters: Art Work is Real Work

by Patricia Frischer

In San Diego we are still trying to make sure that everyone knows that the arts are essential. Changing the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalitions long-winded name to San Diego ART Matters (SDAM) is a re-branding exercise which strongly makes this point. 

On April 5, some of the great and good in the arts community gathered to celebrate April Arts and Culture Month with the theme Art Work is Real Work. 

Hosted by SDAM, this was also a chance for them to launch their new streamlined strategic plan: Funding and Resources, Creative Workforce, Arts Education, and Coalition Building. Felicia Shaw, the CEO, gave us a brief history demonstrating how activating the arts community can make a political difference. 

Felicia Shaw (Image: Ken Jacque Photography)

Ms. Shaw has managed to build the board to 20 and increased paid staff to a total of 4.   It is a grant from the Prebys Foundation that provided the resources for this growth. They now have offices at UCSD Park and Market building  which also has 4 floors including a Guggenheim concert hall, Media Arts theater, and meeting rooms galore.  The stunning central staircase was utilized  on the day for an electric dance performance.

San Diego Dance Theater (Image: Ken Jacque Photography)

The keynote speaker for this event was Julie Baker, the passionate CEO of the non-profits California Arts Advocate (C4) and Californians for the Arts (C3). We were thrilled to learn that 5 out of the 12 board members are from San Diego. Even better, she told us that involvement once a month in the arts can increase life expectancy by 10 years! One of her current pushes is to get the Arts as Prescription program researched by Dr. Tasha Golden brought to San Diego. 

The bad news is that  although the arts create 8% of the GNP, we rank even behind Florida in our per capita allocation at only $.67. The California Arts Council budget is down below it highest level now and is only $26 million annually. The City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture does better than that distributing $28 million annually.  

We were lucky to get updates from Jim Gilliam, Chair, San Diego County Arts and Culture Commission and from Jonathon Glus, ED of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. 

The County Commission which celebrates its first year of existence is announcing its strategic plan on April 25 at the Soap Factory on Commercial Street at 9 am.  Here is a hint: Knowledge, Visibility, Engagement, Communication, Capacity. 

The Arts and Culture plan for the City of San Diego will be asking for public input this summer and hopefully will earn approval from the City council late in 2024 or early 2025. 

The one city and two county strategic plans need lots more work to get them populated with firm ideas and action items. But like Julie Baker said, "We have lots of words, lots of paper."  What we need is $1 per capita spent on the arts. We need spaces for our arts organization and we need affordable housing for artists. We need real financial investment in the arts. We do have an enthusiastic team of art professionals giving their all to make this happen. 

Powerful 3 Js: Jim Gilliam, Julie Baker and Jonathon Glus


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