Arts & Entertainment

With increased state funds, the California Arts Council expands its reach

The California Arts Council awarded 135 grants to support projects that bring community arts resources into schools.
The California Arts Council awarded 135 grants to support projects that bring community arts resources into schools.
Photo by Daniel Kulinski via Flickr Creative Commons

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As California legislators continue to significantly increase funding for the state's arts agency, the California Arts Council is greatly expanding its reach – this year awarding the largest number of grants in 14 years. 

The Arts Council announced more than $8.5 million in grants -- up from $6 million last year -- for nonprofit organizations that will support arts education, community arts projects, professional development and more. 

"We've been making the case, telling the amazing stories that are coming out of virtually every corner of the state about what the state investment [in the arts] means to local communities," said Craig Watson, director of the California Arts Council. "And it just resonates in a way that we, we have many many champions now."

Four years ago, the state only invested $1 million dollars in Arts Council programs, but support has been on a sharp incline. In latest budget, the state is contributing $15 million.  The 2016-2017 state budget includes a $6.8 million increase for the Arts Council, plus additional $4 million for the state's Arts in Corrections program.

"I think that has really excited the teaching artist community and made it possible for us to do our work and get paid for it," Susie Tanner, producing/artistic director for the TheatreWorkers Project, which received three grants, out of the more than 700 awarded.

TheatreWorkers Project received more than $10,000 for a program that will weave theater into biology, history and English classes at four Los Angeles-area high schools. The group also got funding that will allow teaching artists to conduct professional development and mentoring for staff at one of those schools. 

"We want to spread the word and spread the wealth so that ... there'll be many more of us to be able to do this kind of work," said Tanner.

In addition to the eight core grant programs the Arts Council regularly offers, it is piloting two new programs – one focused on artist-driven projects for community engagement and one for emerging organizations rooted in recent immigrant and refugee communities or communities of color. 

"The reality is that artists right now and arts organizations are increasingly making the case that they have a role to play at the table when discussing any important issue that affects a community – they have solutions, they have ideas, they have things to offer," said Watson.

You can find a full list of the grant programs and grantees here.