Arts & Entertainment

LA County Board of Supervisors pushes arts diversity initiative forward

Alvin Ailey Dance Workshops - 3
Alvin Ailey Dance Workshops - 3
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Back in November 2015, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors tasked the L.A. County Arts Commission with figuring out how to make the region's museums, performing arts centers and other cultural institutions more diverse. 

At a board meeting Tuesday, arts leaders presented their progress on that assignment and the board took a step forward in addressing the issue. 

The supervisors voted unanimously to advance a proposal, brought forward by supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, with specific recommendations to increase ethnic, socio-economic and gender diversity in the staffing and audience of arts organizations. 

Those recommendations come after 18 months of work. The arts commission has held town hall meetings attended by 650 community members and solicited input from peers in other cities.

The group also conducted a survey across of local arts organizations, which found that 68 percent of board members of arts organizations are white, compared with roughly 27 percent of the county's population. 

A task force of more than 30 arts leaders developed a 13-point plan for tackling the issue, which includes expanding grant programs, increasing internship opportunities for teens and college students and enacting more specific strategies for reaching equity in arts education. 

Laura Zucker, executive director of the L.A. County Arts Commission, said the work of the committee was directed by these guiding principles: "That every individual has the right to engage in arts and culture that celebrate their highest potential and that our community's diversity is an asset to our arts and cultural environment and economy." 

As a next step, the board motion directs the county's chief executive officer "to provide a written report to the Board with recommendations on funding these initiatives."

Supervisor Solis acknowledged that there's still a long road ahead in the roll out, but told those gathered at the meeting that she will make it a priority. 

"Everyone's worried about the budget," said Solis, "but people are also worried about the arts."

Here are the 13 recommendations from the task force behind the Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative:

1) Cultural Policy: Establish a "cultural policy" for L.A. County with concrete elements focused on equity, diversity and inclusion.

2)  Inclusive Language: Initiate a requirement that cultural organizations receiving L.A. Country funds have written, board-adopted plans that outline a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

3) College Pathways: Double existing L.A. County Internship Program to increase number of paid arts internships, with addition positions set aside for community college students.

4) Teen Arts Pathways: Develop an L.A. County initiative creating access to work-based learning and leadership opportunities for all high school students

5) Creative Workforce Development Centers: Establish center(s) that link students and mature workers, especially those from under-represented in the arts, to educational, training and networking opportunities.

6) Neighborhood Bridges: Implement an L.A. County grant program to expand arts and cultural programming to all neighborhoods and communities.

7) Artists Working Cross-Sector: Place artists and creative workers who represent diverse constituencies in L.A. County departments to develop creative solutions to social challenges.

8) Unincorporated Areas: Provide new cultural opportunities and funds for resident of unincorporated areas of L.A. County. 

9) Grant Programs: Expand grant program to serve more organizations in diverse communities.

10) Park and Library Partnerships: Establish grants and professional development services to build partnerships with library and parks

11) Connecting Audiences: Establish a five-year countywide communications initiative that shares information about the arts with all residents through tradition and nontraditional methods.

12) New Audiences: Establish L.A. County planning and implementation grants to small and mid-sized arts organizations to build their capacity to reach new audiences.

13) Equity in Arts Education: A three-part strategy that calls for funding diverse arts coordinators in every school district, providing grants for district arts plans, and aligning in-school and out-of-school arts learning opportunities.