Education

Huge boost in state arts funding includes support for pre-K programs

Tesen, 5, practices with the members of her pre-ballet class for an upcoming recital at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood.
Tesen, 5, practices with the members of her pre-ballet class for an upcoming recital at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood.
Priska Neely

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The state agency responsible for advancing creativity in California announced Tuesday that it's awarding a record number of grant funding for nonprofits – nearly double the amount from the previous year. 

The California Arts Council is awarding more than $15 million to 1,076 grantees to support a wide range of arts and culture project and programs across the state.

This boost is made possible by a $6.8 million, one-time increase in funding from the state budget.

The added funds are supporting grant categories for formerly incarcerated people and arts research, and – for the first time – grants were open this year to organizations that serve children from birth to age five.

Josy Miller, the arts council's arts education specialist, said supporting early education was a priority, especially for students from low-income backgrounds.

"So that they already have the arts embedded in their lives when they are developing so quickly and so profoundly in the early years of their lives," she said.

Only a handful of organizations took advantage of the early childhood stream during this first grant cycle, but the Arts Council expects many more to apply in the future.

Arts education grants made up a $3.3 million slice of the pie this year, and grant amounts were larger, with caps at $18,000, up from $12,000. 

For example, local nonprofit the Gabriella Foundation received $16,200 to support the expansion of its dance education offerings from the Koreatown area to South Central Los Angeles and Watts. Through its Everybody Dance! program, the foundation serves more than 3,000 students ages 4-19. 

Four- and five-year-olds start with the basics in weekly pre-ballet classes running from September to June, and culminating in a big recital at the Montalband Theater in Hollywood.

Parents packed into the theater to watch the rehearsal Monday afternoon June 12, 2017.
Parents packed into the theater to watch the rehearsal Monday afternoon June 12, 2017.
Priska Neely/KPCC

"I watch them walk out at the end of the year, their posture's changed, they have a little bit more confidence and self-awareness in their body," said Tina Banchero, artistic director for Everybody Dance!

Support for the arts agency in the state budget has been on a sharp incline. Five years ago, the state only invested $1 million dollars in Arts Council programs. The funding for local nonprofits is especially valuable now in the face of proposed cuts to funding available from the National Endowment of the Arts. 

"We’re very glad to be here in California where the arts are being supported," said Miller, "especially right now when people are very nervous about what will happen at the federal level."