An artist paints graffiti at Venice Beach (photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — Today, March 6, Arts for LA released its 2023 Policy and Advocacy Agenda outlining challenges facing LA’s creative sector and actionable recommendations to make it more sustainable and equitable. “Despite being the top per capita provider of arts in the nation, Los Angeles ranks 259th in government funding allocation,” the nonprofit’s CEO Gustavo Herrera said in a statement. “This disparity disproportionately affects BIPOC and low-income communities as well as BIPOC-centered organizations.” 

Titled Building a Creative Infrastructure, the report was developed over the course of several months, beginning last fall with community strategy sessions followed by policy working groups and a daylong State of the Arts Summit in October. It is divided into four “advocacy areas” — resources and capital, equitable arts education, creative jobs, and affordable space — which were originally outlined in 2019, the result of meetings with hundreds of artists, arts professionals, civic leaders, and other stakeholders. These themes were consistent with two previous policy and advocacy agendas released in 2021 and 2022; however, each report confronts the current landscape. “The agendas build on one another to continue to build community power,” Herrera told Hyperallergic.

This year’s educational section, for instance, addresses equitable implementation of California’s Proposition 28, which will allocate about $1 billion in state funding for arts education in public schools. Known as the Arts and Music in Schools Funding Guarantee Accountability Act, the proposition was voted on in a ballot measure last fall and will require 80% of the funding to be allocated toward hiring arts teachers in the state. When Arts for LA began working on policy areas in 2019, affordable workspace dominated conversations about space, says Herrera, but the focus shifted to affordable housing as a result of the economic disruptions of the pandemic.

Another section of the report calls for rallying community support to double the Organizational Grant Program of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts & Culture, two-year grants awarded to arts organizations that directly engage with their communities by offering free or low-cost programming. It also encourages funders to take up trust-based philanthropy, a model that aims to rethink the power dynamics between donors, nonprofits, and the publics they serve. To address issues of housing and studio affordability, the report calls for “solidarity-based approaches” such as cooperatives and community land trusts, as well as supporting subsidized spaces as included in LA’s Countywide Cultural Policy Strategic Plan, and educating civic leaders on the importance of art and culture in economic development.

Herrera notes that despite the challenges outlined in the report, Arts for LA has had significant successes in strengthening LA’s cultural infrastructure. Founded in 2006, Arts for LA advocates for arts education, funding, and greater access to the arts, especially for underrepresented groups, through programs that include community engagement, workshops, meetings for arts professionals, and campaigns aimed at influencing civic policy. In 2021, the organization was a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 628, the California Creative Workforce Act, which prioritizes jobs, training, and equity across California’s creative industries.

The organization is also working on a set of recommendations for creating 10,000 living wage jobs in LA’s arts and culture sector by 2030, dubbed the Creative Jobs Collective Impact Initiative, which they will present to the LA County Board of Supervisors later this year. “We’ve been doing this at the local and state level,” Herrera says. “We want the county partnering with state and private philanthropy to ensure that we don’t remain #259.”

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.