Arts advocacy group Arts for LA speaks out on the need for arts funding in Los Angeles
Emails from local theatres to rally public support for the arts community have been flying madly thru cyberspace in the wake of recent reports from the LA Times and other news outlets that a disastrous funding cut to local arts organizations is being considered by the LA City Council. At risk is funding from the Dept. of Cultural Affairs, whose $2,200,000 grant program is derived from a designated 1% of the 14% Transient Occupancy Tax (the tax on hotel rooms). Without that funding, arts jobs will be lost, programming will be reduced or canceled, and the ripple effect will extend to support business that rely on theatres and their audiences, such as restaurants, printers, parking lots and more. A motion is being brought before the LA City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 10am to vote on the matter. (Agenda.)
Item #13 of the Wednesday meeting is the proposed removal of subsection 126.96.36.199(d), the Arts and Cultural Facilities and Services Trust Fund – a move that would be disastrous for many area arts organizations. Grants from the Dept. of Cultural Affairs have been a lifeline of support to hundreds of large and small arts organizations across the City. Thousands of jobs at theaters, museums, art galleries, visual and performing artists, teaching artists, arts organizations, etc. are stimulated by those monies and would be cut or severely compromised.
“We are at a pivotal moment,” says Danielle Brazell, executive director of the arts advocacy group Arts for LA. “Look, we completely understand that the City is on the brink of bankruptcy. But why would you remove your tools to get you back on the road to economic recovery? When we were in the Great Depression, this is where our leaders realized the role that arts and culture play, and they put the arts to work. And it made a direct impact on our economic recovery. So it’s not unprecedented.
“The arts are central to our economic recovery,” she continued. “One-in-six jobs are directly related to our creative economy. We have over 33,000 arts-related businesses in Los Angeles alone. For every grant dollar that the City awards, an additional eight is leveraged. These are public/private partnerships that the City, if they vote ‘no’ on the dedicated funding source and eliminate funding from the TOT, will have catastrophic implications for our overall economic recovery.
“The TOT exists specifically and precisely for this purpose (arts funding). It realizes the intrinsic connection between our economic livelihood, cultural tourism, and the cultural fabric of Los Angeles. This is what the City Council put the TOT ordinance in for – so that the Dept. of Cultural Affairs would have a dedicated revenue stream. And what the DCA is able to do is, very similarly to what other arts organizations do, they are able to leverage funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and they are able to leverage private funding. We just got the largest grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to fund this international festival that sent over 350 of our artists to Mexico. That was one of the most extraordinary opportunities for our cultural community to engage in international representation! And the amount of money and jobs that created went directly into our local economy. So what DCA is able to do is leverage that dedicated funding stream, pay its administrative staff and provide the grants that other organizations need to contribute to Los Angeles. I think there’s a perception that arts need to be supported, but what I think the councilmembers are now starting to understand is that investing in the arts has an enormous return on the investment. It’s tried and true.”
This is a critical situation for many area theatres and arts organizations. Here’s what you can do to make your voice be heard before Wednesday’s vote:
3. Contact Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office and ask him to veto this plan: 213/978-0600 or 213/978-0721, and add your comment at "Ask the Mayor"
4. Contact your local City Councilperson and voice your opposition to this plan. If you don’t know who that is, go to www.lacity.org and enter your address in the “Neighborhood Resources” block.