Friday, June 4, 2010

Local Pols & the Art of Funding Arts

Given that Los Angeles is renowned the world over for its arts and entertainment industries, there is a certain irony in the fact that the State of California ranks dead last among the 50 in per person spending on the arts. Northeast L.A.’s legislators have been highly creative in devising new ways to increase arts spending. However, so far their efforts are experiencing rough treading.

Assemblymember Anthony Portantino was recently honored with the California Association of Museums’ President’s Award for his support of museums and cultural institutions and for his introduction of AB 1777, which, if passed and signed by the Governor, will transfer 20% of sales tax collected on arts-related businesses to a fund for distribution by the California Arts Council. The bill would authorize a city, county or district or a nonprofit arts organization to apply to the council for a local assistance program grant for organizational support.

Portantino’s measure declares that, “Life in this state is enriched by art, innovation, and creativity.” He bases his argument for the bill on the facts that every dollar in state support for the arts leverages $7 in revenue; that the State's cultural enterprises provide 500,891 jobs for its residents, accounting for 7.6% of total employment; that arts nonprofits therefore contribute $5,000,400,000 to this state's economy and $300,000,000 in state and local taxes and that nonprofit arts organizations help the state meet its obligations in the field of education by serving schoolchildren, college and university students, teachers and other adults. The bill declares nonprofit arts organizations to be a stimulator to creative industries, playing a key role in the 21st century workforce and the global economy--including in the fields of architecture; advertising; consulting; education; performing arts; museums and other cultural industries; design--including electronic design, software development, film and games; historic preservation; music; new media; publishing; radio and television and tourism.

“An investment in the arts and the creative economy industries can revitalize a neighborhood or area,” says Portantino.

AB 1777 is a reintroduction of a measure proposed last year by then-Assemblymember Paul Krekorian, who represented Atwater Village and Griffith Park. It is being put forward in the State Senate by another Northeast legislator, State Senator Carol Liu. The measure is sponsored by California Arts Advocates.

Portantino’s measure does not create a new tax. A State Board of Equalization analysis says that the bill would bring about the transfer of approximately $22.8 million--which would otherwise go to the general fund--to a Creative Industries and Economic Revitalization Fund.

The State currently spends three cents per year per capita on arts; the national median is $1.

AB 1777 is apparently not moving forward this legislative session, but it remains pending.

Another measure that had great potential for the arts has not done even that well. AB 2677 by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes of the San Fernando Valley would have allowed a surcharge of 25 cents on the sale of permanent markers and aerosol cans (up from the current five and 10 cents respectively). As introduced, the bill would have required that 50%of the revenues from the tax be allocated for funding the arts.

Last year, a similar measure by Liu cleared the State Senate, but not the Assembly. That bill would have had the effect of dramatically increasing Los Angeles’ funds for graffiti clean-up and would have enabled the purchase of new abatement technology.

When Fuentes introduced AB 2677 this year, he made a significant change. He added a mandate that half the surcharge money go to arts. Therefore, people who would have had to pay more for paints and markers for artistic purposes would have potentially gotten something back.

Local City Councilmember Jose Huizar introduced a measure seeking L.A. council support for Fuentes’ bill. Meanwhile, the arts allocation aspect of the bill didn’t fly. Then, when the City Council’s Information Technology & Government Affairs Committee met to consider the matter on June 1, committee members were informed that the bill had not made it out of committee and was dead.


william wray said...

LA is a notorious stingy town with gallery and media arts related jobs being closely guarded insiders club. So no support from Hollywood arts types and opposition from conservative business types who don't get the point of art. Ironically, I think the most destructive of all are the conceptual artists and community non- profits who receive the lion share of grants and openly distain any art that the average city councilmen might begin to understand. I think the long tradition of anti- representational art has exacted a very high cost except to the rich artists who can afford to go to Yale to get their street creed. ;-) Their galleries are sick of so many artists submissions so they encourage the conflict/ elitism as a method to control the art world. Idea artists easier to control and replace. Skilled artists are a threat because unique skill sets are harder to replicate and the general pubic prefers art it understands. This artificial conflict needs to end and the arts need a wider spectrum of accepted styles for arts funding to be robust.

Unknown said...

@William Wray: I couldn't have said it better.