Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013
Creative Capital: A campaign for a healthy & prosperous Los Angeles
Creative Capital LA: a campaign for a healthy and prosperous Los Angeles County. Creative Capital LA is a public campaign to leverage the public investment in arts and culture to produce a successful and thriving Los Angeles County. With more and more research (LA2050, Otis Report, LA Stage Alliance’s Arts Census) showing that a robust arts & culture core reaps advances in education, business, and civic life, we are committed to supporting a future in which arts & culture are an essential part of the solution to building America’s Creative Capital – this year, and every year, to 2050 and beyond. Los Angeles has long been a beacon for big thinkers, dreamers, and innovators. We are the home of the second largest community of artists in the United States, the center of the film and music industries, the home for 5,000 fashion firms, and the epicenter of a creative movement building “Silicon Beach” alongside a vibrant core of creative small businesses. Now, all of us—educators, artists, lawmakers, business owners, creative workers, and arts lovers can unite under a single banner tailored for our individual neighborhood, community, or city, one that pulls us all together to complete the unique mosaic of creativity that is Los Angeles County. To launch Creative Capital LA, Arts for LA proposes a public engagement campaign to identify and celebrate the ways “Creative Capital” defines Los Angeles County. For the campaign, Creative Capital can be understood as a noun: a person, place, or thing. • CREATIVE CAPITAL is a person who creates or innovates. • CREATIVE CAPITAL is a place that nurtures creativity, fosters innovation, and embraces the imagination. • CREATIVE CAPITAL is a thing that enables creation or innovation (technology, infrastructure, materials like paint or musical instruments, public policies). Creative Capital LA will provide online tools and materials for individuals and groups to actively engage with each other, with their own communities, and with the 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. We will ask people to submit images (or videos) of people, places, and things with one of three captions: “I Am Creative Capital”; “We Are Creative Capital”; and “Los Angeles is Creative Capital.” The range of possible images will reflect the diversity and creativity of Los Angeles: a child learning to play a violin, a class of middle school students working on a mural at their school, church choirs, dance groups, an architect in front of Disney Hall, book festivals, film crews, a fashion show by emerging designers, and so on. The collection of images will translate the concept of “Creative Capital” into a visual representation that will instill pride, inspiration, and social connection among those who call Los Angeles County home. The impact of this campaign on the indicator of Arts & Culture Vitality will be both personal and collective. Those who participate in Creative Capital LA will be engaged to express their commitment to and participation in arts and culture, and those who view these expressions will, in turn, be inspired and possibly motivated to engage themselves in the arts. Collectively, Los Angeles will generate an atmosphere to strengthen our arts & culture ecology and will signal to the rest of the country, and the world, how an abundance of creativity and innovation can produce a successful and thriving city.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Our 2012 Annual Report and a comprehensive list of our organizational benchmarks are available at www.artsforla.org. Our work demonstrates the impact of advocacy by parents, students, teachers, small business owners, and government, corporate, and private foundation supporters. During 2012, 4,538 unique arts advocates sent 16,259 letters to policymakers through the Arts for LA website on 12 local campaigns.
Our most recent advocacy success was the unanimous passage of the “Arts at the Core” resolution by the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) on October 9, 2012. The resolution affirms and protects arts education as core curriculum, like science and math, and its impact has been nationwide. Arts for LA has been contacted by education advocates in New York City and Chicago who want to pursue similar resolutions for their districts. This success is even more remarkable considering that in December 2011, LAUSD had announced its plans to eliminate arts education for elementary students in response to budget cuts. Throughout the spring of 2012, Arts for LA devoted its communication platform to generate public awareness of the issue, and our efforts resulted in 4,928 letters to LAUSD’s school board members and Superintendent Dr. John Deasy, PhD. In June, LAUSD reached an agreement that restored arts education for elementary school students, which laid the foundation for passage of the “Arts at the Core” resolution.
The success of our campaigns has demonstrated the value and role of advocacy, not only for arts and culture groups, but for nonprofits of all disciplines. In 2012, the Los Angeles City Admin. Office recommended the city abolish a program that allows a number of nonprofits to pay $1 rent per year on city-owned buildings, instead of market rate rent. This measure would save the city $3 million, but endanger, if not eliminate, the nonprofits that provide health, arts, education, conservation, and other human services to vulnerable populations.
Arts for LA rallied arts organizations and other community stakeholders such as LA Conservation Corps, ONE Generation, People Coordinated Services, West LA FamilySource Center, and others. Through the Arts for LA communications platform, over 3,000 advocates wrote to the LA City Council urging them to require a public hearing, including an economic impact statement on the nonprofit infrastructure. The City Council agreed, and the proposal has not been pursued since our stakeholders took action.
Campaigns such as this have generated thoughtful responses to advocates from public officials, while the focus on positive, solutions-based advocacy has earned the organization and its network of advocates the respect of local policymakers, who are increasingly willing to meet with organizational leadership. Arts for LA believes these indicators point to a more engaged and empowered creative community, and policymakers who are recognizing the role of arts & culture in the health of the region.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
In its advocacy campaigns, Arts for LA has worked with: • 24,000+ email subscribers spread across Los Angeles’ 88 municipalities and 81 school districts. • 15 community teams in Burbank, Santa Monica, Culver City, Paramount, Montebello, Long Beach, Pasadena, Pomona, South Bay, Watts, Boyle Heights, Glendale, Cerritos, Norwalk-Mirada, and Whittier. • Since 2009, over 550 community members have participated in our free advocacy training. • 125 organizational members, including cornerstone institutions like the LA Philharmonic and LACMA as well as smaller, community-based organizations such as Ignite Dance Workshops, Watts Village Theatre, and LA Jewish Symphony.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Evaluation of a public engagement campaign is complicated since a “win” is not as easily defined as the outcome of an election or ballot measure. Despite the intangible nature of public awareness, tangible outcomes can be measured over time.
Participation in Creative Capital LA will be measured by: 1) 100,000 Creative Capital images 2) 10,000 Likes on Facebook 3) 1,000 news items, across all media
Direct, successful outcomes of the Creative Capital LA campaign will be: 1) greater access to arts and cultural experiences 2) increased funding for arts and culture 3) increased jobs in the creative economy 4) a majority of school districts offering arts education as part of a complete education.
All of these outcomes can be measured by existing methods used by Arts for LA and other organizations (Otis, LA Stage Alliance, DCA, LACAC, NEA, etc.).
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
A broad, robust, and diverse investment in arts and culture will ensure a healthy and prosperous Los Angeles. Great cities invest in arts and culture to the level they invest in infrastructure, education, business, and health.
Creative Capital LA will generate the public support that LA2050 cites as critical to ensuring the vitality not only of arts and culture, but of the city itself. Creative Capital LA will lead to “coherent arts-nurturing” policies that strengthen not only the arts & culture indicator, but also several other indicators, such as Income & Employment, which will benefit from job growth in the creative economy. Creative Capital LA will expand every resident’s ability to participate in arts advocacy by democratizing the tools and expanding our Social Connectedness when we recognize ourselves and our communities as “Creative Capitals.”
After Arts & Culture Vitality, Education is the indicator that would be most affected by the public engagement made possible by Creative Capital LA. The majority of low-income students have little to no access to arts education. One of the reasons arts education is so important for low-income students is that it directly addresses the student achievement gap. Studies have shown that arts education improves literacy, numeracy, school attendance (and as a result, lowers the dropout rate), and parental engagement (Youth ARTS Development Project, 1996, U.S. Department of Justice; Arts Education Partnership, CAAE.) At-risk students who have access to the arts in or out of school also tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement, according to a new NEA report, The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth (2012).
By promoting arts education and its connection to 21st century skills. Creative Capital LA will increase public support for education reform and make a complete education possible for LA County’s 1.6 million public school students. We imagine a Los Angeles County in which every young person develops the skills to succeed in our creative industries, from fashion to film, visual art to visual effects, design to drama. And when artists, creative entrepreneurs, and forward thinkers engage with our elected officials, our collaborative thinking will push Los Angeles to the forefront of American creativity and innovation.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Arts for LA envisions the greater Los Angeles region as one in which government, education, business and residents value, support and fully integrate the arts—in all their diversity—into the fabric of civic life. Arts for LA affirms that the arts are critical to a healthy, prosperous society. Access to substantive arts and cultural experiences enriches the quality of life for both residents of and visitors to the greater Los Angeles region.
In 2050, all 81 school districts in Los Angeles County will offer a complete education – that includes arts education – to ensure our children develop into adults with excellent skills in communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.
In 2050, all 88 municipalities in Los Angeles County will hold policies that support the fastest growing sector of our economy by investing resources intelligently, fostering new business growth, and including arts and culture in community and governmental leadership.
Success in 2050 will be shaped by these values:
▪ The arts foster civic engagement, stimulate economic activity, and increase cultural empathy, and thus play a crucial role in sustaining thriving communities.
▪ Every resident deserves access to a variety of arts and cultural experiences, both in the major arts institutions and in neighborhood cultural centers and programs.
▪ Arts education is central to the development of all children and to ongoing creative engagement for people of all ages.
▪ Artists and arts organizations require a social environment that values and supports their contributions and encourages excellence.
▪ The breadth, depth, and diversity of artistic and cultural life are critical measures of the vitality of Los Angeles.
Art is universal, democratic, and nonpartisan. It has the power to unite people, to prompt discussion, to encourage critical thinking, and to remind us of what makes us human. An engaged democracy shares these same goals, and democracy succeeds when everyone takes responsibility to be part of the solution. We believe artists, arts and culture leaders, and arts audiences will be part of the solution to help Los Angeles prosper and thrive.