In early April, the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission sent a plea to City Manager Howard Chan to dedicate more funding for the arts in its proposed 2019-2020 budget. The commission suggested a base arts budget of $2.2 million for the next fiscal year, with an additional $6 million from the Measure U budget.
Last June, the city commissioned the Creative Edge cultural arts plan — a roadmap for investing in a successful cultural arts community. That plan, developed in part from public input, found that 88 percent of Sacramento residents agree on the importance of arts education.
But some Sacramento artists and arts supporters see a gulf between city leaders that tout the importance of art to the city’s identity and the city’s actual investment. The city manager’s draft budget has $800,000 going toward the arts next year. It also includes a one-time funding amount of $580,000 for Creative Edge — which SMAC says isn’t enough to follow through on the ambitious plan.
Artists and arts leaders are calling for the city to put its money where its mouth is and make a greater commitment to the arts in this budget and the long-run. Liv Moe, founding director of Verge Center for the Arts, artist Gale Hart, and artist and Sacramento City College art professor Gioia Fonda discuss the budget and how they think the city should move forward.
Read Americans for the Arts' report about the economic impact of art in Sacramento County here.
On where we are in terms of the city’s commitment to the arts
Liv Moe: It seems like the determination for what the city's actual commitment to the arts is going to be is somewhat of a moving target. There's been a lot of numbers that have been thrown around over the last couple weeks as this process has continued to evolve. And I think from my standpoint, one of the things that's been a little bit frustrating is there isn't just a straightforward commitment to say we see the value of this and we're willing to invest in it, especially after all of the public meetings, cultural planning, everything that's gone on. There isn't this recognition of the arts as an asset to the degree that you would actually invest in it versus other city amenities.
Gayle Hart: I know that downtown was kind of energized by artists throughout the decades, and so this is kind of like wait, what? And I really don't know where the mayor stands with us right now. And I'm wondering, what's the incentive at this point for younger artists to stay here when the rents are so high and they're equal to the rents in bigger cities? So why not go where there's more opportunity. I mean when I talk to younger artists I'm not sure what to say right now.
On the creative edge cultural plan
Liv Moe: I think the creative edge cultural plan is going to be essential to where the city sees itself in the next five or 10 years. I think one of the biggest problems we have here is cultural equity in terms of our cultural institutions, and that needs to change. And I think without something like the creative edge cultural plan those sorts of investments are not going to be made in a long-term, methodical and meaningful way.
I also think that's something that I've seen repeatedly over the last 10 years in Sacramento is this putting people in charge of of cultural endeavors, cultural leadership, that aren't educated or savvy in those fields. And so what I would love to see is them bringing somebody in, some real leadership that understands what needs to happen, invest in those people and see this really turn around. I think it's going to pay dividends to the entire region that will just continue moving forward. I mean this is an investment that's gonna make this whole city better.
On the potential of creative economy grants going away
Gioia Fonda: I received a creative economy grant and I think it was wonderful to have.
I think that it's important for the city to fund arts at many different levels. You know small, micro projects, bigger projects and then larger things like organizations. It does energize the community when there's an opportunity that's out there that you know you can apply for.
I talk to a lot of people about navigating rejection because that's just a very real part of being an artist. And so you know part of the line with that creative economy grant was, if you didn't get one this year, you can apply for it again next year. And it's a little bit like you know, Lucy with the football, when they take away this program that everyone was excited about and that you got to see your fellow artists participating in and then you thought, 'Oh now I got an idea for what I would do next time.' And then there is no next time.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.