In Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-2022 “Budget Built on Strong Fiscal Foundation” proposal to the Legislature he recognized the disproportionate impact of COVID 19 on artists and the creative industries. The budget dedicates $25 million for a small cultural institution grant program for museums and theaters, and a $15 million to the California Arts Council (CAC), for a statewide pilot program – California Creative Corps – which will fuel positivity, regain public trust, and inspire safe and healthy behavior across California’s diverse populations through media, outreach, and an engagement campaign. This funding will require a dollar-for-dollar match to receive funding. Governor Newsom’s budget proposal also maintains existing funding levels for the CAC’s ongoing programs to remain at $26 million.

The Creative Corps program is the first of its kind in the United States. Although details from the Governor’s office are still to be announced, the corps program intention is to employ artists in service to the public health crisis in a public-private partnership model.

“We are grateful to Governor Newsom for once again proactively supporting the creative industries as he has in every budget since he became Governor.” Says Julie Baker, Executive Director of Californians for the Arts and California Arts Advocates (CFTA/CAA), the statewide advocacy and lobbying organizations for the creative industries. “We applaud his visionary leadership to recognize the value of artists to contribute to California’s wellness through the development of the CA Creative Corps and we look forward to working with the administration on making the most out of this opportunity. We strongly support the pilot program and urge the private sector and legislature to support as well.”

Arts professionals across the United States have been proposing ways to employ and deploy artists in Works Project Administration (WPA) and the Comprehensive

Employment and Training Act (CETA) like programs since the pandemic started and although smaller models have been developed in communities such as Seattle and in an economic workforce development program in Wisconsin, the launch of a Creative Corps pilot program is unique to California. The pilot program came out of a recommendation from the Governor’s economic and jobs recovery task force.

Deborah Cullinan, CEO of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco was the only arts and culture representative on the Governor’s task force. She says, “It was my honor to join Governor Newsom’s Task Force and collaborate with my colleagues to bring the depth, breadth and power of California’s creative ecosystem to the work of recovery and regeneration. I am inspired by his deep understanding of and commitment to the role that artists and arts organizations across our State – particularly BIPOC and/or LGBTQIA+ artists in our hardest hit communities – can play in rebuilding trust, encouraging healthy behavior, fueling positivity, and driving a more equitable future.”

Public investment in the arts is more important than ever before as the public health crisis has almost entirely shut down the ability for the arts sector to earn revenue. In a recent study conducted by Californians for the Arts of over 600 California creative businesses, 79% of respondents have eliminated and/or reduced programs and 16% are not confident that if programs cannot resume before April 1 that they will be able to survive. In a separate survey of over 900 arts and culture workers, access to a program similar to the WPA and CETA ranked in the top 3 of possible support recommendations. “Artists want to get back to work and a program like the Creative Corps offers an opportunity not only for employment but to be a part of the solution to the public health crisis. It is a win-win.”, adds Julie Baker, Executive Director of Californians for the Arts.

In light of the public health and financial crisis as well as the recent and critical dialogue

and actions to fight injustice and systemic racism, an understanding of the value of arts

and culture in our communities and the role artists play as second responders to rebuild

communities and lives is essential for California to recover and re-envision a state

reflective of its diverse cultures.  Victoria L. Hamilton, CFTA/CAA Board President adds,

“There has never been a more critical time for hope, inspiration and healing and the

mental health benefits the arts and artists can bring to our communities. Furthermore,

public financial investment in the creative industries is important to our entire state as

the creative economy represents 8.2% of California’s GSP ahead of construction and

transportation. Indeed, the arts ecosystem in California is vast, generating $650.3

billion per year with 15.4% or 2.7 million of all jobs in California, so investment in public

funding for the arts just makes good business sense.”