Monday, August 24, 2009


A Comprehensive Neighborhood Arts Policy for the City of Los Angeles

(DRAFT 5.12.09)


The City of Los Angeles is a global leader in art, creativity, and entertainment. The arts community contributes billions of dollars a year to the local economy—this includes computer graphics, public art, architecture, the fashion industry, advertising, art exhibits, recordings, in film, radio, TV, and more. According to the “Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region” (2008, Otis College of Art and Design/LA County Economic Development Corporation), the Creative Economy generates $3.8 billion in state tax revenues, employs a million people in LA and Orange counties, and accounts for $100 billion in sales/receipts in LA county.

Much of this is concentrated in Hollywood, downtown, at theme parks, and the ocean front. We need these, of course, especially as catalysts for tourists' dollars. However, over the past years the city has lost resources, cultural spaces, independent bookstores, and murals in its extremely diverse and far-flung neighborhoods. There are now whole communities without bookstores, art galleries or movie houses.

We have to expand our imagination about the arts and how it can cultivate, renew, and regenerate our economically and culturally strapped communities. We are committed to the reality that the arts are the most powerful means to revitalize the economy in hard times. And the arts are the best way to keep communities and local businesses viable for the long haul. This Neighborhood Arts Policy is focused on safeguarding, sustaining and expanding all the arts in every Los Angeles community by action of the Los Angeles City Council, in conjunction with city departments such as the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Community Redevelopment Agency, and biding on all city administrators.


1. The generating, sustaining and restoring of public art projects, including murals.


• Ideas include having one percent of billboard space be given to public artists, including one percent of the 600-800 digital billboards.

• Percentage of tourist dollars can help restore historical murals and to generate new projects, including approval of new wall space and public art spots.

• Consider new public art projects, including digital arts models, to capture the generations of technology-trained young people.

2. The incorporation, training, and support for new and current graffiti art projects


• As a means to keep unwanted tagging and marring of private property while providing the skills and opportunities for young artists to create new works that beautify and enhance communities.

• Before any young person is arrested or punished for marring property, they must be given opportunities to train and turn their art into positive contributions to community.

3. The safeguarding and maintenance of cultural spaces.


• These include independent bookstores, art galleries, cultural spaces, cultural cafes, Open Mics, and cooperative and nonprofit performance spaces from the vagaries of the commercial real estate market.

• Support through combinations of rent subsidies, grants, tax write-offs, city property, and development funds.

• Utilize any federal, state, county, and city funds designed to stimulate or recover the economy.

4. Maintaining the local flavor of community.


• By assisting, training, and providing start up funds for new culturally-driven and culturally-focused establishments in neighborhoods.

• This includes efforts to provide literacy, computers, arts education, studio space, music studios, exhibit space, and performance space/theaters for non-profits cultural organizations as well as storefront arts-focused businesses.

5. Ongoing arts programming for youth.


• Such as the recently enacted mentor-to-artist “Summer Lights” program, in all neighborhoods, including public art projects, mural restoration, skate and art parks, literacy and performance arts festivals, arts block parties, community stages, music concerts, and arts workshops/education.

• This should involve at-risk youth, gang members, probation youth, and troubled students working with existing institutions in healing/restorative initiatives. This should not be seen as a privilege for a few, but a right for the many.

6. Local directory of neighborhood arts establishments and programming.


• Open Mic nights, spoken word/performance venues, theaters, cultural cafes, independent bookstores, public art projects, and more for tourists and Angelenos in collaboration with the Visitors Bureau.

• Include once excluded South Central, East LA and San Fernando Valley areas in official tourist maps, guides, websites, and presentations.

7. Support of independent broadcast, Internet, and print ventures – and a green environment.


• To find support, resources, outreach, and sustainability through training, funding, and spaces.

• This includes new digital technologies as they expand and develop. This should also include means to keep green policies intact and to connect the arts to natural and healthy green concepts and actions.

8. Local Arts Policy Collaborations.


• The process and aim of any neighborhood arts policy should be collaborations between parents, children, youth, mentors, schools, colleges, universities, faith-based organizations, art institutions, city/county/state governments, businesses, parks, foundations, venues, and non-profits.

Final Thought

The arts have consistently proven to be the most effective means to lift the most desolate areas and to bring together fractured communities. Economically the arts gathers creative energy and allows for new visions, new ideas and expanded imaginations to stabilize neighborhoods and extend economic potentials. Through the visual arts, dance, theater, media, writing, and music, whole communities, in particular youth, connect to the inexhaustible possibilities that exist in their immense capacity to be creative. The arts are vital to having an imaginative life, especially for those caught in the grips of violence. It is the main source of abundance and transformation in a person. By tapping into the arts, one taps into purpose, meaning, and gifts—into callings. The arts help people live fully realizable lives—therefore, the arts must be wholly and adequately integrated into the educational system and any prevention, intervention, and re-entry projects. The City of Los Angeles must be a pioneer in establishing real and widespread neighborhood arts initiatives. To have an economically, socially and culturally sound and healthy environment, the arts have to be at the heart of this.

More info:
Neighborhood Arts Policy

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