NASAA Notes: December 2023

December 5, 2023

California: Research on Statewide Access to Arts Funding

The cover of Equity Challenges in California’s Arts Ecosystem showcases a diverse range of performing arts. Image courtesy California Arts Council

As stewards of public funding, state arts agencies continually seek ways to measure and evaluate their grant making. This data-driven self-reflection is essential for better management of funds and improved outcomes, and fills gaps in current programming. As part of its long-term strategy to make its impact more equitable, the California Arts Council (CAC) has just released a commissioned field scan of nonprofit arts funding in California.

The new report, Equity Challenges in California’s Arts Ecosystem, examines how the infrastructure of nonprofit arts organizations compares to the demographics of California, how equitable the distribution of public and private funding is across different communities, and what CAC’s current role is in the arts funding ecosystem. The report offers answers to these three questions through a quantitative Analysis of Equity in Nonprofit Arts Funding in California. Three additional qualitative research components provide in-depth analysis of the arts ecosystems in Fresno, Imperial County and South Los Angeles.

Guided by CAC’s Racial Equity Statement, the reports focus on racial and geographic equity, and the analysis shows both the opportunities and the challenges that the California Arts Council and nonprofit funders face when working to distribute funds equitably. These include the following:

  • Nonprofit arts funding and infrastructure has below-average representation in Black, Indigenous and/or people of color (BIPOC) communities.
  • Arts access is hyperlocal and is challenging to measure using only statistical data.
  • Most California arts nonprofits are small, volunteer-led organizations that have not received grant funding.
  • The vast majority of resources available to California’s arts nonprofits are concentrated in a small number of very large organizations.
  • CAC’s grants are more equitably distributed than other sources of contributed income, with 30% of CAC funds going to BIPOC-centered organizations.

Beyond the quantitative analysis, the three deep dives in Fresno, Imperial County and South Los Angeles seek to understand arts activities outside of nonprofit arts structures. Each of the three reports relied on local “connectors,” community liaisons who helped build local relationships among artists and local leaders. These three reports offer personal accounts of community action and the array of funding sources that promote arts enterprises outside of the nonprofit arts sphere, as well as the challenges they face.

The Equity Challenges report was authored by John Carnwath as part of a comprehensive CAC grant-making evaluation done by Scansion and WolfBrown. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies assisted in the preparation of the nonprofit funding analysis and a companion technical report. For more information, contact California Arts Council Public Affairs Specialist Kimberly Brown.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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