California, San Diego, the Arts, and You


jcc In San Diego arts news, the San Diego arts community gathered last Monday, October 17, 2011, at the Garfield Theatre, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. The topic for the gathering: the future of the San Diego arts scene. The afternoon started with a welcome by Wendy Sabin-Lasker, the director of the Center for Jewish Culture. With a friendly demeanor, she invited the arts representatives present to feel welcome to partake in the center’s activities and facilities.

commartslogo Ms. Sabin-Lasker then introduced the Executive Director of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, Victoria Hamilton. Ms. Hamilton acted as the event’s emcee, introducing the various speakers and making everyone feel welcomed and at ease. As always, Ms. Hamilton filled the role of arts ambassador with aplomb.

The headlining speaker at the gathering was Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. Anyone who is familiar with seeking funding for an arts organization is more than familiar with the CAC. For those of you who may be scratching your head, wondering what the heck the California Arts Council is and does, let us explain.CAClogo

The CAC is a state agency  that is appointed by the Governor of California and the state legislature. Its job is to advance the arts in the state of California by raising public awareness, providing support to arts organizations, and offering professional development to arts professionals.

It’s an important agency!

Director Craig Watson, who is new in his position, proved to be a witty and entertaining speaker. He began by relating the responses of his friends and colleagues as they learned of his new position as the Director of the California Arts Council. Some gave him their congratulations . . . others offered their condolences.

masks After a round of laughter, he went on to explain that right now is both an exciting and a tough time to be in the arts industry. The ongoing economic downturn has made it hard for arts organizations to make ends meet. Indeed, it seems that every other day a person may look in the newspaper and see an article about an arts organization filing Chapter 11.

Mr. Watson explained that just a handful of years ago, the California Arts Council had a grant budget of $40 million in government money. That’s $40 million that would be divvied up and awarded to arts organizations throughout the state of California.

Due to the economic downturn, the CAC now has a graCaliforniant budget of $5 million. That’s an 87.5% cut in support for California arts organizations! This placed California in dead- last for state support of the arts in the U.S. Only recently has that changed. We are now number 49 out of 50. Kansas is behind us.

Now seriously, California is arguably the nation’s second biggest arts and culture center – behind New York. We have Hollywood, San Francisco, and San Diego to name just a few arts and culture centers.

San Diego? Yes, that’s right. We have the Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse just for starters. Both theater old_globe_theatercompanies have sent countless plays and musicals on to Broadway and National Tours. And then, of course, there’s the San Diego Opera, the San Diego Symphony, the rich and vibrant dance scene that encompasses three ballet companies (California Ballet amongst them), contemporary companies like Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater and Malashock Dance . . . the arts list for this city alone goes on and on and on. . .

So, can you wrap your head around a state as large as California, with an arts and culture community as vibrant as New York’s being second to last for government support? (If you need to understand how the arts affect the economy, read our Arts and Culture Impact blog post by CLICKING HERE.)

Mr. Watson did not paint an entirely bleak picture, however. He went on to explain what he meant by an exciting time to be in the arts industry. He pointed out that in the wake of a dearth of government support for the arts, there are a lot of exciting changes taking place. Many organizations are beginning collaborations that have previously been unseen. Not just with each other, but with private and corporate companies.

On top of that, the arts field is ripe for plowing. The state of California’s leadership has undergone serious changes. We have a new Governor, a new State Superintendant, a new Director of the California Arts Council, and this new leadership makes for a unique opportunity for change.


How do we effect change? It’s simple, when the state won’t support the arts, it falls onto all of us – the average (and not-so-average) citizens. Whether you are an artist, lawyer, accountant, cashier, or receptionist, you can make a difference in the arts. Become active. Buy tickets. Go to arts rallies. Write your representatives. Post and repost on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. Make your voice heard, and your love of the arts obvious.


Oh yeah, and those license plates with the preartplatetty palm trees? Did you know that those are California’s Arts license plates? The proceeds from each and every one of those palm tree plates goes straight to the California Arts Council to support their grants program. In fact, of the $5 million grants budget, $3 million is raised from the license plate program. So . . . don’t you like palm trees? Aren’t they pretty plates?

Above all, in the current climate with the arts hanging on the precipice as they are, Mr. Watson is calling all citizens to action. We all need to be co-conspirators for the arts. It’s up to us to change the trajectory of the arts in California.

End the downward spiral, and

rocket California’s arts back into the stratosphere where they belong.

In California Ballet Company news, last weekend California Ballet Company performed Charles Bennett’s Alice in Wonderland and Wayne Davis’ Souvenir at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts. Some of you may have attended, and we hope you had a great time!

For those of you who didn’t, well, you missed out.

The performances were well received by the audiences. The combined program of Souvenir and Alice in Wonderland provided the perfect blend of childhood whimsy and classical dance. Given the chance to comment on the performance, one attendee said:

“Fun for everyone. A lot of children and families in the audience, but my husband and I came here for our date and we loved it.

We enjoyed the ballet interpretation of this classic story. The costumes were fantastic and the cast were great not only in dancing but in acting as well. During intermission, some of the ballet dancers dressed in flowers came out to take pictures with people.

There was also a formal ballet in the beginning of the show that was a special treat to the adults.”

The dancers were satisfied, the audience was satisfied, we hope you were satisfied! And if you missed Alice in Wonderland, don’t worry! We have another great family ballet coming up in December: The Nutcracker! Don’t miss the chance to see this holiday favorite on the San Diego Civic Theatre stage with the San Diego Symphony.

Chie 1 edit

California Ballet Company’s

The Nutcracker

December 17-21, 2011
San Diego Civic Theatre
With the San Diego Symphony

For tickets and information call
858-560-6741 or CLICK HERE!!


One Response to “California, San Diego, the Arts, and You”

  1. sandiegobusinessprinting Says:

    While the economy suffers, something like Comic-Con thrives and grows. Perhaps the San Diego arts community should be inspired by/hitch their wagon to/emulate some aspect(s) of the now internationally famous convention. How about a San Diego Art-Con? Why not?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: