California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 01, 2017Caitlin Fitzwater

California Arts Council Director Issues Statement on Federal Funding for the Arts

Sacramento -

 Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council, issued the following statement:

As reported in The Hill on January 19th, members of the Trump transition team met with career White House staff members to "outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy."  The article suggested massive federal cuts that could include the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We are deeply concerned about the status of these cultural agencies; however, as of yet, additional official sources confirming this suggestion have not been verified by the media or otherwise.

As California's state arts agency, we are closely tracking this situation. Our service association, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, is reaching out to key parties in the Administration and Congress on our behalf to learn about their agenda for the arts. Our nation's arts advocacy organization, Americans for the Arts (AFTA), is also taking action and fostering advocacy on behalf of NEA, NEH, and CPB funding. On January 26th, AFTA President Robert Lynch submitted a letter to President Trump and issued a detailed update with specific suggestions on advocacy actions that can be taken at this time. Details are available at this link:

The impact of the NEA is essential, and wide-reaching. Each $1 in NEA grant funds leverages another $9 from other public and private sources. The grants and programs that the NEA administers are powerful examples of how the arts are a vital part of our everyday lives. This power can be seen in communities across the nation, and California is no exception. Yet, the NEA's $148 million budget represents just 0.025% (about three one-hundredths of one percent) of federal non-defense discretionary spending.

In fiscal year 2016, the NEA awarded $8.6 million in direct grants to California organizations. This included $1.1 million granted directly to the California Arts Council for our annual state partnership agreement. These critical funds are used in conjunction with state legislative dollars to support grants and services across the entire state. In this current fiscal year, the California Arts Council will award $15 million in direct grants to California organizations. Grants and services supported by NEA and state funds provide access to the arts, employment, arts education, community well-being, and cultural heritage in communities of all sizes across our state.

It is important to remind ourselves at this time that the arts have benefited from bipartisan support for many decades. This is true in California and nationally. In fact, under our last Republican president, appropriations to the NEA increased by $40 million, while the Republican Party controlled both chambers of Congress for four of those eight years. Leaders from all political parties can be engaged in supporting, preserving, and even increasing our country's investment in culture and the arts.

Like most federal agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts is operating under a Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2017, which goes through April 2017.

Effective advocacy requires many harmonized voices and most importantly, it is fact-based. We hope you will join us in staying aware, informed, and active as this situation progresses.

As Governor Brown stated on the occasion of the California Arts Council's 40th Anniversary in 2016, "The arts and creativity play a key role in ensuring California remains a vibrant, thriving state to live in and to visit - our state's artists and creative communities are among the many features that make California so unique."

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Acknowledgement: Thank you to Pam Breaux, CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, for her contributions to this statement.

The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at


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