Arts council escapes worst of budget cutS

The California Arts Council has survived this year’s budget cuts with only a 15% cut in administrative expenses: The agency’s total state budget is set at $ 12.3 million, approximately $ 309,000 less than last year’s budget.

“In tough times, we’re very gratified that both the legislature and the governor supported the arts council,” said CAC exec director Joanne Kozberg. “This was a sign of tremendous validation and support that was bipartisan.”

Last February, Gov. Pete Wilson had raised the idea of slashing the CAC budget in half for 1993-94 and privatizing the organization by 1995. Talk of privatization now seems to be on a back burner, according to arts officials.

Ironically the CAC took a similar 15% cut last year, although it had been touch-and-go as to how severely legislators would cut into the CAC budget. Each year the agency becomes a prime target in early budgetary discussions.

While the Arts Council is now forced to further consolidate its administration — their staff size is down from 58 people three years ago to 28 — Kozberg says she believes the cuts will be made through attrition and downsizing of office space, not layoffs.

The grants budget will remain untouched at last year’s level of $ 10.55 million. Over the past three years, the grants program has been reduced by 20%.

“What we’re looking toward is inter-agency support,” Kozberg said. “We’re going to be working together with different state and federal agencies in order to leverage existing resources. In these times no agency can afford to go it alone.”

The CAC is currently working with many different agencies, including CalTrans , the Dept. of Commerce, Tourism and the Dept. of Corrections. The idea is to integrate the arts and arts education programs into these departments, which could include anything fromartists being hired to paint murals on freeway walls to artists teaching sculpture classes for prison inmates.

The first of these integrated programs to get off the ground is the CAC’s new license plate, which features artist Wayne Thiebaud’s landscape design on specialized plates. They can be purchased for $ 20 each ($ 40 for personalized plates) and $ 15 of each sale goes to the CAC’s arts-in-education program.

The plate design was unveiled in April and, to date, about 1,000 orders have been taken. However, the first plate won’t be hammered out until 5,000 orders are taken.

Kozberg is hoping the program will raise $ 2 million for the state agency.

Yet getting the program up and running is turning out to be time-consuming, at least in these early stages.

“It’s been a slow campaign,” Kozberg admitted, “because we are learning how to market. And everything’s been donated to us to do this.”

Yet Kozberg believes that this kind of meshing of agencies is the trend of the future. In addition, the CAC is more aggressively seeking federal assistance from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“It’s called leveraging state dollars, to go after more dollars from national foundations and federal agencies,” she said. “We have to bring them in to support the work we are doing in California.”

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