Department of Arts and Culture Begins Implementation of Countywide Cultural Policy
First Step Is a Needs Assessment, Documenting Where LA County Currently Invests in Arts and Culture, and Where Increased Equity is Necessary
Last year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, to adopt the first-ever Countywide Cultural Policy. Managed by the Department of Arts and Culture (Arts and Culture), the policy sets forth three key goals: to invest in cultural infrastructure and access to the arts, utilize the unique power of County government to leverage the arts for greater equity across sectors of civic life, and promote diversity, inclusion, and belonging through the arts. The policy directs County departments to work together to ensure residents have meaningful access to arts and culture, alongside existing County services—including public health, parks, libraries, and strengthening child and family safety and well-being.
On April 20, 2021, a second motion by Chair Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Kuehl launched the Cultural Policy’s multi-year implementation. It directed County CEO to identify funding for a Needs Assessment, for which Arts and Culture issued a Request for Proposals last week. This is a crucial first step for Cultural Policy planning. The data that results will provide a baseline of knowledge about where County arts and culture resources are allocated, including a publicly available asset map that shows County investments in facilities, grants, programming, and resources. From it, gaps and areas of need based on demographics and geography can be identified, and then addressed.
“Arts and culture play a critical role in the economic and social resiliency of LA County, not just in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in the long-term health and vitality of our communities,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District. “Through the implementation of the Countywide Cultural Policy, we can utilize the arts to inform and enhance the way County services are delivered to residents, especially among vulnerable populations. We can incorporate the arts in our plans, our assets, and our infrastructure, advancing equity along the way. This is critical now as the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated social and health inequities, particularly among low-income, communities of color. I am thrilled to see this important policy come to fruition.”
“The goal of our Countywide Cultural Policy is to ensure everyone’s access to the arts, and the power of art to heal and strengthen individuals and communities. To make progress toward this goal, however, historic and exiting inequities in arts and culture must be realistically addressed,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
“Everyone has the right to participate fully in the cultural life of their community, to enjoy the arts and to benefit from them. Arts and culture can also play a transformative role in addressing complex civic issues and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion across all areas, from education and child welfare to justice reform and economic development,” said Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture Director Kristin Sakoda. “This policy sets out a bold vision for arts and culture, that I believe, as it is implemented, will enhance the role of the arts in our lives and build more innovative, inclusive government and Los Angeles County region.”
Further Background on Countywide Cultural Policy
The Cultural Policy fulfills a recommendation in the landmark Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative (CEII), a 2017 report with recommendations to ensure that everyone in LA County has equitable access to arts and culture. CEII was developed in response to a Board resolution in November 2015 directing the LA County Arts Commission (now the Department of Arts and Culture) to conduct “a constructive Countywide conversation about ways to improve diversity in cultural organizations” for all LA County residents, and focused on five key areas: staff, boards, audience, programming, and creators/artists.
CEII Recommendation #1 was to develop a County policy that would include concrete elements focused on equity, diversity, inclusion, and access to the arts; solidify the gains made through the CEII process and recommendations; and provided a road map for how all County departments can contribute to cultural life. To develop it, Arts and Culture engaged stakeholders across the County, including the CEII Advisory Committee, LA County Arts Commission, County Department leadership, local and national arts leaders, and community members. The Cultural Policy that resulted positions LA County as a national arts leader in advancing cultural equity and inclusion in every sector of civic life.