Arts organization releases 2021 policy platform and advocacy agenda
By Sofia Santana
Arts for LA — a network of local artists and advocates who help bring the arts to Los Angeles County students and residents — recently held a virtual policy platform and advocacy agenda meeting to learn about the result of months of collaboration and hear from community members.
The meeting was led by Arts for LA executive director Gustavo Herrera and Cordelia Istel, director of organizing. It began by recognizing the barriers and disruptions many local artists are facing during the ongoing pandemic.
“We know that creative communities have been hit extraordinarily hard, and 2020 was an incredibly difficult year for so many of us in the field, whether we’re artists, arts workers or arts organizations,” Herrera said. “We know that COVID-19 has unearthed some of the structural inequities that exist and that have always existed in our field.”
Herrera also shared key values that the agenda highlighted: recognizing that the pre-pandemic status quo did not work; focusing on low-income and BIPOC creative communities, organizations and workers who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and systemic inequity; and taking an intersectional approach to the issues.
“A lot of the impacts of the pandemic have really hit our sector much like a disaster that has left devastation in its wake, and we need to think in this mode of response, recovery and rebuilding because so much of our basic infrastructure has been severely impacted,” Istel said.
Before diving into the specific equity barriers faced by creatives and the ways to address and fix these issues, Herrera explained the process that led to the release of the policy and advocacy agenda.
“The process started in 2019,” Herrera said. “It started with having community conversations to identify our four key pillar issues, which we landed on affordable space, equitable arts education, creative jobs, and funding and capital.”
Herrera also explained that a bulk of the research done on these four pillars could not have been possible without the Laura Zucker Fellowship for Policy and Research, the community strategy sessions, policy working groups and the State of the Arts Summit.
For each of the four pillar issues, the problem was identified, a strategy for disruption was proposed, and a plan for how Arts for LA will work to address and fix these issues in 2021 was shared.
The struggle to find affordable housing for artists who cannot afford to live in LA was one of the issues that is most frequently brought up to the Arts for LA board and team. Arts for LA plans to respond to the needs of their community by strengthening eviction protections, eliminating rent debt, and promoting the need for small landlord relief funds.
The lack of funding and accessibility of arts programs in LA creates a disadvantage for low-income students and students of color. The education equity response plans to fight proposed cuts to arts programs in LA County school districts, and to support regional and state-wide arts program funding.
Arts for LA plans to address the lack of diversity and employment insecurity within the creative industry by advocating for inclusive hiring practices, living wage jobs and racial diversity. It also plans to respond to the issue of funding and capital within creative sectors by rebuilding a regional funding infrastructure that “prioritizes the health, well-being and financial stability of the sector’s most chronically under-resourced artists and art workers, creative communities and organizations.”
For more information, visit artsforla.org