Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why is public funding for the Arts important?

A few years ago, education in California suffered another in a long line of cuts and we're only now starting to recover from it. Of course one of the first things to go is the Arts...because hey, how can they be essential? Well, according to the Otis Report on the Creative Economy, in 2012 there were 404,000 individuals directly employed in the creative industries of LA and OC. These workers supported an additional 322,3000 indirect jobs for a total of 726,300 jobs generating $50.6 billion in labor income. So, at least for SoCal, the Arts drive a lot of traffic!

Now think about the impact this industry has on our daily life and culture.  The shows we watch, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive...all of these are designed and created by a creative class of individuals. With the recent cuts in arts education, middle and upper income students compensated by shifting to private schools and tutoring to continue their arts education. But what happened to low income students?

I teach at a community college in California. These colleges are one of the only options for low-cost quality education in the Arts and I think we do a terrific job - but what happens when these students want to compete for 4 year degrees? Admission to almost all BFA programs is through a portfolio or audition process. It seems like a fair process unless you really stop to think about it.

Higher Ed throughout California now has a non-repeatability rule, which stops students from taking an art class a second or third time. Why is that important? Because one Life Drawing class doesn't make you great...or even really good...and that's what you have to be to get into a BFA program. Those students with higher incomes compensate by taking private lessons, so they now have an even greater edge than before.  The same thing plays out in Music, Theater and Dance where they have auditions for entrance to 4 year degree programs.

If we don't find ways for low income students to engage with the arts, to develop their voice, then we don't have diverse viewpoints in film, tv, magazines. Diversity isn't just a politically correct buzzword, it's really the life blood of an exciting an innovative culture. If you'd like to let the Board of Governors know that they should return repeatability to the Arts in California Colleges because the new system is reduces access for low income students - send an email to: Karen Gilmer the BOG and Consultation Council Liason at

Keeping a low cost arts education in mind - here's a link to Free or Paid MFA programs located throughout the US.

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