Patricia by Patricia

Patricia by Patricia
Patricia by Patricia

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Summary of the New Ordinance for an office of Arts and Culture at the county level.

by Patricia Frischer

I am thrilled to announced that the Ordinance for a new office for SD County Arts and Culture has passed unanimously its SECOND reading. One more reading and it will have gained its place in the 2021/2022 county budget.

My colleague Naomi Nussbaum sums up this new agency,  “Some of us have been working on establishing arts & culture on the county level for decades, so we are deeply grateful to all the supervisors for actualizing this.  Some of us support our artists and arts organizations throughout the county and keep a firm pulse on their needs, challenges, and opportunities.  Because of COVID and the increasing cost of living in our county, we are seeing more artists and small arts organizations struggling to survive.  We are losing some of our creative community to more affordable places to live.  We believe representation at the County level will address some of the challenging issues facing our creative community, the two greatest being affordable housing and limited opportunities and adequate support.  I think we all agree that art & culture transcend barriers, encourage inclusivity, provide innovative solutions, and are vital to economic development of our County.  Let’s make San Diego County an international cultural destination.” 

Below is a summary of the ordinance combined with more information that we have received from the office of the Supervisors, especially Supervisor Vargas and Fletcher. This was originally compiled for the North County Arts Network and a Confab of arts leaders brought together by Larry Baza to bring back the SD County Arts and Culture Agency. It is our hope to support and advance the Supervisor’s vision for the Arts and Culture staff and Commission. 

There are three parts to the ordinance: 1) expanding and improving existing County programs, 2) addressing and improving equity in access to arts and culture, and 3) creating a county arts and culture agency.

Please note: the Film Commission is not part of the new office. 

#1 Expanding public arts programs. Updating the Community Enhancement grant programs to better assess which grants are being used to fund arts and culture organizations, (an extra $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will augment supervisorial Community Enhancement Funds in order to fund organizations related to arts and culture, one million dollars for each district.) Updating policies to make grants available to individual artists, and exploring the possibility of using County spaces as workspaces for local artists.

#2 The County to act as a regional leader to inform sector goals to improve racial and cultural equity in arts and culture. To promote greater cultural diversity and inclusivity and empower historically disenfranchised communities, it is important to elevate the work of smaller, emerging artists from communities that have not had access to arts and culture resources.

#3 County Arts and Culture Agency: The SD County Commission for Arts and Culture will be formed with nominations from the public and two chosen by each Supervisor plus 3 youth commissioners (age 16-24). Appointment will last only as long as the Supervisor is in office. Committees can be formed and each has to have at least one commissioner. At least one full time staff will be paid by the county under the offices of the Economic Development and Government Affairs (EDGA) (total budget of that office is $3.5 million). This position is appointed by the Chief Administrator of that EDGA. The remit of the Commission was set forward but we have yet to see the staff description. The Commission shall have the power and duty to:

(a) Study and evaluate equity in access to arts and culture in the region. (This could be data gathering)

(b) Promote equity in access to arts and culture in the region. ( This could cover all sort of things, promotion, funding smaller orgs, support of artists???)

(c) Conduct workshops for County personnel and community groups to explore specific subject areas and improve relationships. (This leaves the door open to educate and sounds like it is about collaborations, professional development workshops, getting paid staff for all cities)

(d) Conduct public hearings dealing with matters before the Commission. (Asking for input from the community to the Commission)

(f) Prepare and disseminate information on matters related to the arts community. (Again, pr and education of the issues)

(g) Provide liaison and assistance to citizen groups interested in the problems facing the arts community. (bringing in non-art org and business to help the arts community, dealing with homelessness and housing for artists, healing arts programs)

(h) Apply for and administer grants from all levels of government and private sources for carrying out the functions of the Commission. (The ability to fund raise, but no funding from the county noted except for admin)

My feeling is when we see the application for the staff position and an outline of those duties and responsibilities as well as the nomination application for Commissionors, we will have a pretty good idea of the direction of this new agency.  Although it might have certain flaws, these plans are a good starting place. 

Questions remaining:

1. What is the salary, title and description of the staff position? Are there any addition staff position in the arts and culture department?

2. What is the official title of the office? SD County Arts and Culture Agency?

3. Is there any budget for the office besides the staff position(s)?

4. Will this office be working with Andrew Strong's Office of Equity and Racial Justice?

6. Will this new office be working on a new Public Art Policy?

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