August 8, 2022

Arts officials and elected officials in California on Thursday called for additional government spending to stave off what an organization chief called the “impending cultural depression” sparked by the pandemic.

“There is no economic recovery in our region unless it is powered by a working creative engine,” said Karen Bass, a US Congressman who represents part of Los Angeles, in a video taped for a panel discussion .

“Congress needs to provide additional support to the creative industries and their millions of employees,” she continued, saying that her district can only fully recover if the local arts community leads the way.

Calls for more help were broadcast during a video conference held by Otis College of Art and Design, which released a report on the creative industries. Two business impact assessments by the Californians for the Arts advocacy group on Thursday were also discussed.

According to the Otis College report, total job losses in the “creative industries” between February 2020 and December 2020 reached about 13 percent nationwide and Los Angeles County 24 percent.

During that time, the state lost 175,000 jobs in that economy, including architecture and related services, creative goods and products, entertainment and digital media, fashion and the visual arts.

Updated

Apr. 25, 2021, 4:55 p.m. ET

Californians for the Arts polls were conducted between October 6 and November 20, 2020 and focused on nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. Creative businesses that rely on revenue from ticket sales, contract work, and sales, and commissions from works of art; and individual art workers.

Of the 607 organizations surveyed, 72 percent said they had laid off paid employees and half said they had laid off contractors. Of nearly 1,000 employees surveyed, 88 percent said they would lose income or other art-related income. Some considered giving up artistic work or leaving the state.

Art workers suffer from “fragile economic foundations” and “devastating and immediate loss of income,” said Julie Baker, executive director of Californians for the Arts. “We are facing a California creativity crisis and what is known as a cultural depression.”

Baker said government assistance, particularly unemployment benefits for the self-employed, is vital to the survival of arts organizations and workers and should continue.

She added that the surveys found racial differences in income loss and access to federal funds: those who identified themselves as black or African American reported a loss of income, while an average of 12 percent of those in all other races identified a similar loss.

And 18 percent of black, indigenous or colored people or organizations said they were denied funding under the federal law on aid, aid and economic security for coronavirus. The report added that 5 percent of other people and organizations said they had been turned down.

The panel and polls came a day after the Comptroller’s New York State Office released a report that found employment in New York’s arts, entertainment and leisure sectors rose 66 percent from December 2019 to December 2020 has decreased.

During Thursday’s panel, Ben Allen, a senator who represents a district that includes Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Los Angeles neighborhoods, said he was calling on fellow Legislators to support a program that was “run by Works Progress Administration Inspired “is the New Deal that would employ artists to spread news about the coronavirus and document experiences during the pandemic.

“The arts can and must play an important role in rebuilding our society and getting us back on track,” he said.