Art, music, dance, drama, and fashion produce jobs. In order to keep the creative sector that these industries are part of growing strongly, however, the state needs to step in and offer a helping hand.
That was among the suggestions offered last Thursday during a hearing held in the midst of Culver City’s thriving arts district by California State Senator Curren Price (D-26).
The event was the first meeting of the Joint Committee on the Arts since 2003, and it drew a standing-room crowd in excess of 100 people.
“This hearing is a new beginning for the legislature to focus on arts in California . . . In tough economic times (support of the arts) seems to be the first thing to hit the cutting room floor,” said Senator Roy Ashburn, (R-18), who is also a member of the joint committee.
“When I ran for senate, I said my primary focus was going to be on jobs. During my campaign, I promised to create 10,000 jobs . . . I believe the creative sector holds the greatest promise for job creation,” noted Price, who chairs the joint committee, and said this sector encompasses more than just entertainment. He said the sector is also comprised of art galleries, fashion, interior design, architecture and furnishing, toys, and communication media.
A report commissioned by Otis College of Art and Design, compiled by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and released last November, details the potential of the creative sector.
“Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region” was quoted by many of the speakers appearing at the hearing. It is the third annual study LAEDC has completed for Otis.
Among its findings are that nearly one million employees work directly or indirectly in the creative economy of Los Angeles and Orange counties which is the equivalent of one in every six jobs in the region.
In 2009, despite the struggling economy which has been especially devastating to the creative sector–particularly such stalwart local events such as the African Marketplace and Cultural Faire and Jazz At Drew–the creative economy earned an estimated $121 billion in revenue. This resulted in about $5.1 billion in taxes sent to state and local governments.
But that does not mean that the status quo is acceptable, stressed speakers. In fact, one person noted that arts organizations were ” in deep, deep crises.” Among the other facts pointed out were that only five of L.A. County’s 88 cities have dedicated arts resources; and that K-12 education, which fuels development of future artist, is weak.
Each speaker also stressed the fact that arts organizations–be they nonprofit or for-profit–pay taxes, salaries and purchase goods and services from vendors. Among the specific recommendations made to the committee members were:
* Maintain the state film incentive program and extend it to cover those producing television series.
* Consider reviving the manufacturing investment credit and extend that to selective segments within creative industry.
* Invest in the arts; arts funding in California ranks 50th. The state offers five cents for every resident compared to Hawaii, which invests five dollars per person.
* Support SB1076, which would enable taxpayers to contribute amounts in excess of their tax liability for the support of the Arts Council.
* More arts and design programs are needed at the K-12 levels and pathways are needed to take students from school to work and school to college.
* Affordable access to space, employment insurance, health insurance for the small businesses and freelancers.
* Support AB1777, which would require that 20% of the sales taxes on business be put aside for the arts.
* Support the campaign to sell one million California arts license plates, which will generate $40 million for the California Arts Council.
* Consider developing a state-wide strategic plan for the arts.
By the numbers
* In 2008, 342,300 employees worked in the creative sector in Los Angeles, making this the county’s second largest employer behind tourism.
* In 2008, there were approximately 7 ,000 fashion related firms in Los Angeles County that generated 232,000 direct jobs and $71 billion in revenue.
* In 2008, there were 16,000 communicative arts businesses, generating 39,000 jobs and $6 billion in revenue and $988,000 in taxes.
* In 2007, there were 113,604 creative nonemployer firms (self-employed), and they reported collective revenues of over than $5.5 billion.