The fifth annual Arts, Culture and Creativity Month is underway in California and arts enthusiasts along the Central Coast and San Benito County are hoping to spread the word about the importance of the arts, both economically and culturally.

The monthlong celebration “uplifts the intrinsic value of the arts,” according to Californians for the Arts, an organization that raises awareness of the value and importance of arts and culture.

Jennifer Laine, executive director of San Benito County Arts Council and a member of the board of Californians for the Arts, said Friday that it is important to highlight some of the great work and collaboration happening along the Central Coast region and more inland in her county.

“It’s really happening,” she said about the robustness of the arts in San Benito County. “We’re working closely with our school districts on these vibrant arts and education programs where our council serves over 5,000 students per week and over 180 classes per week happening in schools,” Laine said. “It’s really part of our broader effort to ensure equity in the arts and equity for learning for all students.”

In addition to the program in schools, Laine’s organizations are working closely with six other county organizations, from Ventura County to Santa Cruz, through the California Creative Corps program. The program received a nearly $5 million grant from the California Arts Council to fund nonprofits and government agencies to work with artists for a year on priorities such as public health, civic engagement, social justice and climate impacts, she said.

Laine also said her county is also working closely with Caltrans on California highway beautification, such as installing large-scale public artworks along highways.

The art of job creation

Californians for the Arts sees the arts as part of a “thriving” economy that could emerge as a leading industry in the state, the organization said in a statement this month.

According to 2020 figures provided by the Californians for the Arts, 7.5 percent of the state’s gross domestic product comes from the arts and culture sectors, creating over 680,000 jobs. The arts and culture sector contributed $225 billion to the state’s economy that year, far ahead of industries such as construction and utilities.

Yet funding for the arts is in danger of being cut due to the state’s growing deficit.

“Several arts funded programs have been proposed to be cut by Governor Newsom from the state budget, including $20 million for cultural districts and $29.5 million for museum grants,” said the organization.

“One of our big priorities this upcoming budget year with the state is to ensure that there are no further cuts to the arts and to ensure that some other programs that had been funded in the past continue to be funded at that level.”

Jennifer Laine, San Benito County Arts Council

“As a vital yet underutilized workforce that has long been undercapitalized, we must continue to share that arts are a part of the solution and a smart investment for CA and not the place to cut funding but double down on allocations to build local economies, bring social cohesion and impact through creative practices,” Julie Baker, CEO of Californians for the Arts, said in a statement.

Laine is also concerned with cuts to the arts.

“One of our big priorities this upcoming budget year with the state is to ensure that there are no further cuts to the arts and to ensure that some other programs that had been funded in the past continue to be funded at that level,” she said.

Laine hopes to see funding for a new creative workforce development program and a strategic arts plan for the entire state, as well.

Events raise awareness

The San Benito County Arts Council, Art Council for Santa Cruz County and Arts Council Monterey are partnering with Californians for the Arts in April to “raise visibility and awareness of the value that artists, culture bearers, cultural organizations and creative workers” generate for California’s economy and communities, according to Californians for the Arts.

Several programs are lined up to shine a light on the arts this month.

On Monday, a California Arts and Culture Summit took place in Sacramento to swap knowledge, advocate for arts education and workers and discuss the creative economy. The event was followed in the evening with a Party for the Arts with a DJ, performances, drinks, desserts and more.

On Tuesday, a rally in support of the arts is scheduled to kick off at the State Capitol at 9 a.m., followed by meetings with legislators, Californians for the Arts said.

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.