The California Arts Council was created in 1975 under then Governor Jerry Brown to increase access to the arts for all Californians. Over the course of 25 years, the CAC’s impact grew especially through efforts that brought arts programming to underserved communities and populations across the state (such as rural communities, inner city neighborhoods, prisons and schools).
In 2000, the Legislature appropriated some $30 million to the Arts Council. In 2003, appropriations to the CAC were cut by 97%, and funding from the Legislature has remained essentially flat at $1 million dollars from the General Fund over the past decade. Since 2003, California has ranked last or next to last among the states in terms of per capita investment in the arts. Programs that once reached rural towns, underserved urban neighborhoods, prisons and schools have either been gutted or discontinued entirely. At the same time, the creative sector has become Californian’s most important driver of economic growth. This year the Legislature was able to increase the Art’s Councils budget by $5 million.