Local Arts & Culture Sector at Risk

The following was shared as an Op Ed in the Davis Enterprise on October 3, 2021


While there’s been much discussion locally around priorities for American Rescue Plan funding, we are distressed by how little of it to date has focused on the nonprofit arts and culture sector.

As representatives of that sector, we’ll be clear: we are writing this from a precipice. Since the quarantine began, the creative sector in Davis has experienced devastating hardships. Many of us have faced a prolonged period of closure, coupled with capacity limitations for reopening that will prove exceedingly difficult financially.

Pre-pandemic, most of us ran already under-resourced operations and now, once-bustling places remain  shuttered. Although we’ve done a number of successful pivots, the enduring loss of income and opportunity leaves many of us in a position from which we’re not sure we’ll recover.

Most pandemic relief efforts to date have focused on social service organizations, while arts and culture have been told repeatedly we are not essential. Of course we understand that feeding, housing and keeping people healthy is paramount. But as the pandemic wears on, we’d like to foster understanding about what’s at stake. Consider:

•    A common misconception is that communities support arts and culture at the expense of local economic development. In fact, communities are investing in an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.

•    A report from Americans for the Arts a few years ago showed that nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity annually—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations, and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments (a yield well beyond their collective $5 billion in arts allocations).

•    To put it another way: where performances, festivals, galleries, workshops, and ticketed events are abundant, restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping, and municipal coffers all benefit.

•    Collectively, the arts and culture sector in Davis during the pandemic has lost over $1 million in potential revenue, laid off approximately 200 people, and cancelled scores of events and programs that contribute to our community’s vibrancy and health.

•    Apart from economic impact, arts and culture nonprofits are fundamental to the health and vibrancy of our community. These organizations are responsible for keeping us informed, bringing color and beauty to our built environment, providing a means of expression, and most importantly, bringing people together to combat isolation, move, find joy, and participate in our shared experience as a community.

Despite these hardships, we believe our sector is poised to be a key part of the region’s recovery. Our plea is that our diverse communities in Yolo County, including Native and BIPOC peoples, can access some ARP funding to support arts workers, artists, musicians, and organizations to get back to work. Workforce development in this sector will not only contribute to economic recovery, but also to community and individual health and well-being. Supporting the arts would allow us to provide vital arts educational resources to area youth who have missed out on many milestones, and are struggling with pandemic-induced mental health challenges.

Finally, we’re asking our communities and in particular, our elected leaders, to imagine what happens if the organizations you’ve come to rely on cease to exist. Where would you turn for after-school workshops, summer camps, intern opportunities? Who would bring live music, dance and theatrical productions to town? Where would  musicians gig? What outlets would fine artists have? We are eager to reopen and serve our communities, but we cannot do it without being factored in as worthy of support.

Linda Bair, Linda Bair Dance Company/teacher, Davis Arts Center
Bike City Theatre Company
Victoria Bourne, Artist/Instructor
Jerry De Camp, Artist
Stacie Frerichs, Executive Director,  Davis Arts Center
Alison Flory, Executive Director, YoloArts
Lynda Garcia, Brian Knapp, Laurie Snodgrass – Board Members, Davis Chorale
Shelly Gilbride, Executive Director, International House Davis
Lorie Hammond, Director, Peregrine School
David Hance, Choir Manager, Davis Chorale
Emily Henderson, Artistic Director, Acme Theatre Company
Autumn Labbe-Renault, Executive Director, Davis Media Access
Julia B. Levine, Davis Poet Laureate
Daniel Moglen, Co-founder, Village Dance Davis
Kyle Monhollen, Davis Music Festival/Davis Live Music Collective
Melissa M. Moreno, Ph.D, Ethnic Studies Educator
Natalie Nelson, Director/Curator, Pence Gallery
Ruth Santer, Chair, Davis Civic Arts Commission
Alison Skinner, Artistic Director, Davis Chorale
Carol T. Smith, Vice Chair, Davis Civic Arts Commission

Additionally, the City launched a community survey on Oct. 13 (through Nov. 1) that residents can take to give input on ARP funding priorities. The survey will be available on the City’s ARP webpage at: https://www.cityofdavis.org/city-hall/city-of-davis-american-rescue-plan-arp


Many thanks!!