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It may come as a surprise to most Americans, but the state of California – home to our favorite film and TV stars – spends only 13 cents per capita on the arts and culture. For eight consecutive years, The Golden State was in last place for funding its state arts agency, the California Arts Council (CAC). Not until Governor Brownback of Kansas annihilated the Kansas Arts Commission for FY 2012 did California lose the title of worst arts funded state. As a side note, in order to help reinstate the Kansas Arts Commission for next year, the Kansas Arts Foundation began selling new arts license plates.
The first specialty license plate program, designed solely to benefit the arts, was formulated by CAC in 1994. Wayne Thiebaud, a California painter created the plate entitled Coastline – featuring palm trees and a sunset motif. Selling between 60,000 and 70,000 arts license plates a year, funds from the California arts license plate usually account for about 60% of CAC’s budget.
Craig Watson, Executive Director of CAC, announced on Wednesday, March 15th that the Council had gained celebrity endorsement for the program. The goal is to selll 1 million license plates and in doing so, generate $39 million for CAC. By increasing the Council's bottom line, this would translate to roughly $1.09 per capita for arts and culture spending. If the goal of selling 1 million plates is reached by the end of the year, California would become one of twenty-four states to spend at least $1 per capita on arts and culture. Currently, the federal government spends only 50 cents per capita for every American; but we at the Arts Action Fund, with your support, can change that! Our long-term vision is to form new arts policies where the federal government invests at least $1 per citizen in the nonprofit arts.
The arts license plates cost $50 for a new, non-personalized plate and $40 for a renewal. CAC will receive $35 for every new plate and the full $40 for renewals. Watson, is working with car dealerships to offer customers the license plate right after a vehicle purchase. No matter what is raised, Watson promises half of CAC grant money will go to arts education with an emphasis on programs that bring artists into California public schools.
Who plans to help CAC? Robert Redford, Steve Martin, Placido Domingo, Debbie Allen, Russell Simmons, and the cast of “Glee” to name a few. Clear Channel Communications has donated air time and advertising space to CAC on its electronic billboards. For the “Create the State” campaign, photographs of the stars will appear next to the license plate design with a special tag line. For example, Jack Black’s will read, “Create a State of Awesomeness,” and Quincy Jones’ will read, “Create a State of Harmony.”
Additionally, on Thursday evening, March 22nd at the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, CAC will throw a kickoff party for “Create the State” arts license plate selling program. Ozomatli is set to perform and former California First Lady Maria Shriver is expected to attend.
The California arts license plate designed by Wayne Thiebaud, left, Robert Redford, right. As seen in the LA Times’ Blog Culture Monster