Danielle Brazell, executive director of Arts for L.A. since 2006, was nominated by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be the fifth general manager of the Department of Cultural Affairs. With a core budget of $9 million, the DCA generates and supports arts and cultural experiences through grant making, community arts programming, and partnerships with artists and arts and cultural organizations. The department also operates cultural landmarks such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House and the Watts Towers.
Brazell sat down with Artbound in 2013 to speak about her work with Arts for LA and the influential role of arts and culture in Los Angeles.
Arts for LA advocates for communities throughout Los Angeles Country to have access to rich arts and cultural experiences. We do that advocacy work through many, many different strategies and tactics: primarily around giving voice to communities around arts and culture and connecting communities with their public officials to voice support for arts and culture. And we do a lot of work around arts education and making sure that every student has access to arts education.
I believe access to the arts, access to arts and culture, is a civil rights issue; and I believe that because I think that communities prosper when they have access to the arts. Communities and people prosper with participation or through participation with the arts through a myriad of ways. Number one is that it is so much about the way in which the art stimulates local economies. I think that arts and culture also helps to create cultural identity and helps to instill cultural pride and self-esteem. And when you do that, your communities end up having more joy and more hope and through community engagement, and through hope people tend to lift up a little bit more and reach a little bit higher.
The economic crisis that the state and the country have faced over the last couple of years has impacted the arts and cultural landscape exponentially. Despite that, however, we see there are great opportunities for arts and culture to contribute to the solutions that many of our economic challenges have. Part of it is so much about the way in which arts and culture has transformed communities through looking at how when an arts organization or activity is built in a blighted area -- we've seen that in redevelopment--which in California went away -- how through redevelopment, arts and culture and neighborhoods were just transformed. And yet, now, with redevelopment going away, we see that that opportunity is possibly lost. On the flip side, we can also see that cities throughout the region have maintained their commitment to making sure that there are still resources for arts and culture, primarily nonprofit organizations that are really delivering rich work for communities.
I would love to see each of the mayoral candidates come out with a platform that talks about how they would utilize the arts to create a magnificent Los Angeles. And when I talk about the arts, I'm not just talking about pieces of art on a wall, I'm talking about arts and culture in all of its diversity--from the for-profit to the nonprofit, from the community based to the cornerstone institutions, for as part of our tourism, as part of our community anchors -- as a way to combat some of the most pressing issues that our region faces.
We often see that the arts do get put on the chopping block, first and foremost. We're working really diligently with community members, with our policy partners, with our public officials, to make sure that, look, Angelenos value arts and culture across the board -- and the thing about us is that if that you're part of the cultural community, you vote. And so one of the things that folks are really starting to get the message is that we want our arts, and you really have got to start to listen to us cause we're the voters.
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