Arts leaders, including a local contingent, convene in Sacramento this week

Californians for the Arts, a statewide nonprofit group founded in 2010 to increase public awareness of the importance of the arts will convene more than 250 artists, arts educators and arts organization leaders from around the state at “Confluence 2015” in Sacramento on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

The group includes Julie Baker, executive director of The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, who recently was voted onto the board of the group. Melinda Booth, film festival director of SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival, will be on a panel.

On Wednesday, on the steps of the Capitol, Californians for the Arts will honor four Legislative “Arts Champions,” including Senator Jim Nielsen (R-4th District, Gerber). Others are Senator Ben Allen (D-26th District, Santa Monica), Assemblymember Ian Calderon (D-57th District, Whittier) and Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-46th District, Los Angeles).

Julie will be presenting the award to Nielsen. Senator Nielsen has been a longtime supporter of the arts and a strong advocate for funding the California Arts Council, the state’s arts agency. During last year’s Joint Budget Committee hearing, Senator Nielsen spoke about the value of the arts and arts education and urged his colleagues to increase funding for the agency. In the final Budget, the California Arts Council received its first General Fund budget increase in more than 10 years.

As an organizing committee member, Julie also suggested that SYRCL would be a good fit for a panel “The Entrepreneurial Organization: Balance Mission—and Budgets,” including how they have used the Wild & Scenic Film Festival to build awareness (and revenue) of their mission. As part of her experience, Melinda Booth has been organizing large events, such as SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival, since 1999.

The centerpiece of “Confluence 2015” is a full day of educational sessions featuring prominent experts in the nonprofit arts field on Thursday, April 16 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.

The convening is also being timed to coincide with a hearing on “The Arts and Creative Industries: An Updated Assessment of California’s Creative Economy,” being held on April 15, 9:30-11:30 a.m., by the Legislative Joint Committee on the Arts. Participants in “Confluence 2015” will have the opportunity to attend the hearing.

Following the hearing on Wednesday, there will be lunchtime celebration on the steps of the Capitol, featuring the award-winning Element Brass Band and festive Mexican mojiganga street puppets from La Raza Galeria Posada. At this celebration, Californians for the Arts will honor the four Legislative “ArtsChampions.”

A reception in the Capitol will be held on Wednesday evening, sponsored by The Boeing Company, one of the state’s most active contributors to arts education. At the reception, California’s “Poetry Out Loud” Winner, Levi Lowe, a student from Tuolomne, will perform.

(The California Arts Council awarded Steven Hansen, a Nevada County district wide English teacher, the third annual “Hero Award” for the California Poetry Out Loud program. Nevada County received two big wins at the California Poetry Our Loud State Finals, as Falyn Lazarus, a senior at Nevada Union High School, was the first runner-up).

Day two of the convening, which is sponsored by the California Arts Council, will feature a keynote talk, “Opening the Doors,” by Diane Rodriguez, recently appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Council on the Arts, which oversees the National Endowment for the Arts. Rodriguez is also President of the Board of Directors of Theatre Communications Group, the national association of professional theatres in America, and she serves as Associate Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles.

Another featured talk will be offered by Moy Eng, who was appointed last year as Executive Director of Community Arts Stabilization Trust in San Francisco. Eng has been a longtime leader in arts and culture philanthropy, having directed the arts program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, as well as holding key strategic planning and fund raising positions with important arts producing organizations like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Panels will be held on a variety of topics of importance to the field, such as “Building Public Will for Arts and Culture,” “A Good Vintage: Trends in Arts & Aging Programs,” “The Entrepreneurial Organization: Balance Mission—and Budgets,” “Arts Education 2015: What You Need to Know About Common Core, LCFF and STEAM,” “The Power of Art: Effective Intervention for At-Risk Youth,” “Back at Home: Arts & Veterans,” “Innovation, Engagement, Sustainability: Results from Philanthropic Initiatives,” and a screening of the KCET Artbound documentary “State of Creativity.”

Programmatic support for Californians for the Arts has been received from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Fleishhacker Foundation. Additional conference support has been provided by Ovation, the arts television network, and the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“This is the first time in many years that a statewide convening of arts leaders has been organized,” commented Richard Stein, president of the board of directors of Californians for the Arts. “Within a matter of days of its announcement, we were booked to full capacity. We feel this proves there is a great hunger for the opportunity to network with colleagues from around the state, to celebrate our successes, to share new ideas and lessons learned, and to embrace the possibility of future collaborations.”

—Californians for the Arts and Sierra FoodWineArt magazine

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