Creative career ed. pathways may see push for diversity

Creative career ed. pathways may see push for diversity

(Calif.) Following a push for arts funding and the adoption of new art education standards in California, lawmakers appear poised to address a lack of diversity in art-related careers through strengthening education pipelines.

Members of a joint legislative committee heard from experts Wednesday about the growth in what is known as the “creative economy,” as well as the challenges in making such careers more equitable for the state’s minority and low-income residents.

Anne Bown-Crawford, executive director of the California Arts Council, said the first step is ensuring all students have access to arts education. She noted that programs can be strengthened by partnering with local organizations and businesses.

“Arts education plays a central role in building the pipeline for California’s future creative economy,” Bown-Crawford told lawmakers. “The most effective arts education models have been partnerships based on collaboration within educational institutions and in community art centers and business settings that can all connect to the economic development of a region and of the state overall.”

Creative industries include careers at the forefront and behind the scenes of music, film and television, art and design, photography, theater, architecture, writing, broadcast and an ever-growing number of other fields.

For instance, media arts–which was included in the recent adoption of California’s new arts education standards–involves an array of categories, such as photography, digital imaging, video, animation, sound production, web design, graphic design, virtual design, interactive design, multimedia and virtual reality.

The output from careers related to media and traditional arts is significant. California’s creative economy generated $407.1 billion in economic output and 1.6 billion jobs, according to a report released last year by the Otis College of Art and Design, which resulted in $141.5 billion in wages earned statewide.

Researchers noted that in the Los Angeles region alone, the creative economy generated $198 billion in economic output with $59.6 billion in wages earned. 

Amos Buhai, vice president of government relations for Endeavor–a private company based in Beverly Hills that specializes in areas including talent representation and management, told lawmakers that diversity is vital in maintaining growth both for the state economy and innovation in the entertainment industry.

To bolster diversity, Buhai said the state needs to ensure access to robust arts education is provided, specifically in lower income and minority communities

“The lack of equity and access to arts education not only denies children the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education, it also blocks pathways into a major regional economic engine,” Buhai said. “And it deprives that engine of the fuel it needs to thrive.”

Legislators on the committee expressed agreement of the need for a diverse creative workforce. Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, noted that he would like to see some of the fine arts career paths better reflect the racial, ethnic and socio-economic makeup of the state.

“When the public thinks about the creative economy, they’re often thinking about traditional institutions that tend to not necessarily reflect the ethnic, racial and economic diversity of the state–whether it’s the symphony, the orchestra, the ballet, or Hollywood, or the music scene–there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure that this is an economy that lifts up all those people,” Chiu said. “I’m looking for interesting ideas as to what we can do to support this economy and ensure that it is lifting up everyone.”

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