Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF), Arts Connection – the Arts Council of San Bernardino County, Riverside Arts Council, and the California Desert Arts Council  announced a $4.7 million grant award from the California Arts Council. Working in partnership, the organizations will administer these funds for the California Creative Corps, a new state arts program.

California Creative Corps will provide grants to local, regional, and statewide organizations in all 58 counties to fund unemployed and underemployed artists to create public awareness messages and projects in support of civic engagement and community participation in multiple priority areas, including pandemic recovery and environmental, civic, and social engagement.

IECF is designated as one of 14 Administering Organizations (AOs) selected by the California Arts Council to administer regranting funds specifically in the Inland Empire through collaboration with the three local arts councils. Funds will support Riverside and San Bernardino County-based artists and organizations through innovative public art, media, and engagement projects and campaigns aimed at addressing health inequities in highest-priority communities. The intention of this grant program is to provide as broad a geographic reach as possible and serve all 58 counties while prioritizing communities that demonstrate the highest levels of need as indicated by the California Healthy Places Index (HPI).

Partner organizations anticipate subgrantee applications being available in March 2023. IECF and the three local arts organizations will craft grant applications utilizing community input. Listening sessions will be scheduled throughout the region, explaining the funding parameters and requesting input on designing the granting process. Sessions will also be available for Spanish speakers.

The coalition hopes to involve a wide range of community-based and government organizations, not just those focused on the arts. Nonprofit organizations that use arts as a vehicle to accomplish their mission are encouraged to apply, as are organizations looking to add creative strategists to their teams.

“I want everyone to be able to find a job using their creative talents to help transform their communities,” the Executive Director of Arts Connection, Jennifer Kane said. “Creative work is what drives development, new ideas, and technology. Creatives are changemakers, not just dollar makers.”

This program dovetails with other exciting developments in the arts and culture sector in the Inland region. Arts Connection, Riverside Arts Council, and the California Desert Arts Council are partnering with Americans for the Arts and the launch of the Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), a national study of the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the Inland Empire. The three arts councils have also launched Inland Leadership for Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy, a leadership consortium dedicated to advancing the arts, culture, and creative industries sector in the Inland region.

Normally, local arts councils have very little funding to redistribute, according to Kane, and this will be the first time they will be able to regrant in a large capacity. While the California Creative Corps grant is a pilot program and currently a one-time allocation from the state, the partnering organizations hope this is just the beginning. Kane believes that if the program can demonstrate the economic benefits and positive community impacts of hiring artists, the partners may leverage the success for future funding.

Organizations and individuals interested in attending the listening sessions can watch the partners’ websites for dates and times. Announcements will be made in the next few months.

“Come to the listening sessions, ask questions, and make sure you should apply,” Kane said. “Even if you think this isn’t for you, you should come. This program is for everyone.”

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