Opening reception for The Arts Area exhibition RESET at CASA Pitzer in Downtown Ontario during the Ontario Art Walk, August 21, 2021.

Serving San Bernardino, Riverside and East Los Angeles Counties, The Arts Area was founded by John Machado to strengthen and expand the creative economy.

Machado, a full-time professor of art history at Chaffey College since 2005, was concerned about the opportunities available to college students focusing on the creative arts. He launched a research survey in 2016 that delved into the successes of over 5,000 current and former local creative arts students. What he discovered was that the major barriers to their success were a lack of business skills, network opportunities, workspace and sustainable income opportunities.

Leaning on his Master’s in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University, Drucker School of Management, Machado looked at tackling these challenges. He created arts business management courses at Chaffey College and launched The Arts Area.

“What I was seeing was that a lot of these students were giving up on their dream,” Machado said. “So many of our students are first-generation college graduates and the majority are BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color], but I saw a disparity in where the money was going.”

The Arts Area programming was built to address each of the needs that Machado discovered in his research. The nonprofit organization works to address academic, economic, and civic engagement in the arts. This includes providing fiscal sponsorship to nonprofits and artists as well as professional development, resource support, and civic advocacy.

The Arts Area hosts the largest Inland Empire directory of organizations, businesses, institutions and artists in the creative industry on its website. The directory accepts donations from individuals and organizations who wish to be added but is free so that there are no barriers to be added. Users manage their own pages and can post on the regional calendar and the jobs board.

“The Directory is a great resource for someone who needs to be seen or wants to find someone,” Machado said.  “That is the obvious, but most of our work is behind the scenes and when we are doing it well, no one sees it.”

Behind the scenes, The Arts Area assists arts organizations with full fiscal sponsorship and business support as well as supportive services that help nonprofits finalizing their 501(c)3 status. The organization also helps with overseeing grants that require fiscal sponsorship. Often, small arts nonprofits struggle with the administrative support needed to keep their business running smoothly and to achieve success. This includes needs such as legal services, accounting services and brand marketing. The Arts Area bridges that gap.

Through pooling resources, The Arts Area offers affordable access for the day-to-day business needs that can overwhelm an artist who should be focusing on creating, Machado said.

Recently, The Arts Area received a grant from the Community Impact Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The grant will support arts programs that encourage diverse, equitable and inclusive arts opportunities. This includes Curious Publishing’s BIPOC fund which will cover the costs of printing books for five artists.

Currently, The Arts Area is a community partner with the Pitzer College Critical Action & Social Advocacy (CASA) program. The organization is headquartered in the CASA building in Ontario where it shares space with 8 other nonprofit organizations and holds quarterly exhibitions. While it’s a beautiful space, Machado envisions a future where The Arts Area has its own headquarters that serves as a one-stop-shop.”

“Focusing on economic development supports all the creative projects in the region,” Machado said. “It’s not a flashy thing, but its critical.”

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