Do Sacramento leaders support multicultural arts?

By Cody Drabble

Last week, the Latino Arts Network of California released a long-awaited study criticizing how the city of Sacramento allocates funds to multicultural arts programs.

Marie Acosta, executive director of La Raza Galeria Posada in Sacramento and co-author of the report, said the disparity in arts funding stems from years of inattentive city council members. “Every council member has basically said the same thing: There’s no money for you, the city doesn’t have any money, go away,” she said.

That frosty reception inspired her to scour public data and prove cultural arts groups were not receiving equitable shares of municipal funds or attention. The report focused on instances in the last 25 years where “too-big-to-fail” arts organizations like Sacramento’s symphony, opera, ballet and Crocker Art Museum all took massive chunks of public grant money and municipal loans before defaulting or declaring bankruptcy.

In contrast, the city allocated $53,130 out of $2.4 million to art organizations from communities of color in fiscal year 2012-2013, about 2.21 percent of the funds.

Ray Tatar, the director of California Stage Company, urged Sacramento to model itself after cities like Long Beach, Pasadena in California and Portland, Oregon, where advisory groups consisting of stakeholders across the arts community spectrum ensure equitable allocation. “We have to recognize small and midsize multicultural organizations, but the study points out that the city [of Sacramento] hasn’t really caught up with that thinking,” Tatar said.

Tomas Benitez, chairman of the board for the Latino Arts Network of California, emphasized that the report, released December 17, aims to influence how the city spends its arts funding, not pick a fight with Eurocentric arts outlets. “We’re not the enemies of opera or ballet; we’re the colleagues,” he said. “What we have is just as important and no less significant in our communities.”

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